On August 25, 2008, I wrote a post here warning readers that students in my new class, Lying About the Past, would be creating a historical hoax and turning it loose online. Little did I know then that the hoax they would create — Edward Owens, the Last American Pirate — would turn into a phenomenon in the blogosphere, attracting notice around the world (and even from Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder). Who knew, for instance, that Edward Owens would end up being one of the Top 10 Wikipedia hoaxes?
Well, consider yourself warned again.
In the spring 2012 semester a group of history students here at George Mason University will once again be creating a historical hoax and turning it loose to see what happens. Because the last cohort did a pirate hoax, you can count on the fact that this time around pirates are on the list of things they cannot use as the subject of their hoax. Others include anything to do with medicine or health, anything that might cause someone to send us money (wire fraud), anything that violates any other criminal codes or the university’s responsible use of computing policy (no gambling, no porn, no copyright violations), and nothing to do with the American Civil War. This last exclusion is because too many people know too much about the Civil War and so fooling them would be almost impossible.
What will the students choose? At this point it’s impossible to know, but whatever they select, let’s hope it’s fun.