The 1st of April is the traditional day for hoaxing and japes but deception and deceit riddles everyday communication. From hoax hip-hop stars and haunted houses to military deception and fake news: join the London Fortean Society and Conway Hall Ethical Society for a day of unreal things. Those are charming, others are terrifying.
What are the consequences of fake news now being as easy to access as genuine reporting? It is pranking, propaganda or a reflection of the publics already jaundiced world view?
Padraig Reidy of Little Atoms chairs a discussion on fake news; what it is, where is comes from, what is means for communication and informed democracy in the twenty-first century? The panel will include James Ball, BuzzFeed UK Special Correspondent and author of Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World and Peter Pomerantsev, author or Buy Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia.
Ghostwatch: The scariest TV show ever made?
On Halloween 1992 BBC1 viewers watch a chilling live transmission from a haunted house that went terribly wrong. Sarah Greene. Mike Smith and Craig Charles were terrorised. Michael Parkinson ended the program far worse than that. The drama, depicted as a documentary, was frightening, controversial and not shown for another ten years afterwards.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King & The Great Hip Hop Hoax
Jeanie Finlay is an artist and film-maker who creates intimate and personal documentary films and artworks. She will be telling the stories of, and showing excerpts from, two of her films: the Bifa winning Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, Panto!, Bifa and Grierson-nominated The Great Hip Hop Hoax.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King
From Jeanie’s Director’s statement: “A roller coaster tale of the Nashville music scene in the wake of Elvis Presley’s death, taking in deception, a quest for success, a search for identity and ending in brutal and tragic murder. […] Even if you’ve never heard of Orion, you probably know about the ‘Elvis is Alive’ myth. What I uncovered was that the story of Orion is the story of how that myth got started.”
The Great Hip-Hop Hoax
Californian hip-hop duo Silibil n’ Brains were going to be massive. What no-one knew was the pair were really students from Scotland, with fake American accents and made up identities.
The Hoaxes of Crass
1980s anarcho-punk band Crass were more than a shouty protest band. Their 1983 ‘Thatchergate’ tape supposedly caught Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan discussing Europe becoming the US’s battlefront against the USSR and the sacrifice of HMS Sheffield during the Falklands war.
The hoax was a pre-Cassetteboy prank of spliced tape that the CIA thought was by Soviet ‘produced to destroy democracy as we know it’. The hoax did not set-off World War Three.
In 1981, in the build up to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diane, Crass convinced the magazine Loving to carry a free flexi disc of the song Our Wedding. Crass Member Penny Rimbaud described the lyrics as “frightful, banal shit about the social fantasy of marriage” that the magazine fell for “hook, line and stinker”.
Join Penny as he discusses these hoaxes.
Fake Cancer Cures and Anti-Vaccination Myths
The news and internet are forever full of fake cancer causes and cure offering simplistic solutions to a complex and terrible illness. The ‘alkaline diet’ can prevent cancer Sugar can cause cancer. A carbohydrate-free diet can throttle cancer. Homeopathy, cannabis oil and natural remedies can treat cancer. Household electromagnetic radiation causes cancer.
Vaccination has been hated and feared since at least 1867 and the formation of the Anti Vaccination League and has had a recent resurgence following the false autism scare of the MMR vaccine.
Where is the truth amongst the myth?
Dr David Robert Grimes is a physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University. He was a joint winner of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science.
Magic, Deception and the Abuses of Enchantment
Mark Pilkington looks at two formerly secret documents, published six decades apart, that reveal the methodologies of psychological manipulation and deception practised by American and British intelligence services. “The Art of Deception, Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations”, an internal presentation for the UK’s GCHQ, was leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden earlier this year, while “The Exploitation of Superstitions for Purposes of Psychological Warfare” was published by USAF’s RAND Corporation in 1950.
The similarities between the two papers demonstrate that while the world we live in has changed dramatically in the intervening years, the human mind, and the techniques for manipulating it, have remained very much the same; both papers discuss the exploitation of belief systems and fortean phenomena.
All tickets £20.
Registration starts 9.30am. Start 10am. Ends 5.30pm.