As It Happens

As it Happened: The Archive Edition - The Fake News Episode

In terms of common usage, "fake news" may be a relatively new term — propelled in large part by the current U.S. president. But it's hardly a new idea, as the stories featured in this episode illustrate.

Stories fuelled by the friction between fact and fiction — from 50 years of AIH archives

Excerpt of 'The fin de siècle newspaper proprietor' by Frederick Burr Opper; March 7, 1894. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

As it Happens has been talking about fake news almost since it first went to air 50 years ago. But back then, we used the word "conspiracy."

In fact, former As it Happens host Barbara Frum devoted a chapter to it in her 1976 memoir, As it Happened. In it, she wrote, "Given the run of intrigues, cabals, and scenarios we're living through, it's not hard to understand why suggestions that five years ago would have been dismissed as ludicrous now get a knowing, 'Yeah, I can believe that.'"

Plus ça change. Truth may be stranger than fiction — but fake news can be stranger than both.

Click on 'Listen' above to hear the broadcast version of this episode as it aired on the radio. Full-length versions of each of the interviews as they originally aired, as well as archival images, appear below.

I've heard a lot of silly things in my life. And I'll hear a lot of sillier things before I die. In all societies, the idea of a conspiracy is appealing.- William F. Buckley

Chapter 1: The 'F' stood for 'Fake'

Fake News! In fact, Frank was William F. Buckley, Jr.'s middle name — and it also described his take on conspiracy theories. 

William F Buckley Jr., American author of political and spy novels,is pictured here in March 1976. Initially a journalist, he founded the conservative journal National Review in 1955 to air his political views. In 1973, he was delegate to the UN General Assembly. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)
(Original airdate: December 18, 1974) 12:44

Chapter 2: The King is dead

Fake news! At least according to the founder of the Elvis is Alive! Museum — which is why reports that the singer had left the proverbial building left Bill Beeny feeling all shook up. 

Bill Beeny looks over FBI files on Elvis Presley at the Elvis is Alive! Museum in Wright City, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/The Associated Press)
(Original airdate: October 19th, 1992) 6:09

Chapter 3: A picture's worth a thousand lies

Pretty much everything about stock photography is fake, so when Matt Vescovo inserts himself into the highly-staged scenes, he makes real news.

Title: Man sent to his death by enthusiastic gesture (The Stock Photobomber)
(Original airdate: January 26, 2015) 7:50

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Chapter 4: Blame Canada

American activist-prankster duo The Yes Men targets Canada for its dubious record of addressing climate change.

Mike Bonanno, right, and Andy Bichlbaum, the activist-prankster duo known as the Yes Men, warm up during the 2004 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
(Original airdate: December 15, 2009) 8:03

Chapter 5: Skirting the truth

When As it Happens caught wind ​of a Hebridean island so windy that residents wore lead weights on their kilts, it was too good to blow off. 

Shotputter wearing a kilt. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)
(Original airdate: March 31, 1976) 5:32

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Listen to the full episode audio at the top of this post. 

Written and produced by Kevin Ball.


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