Thursday, April 02, 2009

'Fess up time for "The April Fools joke that COULD have really happened"

Never in my wildest fevered delirium could I have imagined what the reaction would have been.

Let's put it this way: since early this morning, I have been in a nearly constant gigglefit about this whole thing.

Here's a sample of the correspondence that's come in...

"Brilliant, pure genius with Johnny and his minions."

"I'm speechless, absolutely without a single bit of speech."

"Chris, Chris, Chris... this one goes down in the history books: Best. April. Fools. Post. Ever."

"what a stunt, dude... You know that I bought it for THIRTY WHOLE SECONDS? (even with my knowledge that this was gonna happen - I bought it!) It looks so real! Well done! :-)"

"This is horrible but actually expected. I do hope the boy will be OK. It's a shame he has to pay for Johnny's evilness."

"Bahahah ... April Fool's, eh?"

"Chris, You have written a masterful work of fiction."

"Oh MAN that is hilarious!!"

"That is frackin' awesome! :) You were going for authenticity, and that really proved you nailed it, man! :)"

"Every phone call you make now is going to be monitored by the FBI probably , and your blog, and your emails! But it was brilliant!!!!! LOL You Rock!"

"Only you could pull that off :)"

"Maybe you'll get invited to Rome to talk about security concerns for the Pope's visit to Martinsville Speedway?"

"PWNAGE!"

"HAHAHA You crack me up Dude!!!!!! Just read your blog!!"

"funny as hell."

"Ummm -- just went to your blog. My jaw hit the floor so hard it nearly broke through to the foundation. Unbelievable!!! Truth really is stranger than fiction ... ... or maybe it's not stranger than fiction. Johnny Robertson is so bizarre that it didn't even occur to me until sometime after I read your article that I was reading it on April 1. As over the top as the whole story is, I really bought the whole thing! That says something about the guy, doesn't it? You've really out-done yourself, my friend. :)"

"Mr. Knight, the blogg you wrote about Johnny Robertson going to the Vatican true or a joke. If it is true then I can't understand why it hasn't been reported on WGSR star news. They usually report every little thing. Would you please let me know. Like your bloggs and keep up the good work."

"This was one of the best researched and well written pieces of parody that I have read in my life. It was EXTREMELY convincing and your graphics evoked sheer shock. Brilliantly done!" -- The editor of a major American newspaper

"Your story caused considerable alarm here this morning." -- An official at the U.S. State Department

"We wish more information about Mr. Johnny Robertson and his followers." -- excerpted from an e-mail written by an official in Vatican City

The traffic to the blog in the past 24 hours has been enormous: one of the biggest days ever without a post that didn't make it on Slashdot or some other major news site. Near as I can figure, more than five thousand hits since the article went up at 1 a.m. yesterday morning. This joint has received visits from Washington D.C., Rome, Manila, Tokyo, Bern, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, all across the Fruited Plain, and just about everywhere else that you can put a pin on the map. And numerous hits from Vatican City itself. There have been more people coming to the blog about Johnny Robertson's reported arrest while trying to accost Pope Benedict XVI than there have been about that Guitar Hero Metallica commercial.

But as with previous April Fools stunts, the time has come to make a confession of it all. So here's the checklist for this year's gag...

1. The New York Post cover graphic was obviously a Photoshop job. Although I took considerable pains to make it look as "legit" as possible... right down to including an actual weather forecast for New York City today.

2. The BBC World News graphic supposedly showing Micah Robertson being apprehended after getting shot is also a fake. Although that was made with a real 2005 photo of the Papal Swiss Guard stopping a man who tried to get too close to Pope Benedict XVI.

3. I always try to include a "clincher": a clue, albeit sometimes obscure, that whatever work of mine you are looking at is really a joke. For this one, it was "Hank Vorjes". Who is not a reporter with the New York Post at all. "Hank Vorjes" was the name of the fictitious Associated Press reporter who filed the "story" of Microsoft buying the Roman Catholic Church from a famous 1994 Internet hoax that fooled quite a lot of people at the time.

4. I made up all the "comments" that were allegedly made to the post by blog readers. Just my own lil' way of trying to uphold the illusion :-) This is the only time that I ever post comments on this blog as someone other than myself, without my own signature.

5. However, with the exception of the line about "the pope's house", every quotation in this article that was attributed to Johnny Robertson of the Martinsville Church of Christ... is a quotation that he has ACTUALLY stated in public.

6. And obviously, Johnny Robertson has not been arrested at the Vatican. Neither has his son been shot in Saint Peter's Square. So far as I know James Oldfield isn't being held in custody by Rome police either.

But you wanna know something that's downright scary?

The few people who were "in the know" about this April Fools prank, without exception, told me before I executed it words to the effect that "What's so bad is that this COULD conceivably happen. Johnny Robertson really is the kind of man who would try to do something like that."

That same sentiment has been echoed many, many times throughout the day.

Heck, it has downright startled me that a huge number of people read this, and thought that it was a SERIOUS news report!

Which I think, says more about Johnny Robertson, James Oldfield and their cult than anything I could have possibly come up with in this clearly fictitious piece of work.

Or maybe not so fictitious. I mean, all I really did, at all, was take some very legitimate quotes by Johnny Robertson, had them doing exactly what he and his followers have publicly done not just throughout this area but in towns across the country, and merely transplanted that into an admittedly very extreme location. The most extreme that I could have come up with. Hey, give me some credit here: I could have set Johnny Robertson loose at the Wailing Wall or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and had him cut to pieces by angry mobs at either place. I was trying to be Christ-like and kindly in my attempt at pointed parody...

What y'all read in this piece about Johnny Robertson and his twisted sect: I didn't make up anything about them. All I did was put them in an absurd situation so that I could demonstrate their own absurdity.

Seriously: does anyone who knows anything about this "church" believe that Johnny Robertson wouldn't possibly do something like assail the Vatican, if he were given the opportunity?

Johnny Robertson is a man who recently invaded and tried to violently confront a Baptist church in Bay, Arkansas (a town that I received several reports about how Robertson tried to "start a war" throughout the entire community). Johnny Robertson is a man who has repeatedly harassed one particular minister in Martinsville. Johnny Robertson is a man who intimidated one preacher's wife at her home to the point that she was compelled to threaten him with a gun if he did not leave. Johnny Robertson is a man who has persistently violated the privacy of individuals with his "in your face" camera confrontational tactics. Johnny Robertson is a man who apparently ordered a "bomb threat" painted on the side of one of his own church buildings so as to cast blame on a group of Muslims. Johnny Robertson is a man who has had dissidents and their children followed in stores and had their homes photographed. Johnny Robertson is a man who has accused a church in the area, without any evidence, of engaging in acts of child pornography.

(I could say something about how no ethical and responsible television station would ever give this man airtime... but too many of us already know that there is no such "ethical and responsible" television station to speak of, so there's no need to comment further about that.)

You know what? I don't care what beliefs Johnny Robertson and his very small contingent of followers hold to. Because one of the things I do believe in is that every person has an absolute and sacred right to seek God as best he or she can understand Him.

And Johnny Robertson has that right too.

But his right to that ends where the rights of others to seek God begins.

And he has no right to attempt to hurt people as he and his followers are doing.

They aren't acting like "Christians". They're acting more like the Taliban. And a lot of people around here regard Robertson and his cronies as just as potentially dangerous as any Islamic extremist. As one friend told me recently: "I will gladly do a Bible study with Johnny Robertson... so long as I have a Bible in one hand and a .38 in the other."

Honestly, I'm glad that this wasn't a real news story. Just as I must solemnly admit that the events depicted in this fictitious account could quite possibly happen someday. Maybe it won't be in the heart of the Vatican, but it could happen in Martinsville, or Reidsville, or Danville, or anywhere else that Robertson and his followers try to threaten and scare people in the name of God.

If that day comes, and God forbid it from ever coming, then somebody will be seriously hurt. Or worse.

And when that day comes, I sure as hell won't be laughing.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just seeing all this after 1 AM. C'mon...as much as I dislike Johnny Robertson I would not have bought this April Fools story for one milli-second...not even on another day. But yes, great imagination and parody there, Chris. Let's hope it becomes reality, and it could if we know JR. hee hee Now I did buy briefly into your hoax back a year or so ago about the tobacco ban coming up in Rockingham County. That was scary. And these days, that one may actually materialize in reality. Unfortunately.

Lex said...

Two words, Chris: Brah. Vo.

OK, a few more: This was the best April Fool's blog post I've ever read and among the best April Fool's jokes I've ever seen ... precisely because it WAS so believable. One question: Do Swiss Guardsmen really carry firearms? In all the pictures I recall seeing, they appeared to have only axes or pikes or something similar.

Chris Knight said...

Thanks Lex :-)

And in answer to your question: the Swiss Guards do carry firearms. There is a standard rifle and a standard sidearm (the same model cited in the "news story"). They still carry the halberds but ever since the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981 they have also carried more "usual" non-ceremonial weaponry also.

The Swiss Guards are probably one of the most fascinating military units in history. They have been posted at the Vatican for just over 500 years now. All must be single men with Swiss citizenship and paperwork demonstrating good character, in addition to being Catholic. They also must start out younger than 30, although there are quite a number of older men in the contingent also since many serve for 25 years. And those are pretty much the same uniforms that they have worn for about 400 years now.

Anonymous said...

This was the funniest line from the whole thing.

"There is not a preacher in this town that knows as much Bible as I do!"

I can see Robertson screaming that smack in the center of THE VATICAN. Surrounded by the Pope himself, thousands of other priests and clerics etc.

Robertson would do it too.

Pete said...

Chris,
Charles Roark had Robertson called in for half hour on the Buzz today. Talking about Tim Whiteheart coming to Martinsville and Robertson announcing he was going to spend 3 hours tonight attacking him. He didn't talk about you one bit. Was he too scared?

Anonymous said...

Remember that JR is going to attack the hottest thing going. Why attack fiction when you can make heat with reality?

Ol' You-Know-Who, or "Tim" if you prefer

Anonymous said...

This was indeed creative, but way out of line and inappropriate even though your own the blog, Mr. Knight.

How could you say that Johnny Robertson was arrested -- when in fact he wasn't? Isn't it a lie? You studied journalism, Chris. Isn't that libel?

Even worse, how could you even fathom any sort of reasoning by saying that Micah, his son, was shot by someone and in critical condition? That too is a lie. I think that would fall under libel since you said that he acted disobeyed an order and was shot which is in no was true. So in essence, you lied...again. And worse, you posted it for the world to see.

You're probably thinking that no one would believe such crap as Johnny challenging the Pope or his son being shot at the Vatican -- but if those so-called "correspondences" to you are true (which I'm sure they aren't...I think you made those up too) - then you had people believing a lie which crosses the legal libel lines...which could end up with you explaining it to a jury or a judge. Good luck in them seeing the humor.

You have harped so much on truth and justice and doing the right thing, yet you print a story about a man being arrested and his son being critically wounded from being shot...all in what you refer to as an April Fool's joke. Innocent? I don't think so.

I see no humor is reporting on a juvenile being critically shot or a man being arrested, a fantasy that you created in your head as some joke.

Actually, I think its sick and demented. You cannot justify that fantasy..no matter how hard you try.

Be warned. There are lots of better lawyers than the one that represented Mr. Price out there. You can take that to the bank...and you may need to. You may not own much, but remember, liens will follow you for the rest of your life.

Anonymous said...

I slightly agree with the above post, but don't really care as much. Look, I read the Onion and appreciate a good joke. However, it needs to be FUNNY. That whole thing reads as obsessed and a little bit creepy. Why the constant attention to an obvious crackpot with a very meager group of followers? You only call further attention to him and after all, he has the right to believe what he wants. Also, all the self-congratulatory back patting is off-putting.

Anonymous said...

Ignore the jerks above. This was one of the most funny as hell stunts I've seen ever. And those same people too are ignorant of Robertson being led away by police yesterday from illegally harassing a baptist church in Martinsville. The man is insane and a threat to public safety and he doesn't need mollycoddling. You told it like it is and I know for a fact he has said those things because I've heard him too.

Calvin said...

It is clearly a work of parody, particularly since you admitted that it was an April Fools joke. And its made ever the more clever by the fact that you did not have to make up anything that Mr. Robertson said. I remember reading those quotes before when you reported them. It might be scary that people bought it but only the very best April Fools jokes can do that. So Chris, bravo!

Calvin said...

It is also unbelievably well written. Does this Robertson even know how to properly pronounce "Nunciature" or "gendarmerie"?

Anonymous said...

"And those same people too are ignorant of Robertson being led away by police yesterday from illegally harassing a baptist church in Martinsville."

Did that happen? I wonder if it'll show up on Robertson's youtube page? He'll call it "Police Behaving Badly" or something [not] clever like that.

Anonymous said...

I was laughing so hard reading this that my sides were hurting!

Johnny and James attempting to give DVDs to the papal gentlemen = priceless comedy!

I am a Catholic and I am very impressed by your knowledge of the Vatican.

Anonymous said...

You nailed him BAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! This has got to be the funniest thing you ever did :)

Joey said...

If you got so much response from this 'joke' as you say, why do you only have 13 comments on your fantasy diary..er, I mean blog?

Joey

Joey said...

"Heck, it has downright startled me that a huge number of people read this, and thought that it was a SERIOUS news report!"

LOL.

I'm pretty startled too...must be some gullible readers. Help us all.

Joey

Pete said...

Charles Roark if you are reading this,

you are a goddamned whore

Johnny Robertson owns your ass and everyone knows it.

Chris, Charles just said that he didn't think Johnny was a sick person when one lady called in to tell Charles that Johnny Robertson had no business hurting people. Charles stuck up for Johnny.

Charles Roark, Johnny Robertson's gigolo

Joey said...

"Charles Roark, Johnny Robertson's gigolo"

Pete, Chris Knight's gigolo

Anonymous said...

Martinsville Police Department is ordering Johnny Robertson and his followers to stay away from Tim Whiteheart's reconciliation gathering tonight at Martinsville High School. The police believe that Robertson is going to cause trouble.

Robertson is publicaly offering one hundred dollars to anyone who will go in and secretly videotape Tim Whiteheart so that he can have footage to attack Whiteheart on his television show.

Anonymous said...

...and Jesus was so proud of the conduct of his followers in Martinsville.

Chris Knight said...

A friend made a hilarious observation this evening...

By now most people around here have seen the Bojangles commercial featuring members of an actual Baptist church.

Since Johnny Robertson has let it be known that he won't eat in any restaurants that serve alcohol, does he likewise boycott eating Bojangles chicken now that they're working with the Baptists?

:-P

Anonymous said...

Today on the Buzz show a Muslim minister was on and Johnny Robertson called in and the Muslim handed Robertson's ass back to him on a plate. He said Robertson was a fool and everyone knew it and he challenged Robertson to a TV debate. Then the Muslim guy pulled out a huge wad of bills and offered to pay for the airtime and Robertson turned coward again and said he wouldn't debate. The Muslim guy also said Robertson was "a woman in man's clothing". Thought you should know that Robertson called in and made himself to be an idiot.

Anonymous said...

That was Sheik Nuradin.
I think he's from Danville VA.

He is the one that phoned in to a show of Johnny Robertson’s a couple of months ago and repeated several times Johnny Robertson had sex with someone.

Shiek Nuradin named that someone several times. Johnny Robertson did not respond to his accusations.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Robertson officially turned yellow chicken and ran away again. He said on Buzz today that he wouldn't debate Sheik Nuradin but he would send one of his students to debate Sheik instead. Remember these are the students that Robertson is paying to attend his "preaching school"

Anonymous said...

He's probably afraid Sheik is going to talk about the woman Robertson has been having sex with.

Anonymous said...

Chris,
I'm watching James Oldfield and I know why they won't debate you. You are too intellectual and would destroy them on camera if they took you on.