OPINION – Beware the day.
It’s April Fool’s Day and, if you are one with a trusting, good nature, you could very well be on the receiving end of some outlandish prank or joke today.
I’ve got a fairly good sense of humor, however I have never been one for April Fool’s day merriment.
I guess it’s a result of too many years in a newsroom where we tend to take things a bit more seriously. Or, maybe it’s simply because I am not clever enough to come up with that overwhelming, legendary, April Fool’s Day prank that people talk about for years afterward. It’s probably, in all reality, the simple fact that I would be so paranoid about the payback I was due after pulling a prank that I remain on the sidelines.
I’ve also seen a lot of media outlets, over the years, pose elaborate pranks and stunts that a gullible audience gobbles up as truth. There was one, as a matter of fact, pulled by the BBC in 1957. The usually stodgy network aired a broadcast with a fake film showing Swiss farmers harvesting freshly grown spaghetti.
Now everybody realizes you can’t grow spaghetti, right?
Yet, the stiff-upper-lip Brits flooded the Beeb, begging for information regarding where they could buy their own spaghetti plant. The network ran a piece the following day revealing its prank.
I know, lighten up, right? Don’t be such an old curmudgeon, it’s all in fun, right?
Well, not really.
There is a certain responsibility toward credibility that the media should maintain.
I’ve seen newspapers, magazine, broadcasters go to great lengths to fool their audience.
The thing is, with the sorry state of the media these days, it can be difficult to distinguish when the purveyor is making a joke or exposing itself as a joke. I open and rest my case with FOX News.
It extends to other professions as well. I mean, how would you like for your doctor to pull an elaborate gag on you, or get pulled over by a cop as part of an April Fool’s Day joke? Definitely unfunny.
The role of the fool, however, has a significant place in history.
Back in the days of courtly regal distinction, the aristocracy – from lords and the ladies to kings and queens – would employ what were called licensed fools, or jesters, as part of the household. Their job? To put a pinprick in the egos of those for whom they worked and their immediate circle.
They were given privilege to take their employers to task and, in fact, if they were not harsh enough, would often be whipped. There was a fine line, of course, and if the jester, or fool, stepped over that line, they also risked the fever of the lash. Imagine, if you will, inviting Don Rickles or Joan Rivers into your home to insult you on a daily basis. Yeah, not going there.
It could be argued that although there is little aristocracy here in the U.S., we do hire, or rather elect, a set of fools. Instead of placing them in our households, we send them off to Washington, D.C., where although their actions may not be terribly amusing or critical, they are certainly foolish. All they are missing are the motley coats, donkey ears, and bells.
The role of the fool was often a position of distinction and intimacy with the various royals and they were often used to convey messages and news that was not pleasant because of that relationship.
Bob Dylan, of course, noted the downside of this in his epic “Like A Rolling Stone” when he wrote “You never turned around, to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns, when they all come down and did tricks for you.”
Indeed, how does it feel?
April Fool’s Day is also one of those times when we can drop the pretense and show just how mean and nasty we can be.
I mean, is it really nice to make a friend, family member, close acquaintance the brunt of a joke, to set them up for laughter and ridicule?
And, what are the limits?
Only a few years ago, there was an Australian woman who called local emergency services, claiming that her baby had fallen off the bed and stopped breathing. When the crews reached her home, they found no sick baby, only a woman who thought that her prank was hilariously funny.
Humor is great, can relieve a lot of stress, make us laugh, make us push troubles and problems to the side. It can also belittle, degrade, embarrass. Is that something we really wish to do to others or have done to us?
So, we’ll find April Fool’s Day pranks launched today on the innocent and unsuspecting not only here, but in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iran, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, as well as Italy, France, Belgium, and Switzerland where, by the way, if you fall for one of these pranks you will be known as a pesce d’aprile, as they say in Italy, or, April Fish.
So be careful out there today and don’t get hooked.
I’ll just hole up at home and spend the day listening to my Justin Bieber collection.
No bad days!
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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