From staging a fake Idi Amin wedding to starting a movement against breastfeeding, Alan Abel has fooled newspapers, television shows and radio programs with his hoaxes, using large-scale satire to criticize society as well as to give his audience a laugh.
On Tuesday evening, in the main floor of New Haven’s Institute Library, legendary hoaxster Abel recounted the highlights of his career to an audience of about 25, often eliciting laughter at his bizarre achievements.
Abel’s career began when he created a movement called the “Society for Indecency to Naked Animals,” or SINA, in 1959. The alleged mission of the movement was to encourage the population to clothe all animals, spawning slogans like “A nude horse is a rude horse.”
In an attempt to criticize what he believes is a rise in self-censorship among United States media, Abel said he submitted his proposal to the Saturday Evening Post as a satire, expecting the editors to laugh at his ridiculous idea. However, the editors took the idea seriously and issued a harsh rejection of it, Abel said, completely oblivious to the fact that the entire movement was a joke.
Surprised at the inability of the Saturday Evening Post to see through his hoax, Abel decided to grow the SINA movement until it gained nationwide attention. At one point, he said, one could find protesters on the street insisting that animals wear clothes.
Soon, Abel began to appear on the front page of every newspaper in the country for his work with SINA, and he earned multiple appearances on the most popular news programs and talk shows. In his talk, Abel revealed that Walter Cronkite himself was fooled into promoting SINA for seven full minutes on CBS. Abel said that even up to his death, Cronkite was angry at having been tricked by Abel.
Needless to say, Abel had no intention of discontinuing his hoaxes after SINA declined in popularity. Even in his 70s, Abel was still busy at work with his satirical work.
Josh Foer, a writer who hosted the talk with Abel, said he first met Abel at the 2000 Democratic National Convention when Abel was protesting against breastfeeding, proclaiming that it fosters “an incestuous relationship between mother and child.”
Foer said he was amazed with the fact the Abel has built a hugely successful career out of creating and executing hoaxes.
“Alan is obviously a hero, a hero to me,” Foer added.
Abel was the subject of a 2005 documentary titled “Abel Raises Cain.”