Last night on BBC4 they showed a documentary about one of the great media hoaxers Alan Abel – the progenitor of Chris Morris. The documentary is described here http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/storyville/alan-abel.shtml and Abel has a website http://www.alanabel.com/ which gives details of some of the best hoaxes including: his campaign to clothe animals in the 1950s (SINA); faking his own death (the New York Times had to print a retraction of his obituary); hoaxes of various talk shows (including hoaxes with Females for Felons – a self-explanatory campaign for prisoner rights; the fainting fits on the first live episode of Donahue from New York); the Ku Klux Klan orchestra – guest conducted by David Duke; the marriage of Idi Amin for a green card; the Iranian who wanted to give money back to Oliver North and Reagan during the Iran-CONTRA affair; and his most recent hoax, the Campaign Against Breastfeeding where with spurious scientific statistics about the impact on drug and alcohol dependency (which the news broadcasters do not challenge) he has conned his way onto many news broadcasts and talk shows.
Abel is not a great financial state today. The documentary made by his daughter was infused with love and warmth and was wonderfully entertaining. Let’s hope it’s repeated soon.