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The silly season

Way back when, New Year’s Day was shifted from a variable date between late-March and the beginning of April to the first day of January. For some time after, the first day of April was a day when people who had modernised to the change perpetrated pointless and time-wasting hoaxes on those who were not yet willing to conform to the new calendar year. The notion seemed to be that shaming people would eventually cause them to become conformists. It was an institutionalised form of peer-pressure.

These days, the occasion is marked by pointless and cruel hoaxes perpetrated on just about everyone.

However, the first of April is pretty obvious, and people have gotten used to such hoaxes on the day. In the last couple of decades you may have noticed some additional expansion of this non-festive occasion. Things are already kicking off from the first day of March, and often run to the end of April. There have already been a bunch of April Fools’ day hoaxes on various Web-sites and media.

The basic formula hasn’t actually changed all that much in 500 years. Present an exciting or unexpected thing, that nevertheless seems somehow plausible, and derive amusement from people who are gulled by that very plausibility.

It’s low and it’s mean, and it demonstrates very little respect for your fellow people. Deriving personal enjoyment from duping people? Seriously, that’s just not cool. If you even have the temerity to object to the false reports and deceitful media-releases, you’re told that you have “No sense of humour” or “Can’t take a joke.” Yes, the same things that griefers normally say when you object to them disrupting a meeting or an event. They tell you that you’re defective. Personally, I don’t think that respect for the intellect, the emotions and the basic humanity of others is a defect. If it is, then it is one that I can be proud of.

With high-speed communications, and almost instant access to news, April Fools’ Day pranks can spread far and wide through a variety of media and industries. “A lie can run around the world before the truth can get its boots on,” as they say. Some companies produce theirs in the form of Web-site updates, or even formal press-releases – timing them for dates other than the first of April so that you’re more likely to be taken in by news that is false, but otherwise engineered to be plausible; to make you believe.

So, for two months, almost every news item seems to have to be examined very critically. Many will be simply passed over. I know an increasing number of people who cut their consumption of news to near-zero during this eight week period each year (especially games industry news, where the practice seems to be particularly prevalent). That’s just counter-productive.

While it seems to be all in jest, just how much of it is really going to be well-received by the people at whom you’re directing it. I find myself increasingly less willing to accept or condone such practices.

“The silly season” it is often called. It seems more like the “mean” season more and more, these days.

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Categories: Culture, Opinion.

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