With the Facebook IPO about to strike Wall Street (and potentially drum up enough cash to almost equal the destructive cost of a NYC alien invasion), interest in the social network is undeniably high. So much so that Blogger Nate St. Pierre thought the timing was right for a little yarn involving the 16th president and Mark Zuckerberg's digital creation.
"I just wanted to have fun with it," St. Pierre told CNN. "I've done this before. Every couple of years, I do a hoax. I knew this would go big but didn't expect those dozens of outlets to just run with it without 30 seconds of fact-checking."
Part of the success of any good hoax is the details, and St. Pierre made sure to weave a gripping tale of Lincoln's Facebook invention — starting in a cemetery and ending in the dusty archives of the Lincoln library. His description of Lincoln's patent is also well-played.
Lincoln was requesting a patent for “The Gazette,” a system to “keep People aware of Others in the Town.” He laid out a plan where every town would have its own Gazette, named after the town itself. He listed the Springfield Gazette as his Visual Appendix, an example of the system he was talking about. Lincoln was proposing that each town build a centrally located collection of documents where “every Man may have his own page, where he might discuss his Family, his Work, and his Various Endeavors.”
He went on to propose that “each Man may decide if he shall make his page Available to the entire Town, or only to those with whom he has established Family or Friendship.” Evidently there was to be someone overseeing this collection of documents, and he would somehow know which pages anyone could look at, and which ones only certain people could see (it wasn’t quite clear in the application). Lincoln stated that these documents could be updated “at any time deemed Fit or Necessary,” so that anyone in town could know what was going on in their friends’ lives “without being Present in Body.”
Sounds like a 19th-century version of Facebook, right? Bingo. Instant Internet link bait.
"I just did it for fun: an homage to P.T. and his hoaxes ... and Abe's tall tales," St. Pierre told CNN. "Just something fun like that for the modern day."
You can read the entire piece here — but honestly, I'm surprised so many fell for this. Lincoln would have had zero time for a paper-based Facebook. Nearly everyone knows the guy was too busy fighting vampires.