The Art of the Hoax

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In recent years, I’ve noticed more and more of sites like medical adoptions.com or the now defunct coincidencedesign.com.

They are in essence the intellectual heirs of Swift’s A Modest Proposal and many of them are just as impressive. They employ the same tactics and produce the same results. Some people see right through the hoaxes immediately, but many are outraged and quite credulous. In the end, the fact that people are willing to believe, even momentarily, that the proposal in question is being seriously put forward, is an excellent commentary on humanity’s opinion of itself.

In Swift’s case, he was showing how dehumanizing was the alleged humanism of the supposedly enlightened ruling classes of his day who offered what were seemingly humane solutions to society’s ills. Yet, upon further inspection, such ideas were actually patronizing and monstrous policy positions that were ghoulishly hateful of the people they claimed to protect.

A site like medical adoptions does pretty much the same thing, showing enlightened (usually white) adults caring for (usually brown) children in a cute and charming way, but the children are really commodities that exist to supply spare organs for the adopting parent. There’s a certain banality-of-evil factor at work here, and is somewhat reminiscent of the the image of a doctor at an insane asylum who assures you he is looking out for your best interests right before lobotomizing you.

10:19 pm on May 6, 2008