Artist thinks falling for her hoaxes is beautiful. I say it’s ugly and sickening.

Back in June 2015, we posted this story about a photo of a raccoon riding an alligator. I’ll admit, I thought it could be possible. There were plenty of authentic photographs of animals hitching rides on other unlikely animals. (I really doubted the weasel on a woodpecker, but it was REAL.)

Photo: Richard Jones

Photo: Richard Jones

A woman has admitted that she hoaxed this raccoon photo as “art”. The Washington Post has the story:

The story of Zardulu begins like this: The anonymous artist, who closely guards her identity, once worked in secret, staging scenes such as the raccoon and the alligator, never revealing to the world what she had done. She refers to her creations as “myths,” their purpose is to be “pearls of merriment for the world to enjoy.”

She was reluctant then to reveal any of the secrets of her work, asking the Gothamist reporter, “Why wake the world from a beautiful dream when the waking world is all so drab?”

Zardulu now feels a little differently. She believes that Zardulism “will be more effective, and will last longer, and will inspire greater participation in others, if occasionally the veil is lifted.”

She also took credit for pizza rat and the three-eyed catfish.

Unanswered questions remain about her hoaxes. Raccoon alligator had help from someone who believed it was real. The pizza rat filmer says it wasn’t staged.

She says she doesn’t want to mislead people, though she calls her work “myth creation”.

Hmm. My take is a bit harsher. I see these hoaxes on the spectrum silly prank to politically motivated fake news. The fact is, our media system of news and information is already poisoned and rickety. We have so much bullshit asshattery and hoaxing going on in the world today that affects peoples’ lives – their feelings towards their government, their opinions on policy and law, their choice of medical treatment, what kind of food they buy, and how they vote. Hoaxing is not generally funny, it makes people feel foolish and angry. They also do not necessarily learn from being conned because they often lack the foundation and skills to think critically about anything. Call me a sourpuss (or worse, if it makes you feel superior), but after years of this seeing this stuff that makes people even more distrustful of the media and each other, I guess it has blackened my soul. This artist is in no sense “brightening the world” by faking charming scenes people like or making people scared of environmental harm (the mutant catfish). By presenting lies as not untrue, she reveals that people are dark and perverse and what may seem adorable and special is really manufactured and ugly.

  10 comments for “Artist thinks falling for her hoaxes is beautiful. I say it’s ugly and sickening.

  1. Perry
    December 18, 2016 at 2:22 PM

    “Hoaxing is not generally funny, it makes people feel foolish and angry.”

    I agree with that. I think these “pearls of merriment for the world to enjoy” have a long history in US media, maybe starting with the TV show Candid Camera, which had its genesis in radio. It has spawned many imitations in the US and around the world. It’s hoax as entertainment, but “Some shows have been criticized because of the potential cruelty inherent in the pranks…”

    I must admit I have sometimes laughed at some of the pranks on some of those shows I’ve watched, but just as often I have cringed and felt embarrassed for the victim. Of course, those kind of prank shows are not nearly as harmful or dangerous as fake news that has an unfunny specific agenda, but perhaps Candid Camera and its ilk prepared the way for the proliferation of deliberate disinformation in the media.

  2. One Eyed Jack
    December 18, 2016 at 3:23 PM

    It’s a sad day when the liars are celebrated and those that embrace truth are denigrated, but that is the world we live in. The primary mantra of our times is “Entertain me”.

  3. Chris
    December 18, 2016 at 8:50 PM

    Even Alan Hunt, the creator of Candid Camera, had a scare due to doing that show. It was when he was on a plane that was hijacked to Cuba:

  4. Graham
    December 18, 2016 at 11:03 PM

    It’s not the first time I’ve seen this kind of defense.

    A few years ago someone faked photographs of a manned V-2 missile being recovered from the Baltic and inserted them into an archive of historic photographs. Why I remember it is that the artist claimed that the ‘art’ was not the faked images, but the act of insertion itself and used a ‘myth creation’ defense to justify his tampering with the historic record.

    Sorry about being so vague about this, it took place in the early 2000s and can no longer locate the original story, though I think it was discussed on the Universe Today forums back when they were still the Bad Astronomy Forum.

  5. Chris
    December 19, 2016 at 2:14 AM

    Just remember the fable of “The Boy Who Called Wolf.” It was a tale of how hoaxing just goes wrong in the end, because no one believes a liar even when they are telling the truth. Oh, if only.

    If you keep it up, you dull the senses of the population and then do not respond appropriately when some horrible thing does occur. Oh, wait… that happened. I need to write my congress critters to protect my adult disabled son from the evil entities that want to remove his disability services along with his health care. And remove Medicare in thirty years for my younger adult children when they retire who are already paying for it with their very real adult paychecks, even though they are both less than thirty years old.

    Cripes, I feel like I have been transported to an alternative universe. It is the one where Captain Kirk and Spock had goatees during the entire run of the original Star Trek series.

    (edit to add, I did not spell Allen Hunt’s name right in previous comment… and it is cool that Snopes found an alternative narrative to his daughter’s story)

  6. Andrew
    December 19, 2016 at 5:58 AM

    For more on Zardulu check out the Reply All podcast (Feb 25). Is Trump one of her projects?

  7. randall krippner
    December 19, 2016 at 8:29 AM

    I also agree that hoaxes like this are ultimately damaging, both for the victims of the hoax and for people in general. It takes a rather peculiar kind of cruelty, even sadism to derive enjoyment from this kind of thing, because the ultimate ‘joke’ in this kind of thing for the hoaxer isn’t the hoax itself, it is the reaction of those who are hoaxed, the embarrassment or worse that it causes them.

    Trying to equate this with the creation of a myth indicates she has no idea what a myth really is. Myths are far more than just silly stories, they are often explorations into the depths of human behavior, allegories that attempt to explain human feelings and actions. They are ultimately cultural artifacts that arise out of shared ideas and questions and which attempt to make living in a world full of physical and emotional dangers a bit less stressful.

    She isn’t an artist. She isn’t a myth maker. She’s just another person who desperately wants to make herself believe she’s important.

  8. bill turnbull
    December 19, 2016 at 2:27 PM

    No opinion on the authenticity of the alleged vehicle recovery you mentioned above, nor do I make any representations for or against the reliability of the following. but it’s possibly interesting:

  9. December 20, 2016 at 8:10 PM

    The line between art and hoax can get mighty thin. As a character in Broadcast News (I think) says: “They keep moving the damn line.” Art is supposed to expand our imaginations — it puts long noses on wooden puppets (and some politicians) — and create metaphors that aren’t literally true. So when an artist creates an unlikely juxtaposition for whatever artistic purpose, we shouldn’t immediately consign the work to the world of hoaxes. I guess it’s only when the artist tries to pass off hoax or sham as some sort of real life that perhaps our dander should get up.

    As a side note on this, I’m particularly annoyed at a certain kind of joke where the putative humorist adds a completely gratuitous punch line to add a sense of realism to his lame anecdote, like “…and the room erupted in applause,” or “the officer walked away in tears, laughing” or “the imam stormed out of the room as the simple country pastor chuckled to himself.” It’s like it’s not sufficient to tell the story without adding a fake ending to spice up the closing.

  10. December 23, 2016 at 1:20 AM

    Won’t somebody please think of the children !

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