Even though it no longer registers on the consciousness of most everyday Americans this day and age, is the New York Sun’s Moon Hoax still America’s greatest journalistic hoax?
By: Ringo Bones
Though many of his detractors associate former US President George W. Bush’s search for nonexistent WMD’s in Iraq back in March 2003 as America’s greatest journalistic hoax of the 21st Century due to the death’s of 5,000 or so young Americans in their prime who undertook in such a fool’s errand, many scholars cite that America’s greatest journalistic hoax happened in the 19th Century. It may not have the tragic consequences of the March 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom that still affect us to this very day but, still, it did manage to hold that position for over a hundred years. But does the New York Sun's "Moon Hoax" still qualify as one of America's greatest if not the greatest of the journalistic hoaxes then and now?
Back in 1835, the New York Sun’s “Moon Hoax” had the claim to fame as the most celebrated hoax in American journalism. It originally consisted of a series of articles, allegedly reprinted from the nonexistent Edinburgh Journal of Science, relating to the alleged discovery of life on the moon by an eminent British astronomer. Through a then new and powerful telescope, the scientist related, that he had been able to make out oceans, beaches, trees, vegetation, bison and goats, cranes and pelicans – and, finally, furry, winged, bat-like moon-men. By the time the fourth installment appeared, the New York Sun – which had then the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world – and rival editors, pretending to have access to the original articles, began to reprint the “original” New York Sun’s series. But then the New York Sun’s senior editor at the time named Editor Day admitted the hoax, which had been originally authored by a bright young man on his staff named Richard Adams Locke.