Society

Towards a General Theory of Hoaxes

There is no end to hoaxes, impostures, frauds and fakes, so it was difficult to know where to begin. From the moment I started collecting Australian hoaxes some years ago with a view to giving them narrative coherence, I became conscious of the almost daily media reports about some new act of calculated deception. Down the ages, the kind of everyday hoaxes that are reported regularly have for the most part involved three things—wealth, health and faith. In the wealth area, we are used to hearing everything from confidence tricksters of various kinds who deprive people of a few dollars…

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