The tradition of running blatantly false news headlines on April Fools Day probably started with the English, because most things that are funny and involve
- words, and
were started by the English.
In my two years as Editor-in-Chief of Taiwan Scene, I’ve tried to carry on the tradition, despite the tradition has far less cultural traction in Taiwan. (Indeed, a few years back an April Fool’s day headline about pandas at the Taipei Zoo being discovered to be Formosan Bears with white spots painted on them caused an uproar, drawing a sincere and somewhat indignant letter from the Zoo offering proof that this was not the case. Several local Chinese language newspapers reprinted the story as fact, not realizing that the English language paper was just following through on the long and noble April Fool’s Day Tradition of the profession.)
Last year’s April Fools Day Taiwan Scene offering was an article called Taipei 101 to Begin Multi-Nation Tour, in which “Taiwan Minister of Unspecified Services Kai Wan-xiao announced that Taiwan’s landmark Taipei 101 building would be sent on a year-long, multi-nation tour.” This article got a ton of hits in the first few days and netted me a few puzzled direct messages from a few friends who work for the Taiwan government asking me where I’d gotten this clearly false information. You can read the original article at Taiwan Scene.
This year I went a bit more rustic, with the only-slightly-less unbelievable headline Honoring Children’s Day in Taiwan, Taroko Gorge to be Child-Proofed, again turning to my old friend, Taiwan Minister of Unspecified Services Kai Wan-Xiao to tell the world that Taroko Gorge (which is basically a Taiwan-scale version of the Grand Canyon) was going to be filled with 15 trillion plastic balls for a single-day event, effectively being turned into the world’s largest ball pit.
This one got even more social media traction, with a few folks on Facebook offering various kneejerk reactions ranging from the negative environmental impact of filling one of the planet’s natural wonders with 15,000,000,000,000 plastic balls (an issue addressed by “Minister Kai” in the article, who stressed
The plan would not pose an environmental hazard, as the two-ply webbing stretched between the Park’s Eastern and Western Entrance beneath the Jinwen bridge would prevent any of the balls from floating downriver and entering the Pacific Ocean.
To a commentator who suggested that the fifteen trillion balls could be made “from biodegradable hemp” (a truly ridiculous suggestion given Taiwan’s strict drug laws).
I was gratified with how much traction the article got, more gratified still to read the Chinese language comments below various repostings of the article over social media, including 有人今天在日月潭捕獲一條鯊魚 (Someone caught a shark in Sun Moon Lake today).
I was even more gratified to get a message from TV Host Natalie Tso this morning, informing me that she’d discussed the article on her program, Taiwan Insider:
I predict good things for the hallowed tradition of Taiwanese April Fool’s Day media pranks in years to come.
- Easter eggs for geeks: Kāiwánxiào (Traditional: 開玩笑, Simplified: 开玩笑) means “Joking” in Mandarin, so that’s an obvious giveaway for Chinese speakers. Taiwan does not, to my knowledge, have a “Ministry of Unspecified Service” – the shadowy bureau that only seems to make announcements on April first is a nod to the late, great David Foster Wallace, specifically from his novel Infinite Jest.
Like travel and humor? Go buy one of my books! Formosa Moon, a dual authored narrative by Joshua Samuel Brown and Stephanie Huffman, available at Amazon. Or How Not To Avoid Jet Lag (And Other Tales of Travel Madness), my very own illustrated book of weird short stories, available through this link.