I've already fallen for one this year. There's a photographer named Jeff Ascough, quite famous in the business--he is considered one of the top wedding photographers around, makes very good money, and is a product tester for Canon. He started twittering the other day about a new camera he was testing--a highly advanced digital rangefinder.
To fill you in--rangefinders were a type of camera popular in the forties, fifties, and sixties; by and large, they were replaced by SLRs (the current dominant camera type) in the 1970's. But certain photo nerds (myself among them) love these elegant old machines, and desperately hope for an affordable digital version on which to mount our collection of still-useful but obsolete old lenses. The only one currently manufactured is from Leica, the upscale German camera company, and it costs around $7000. So most enthusiasts have to either keep shooting film, pony up for a used (but still expensive) discontinued digital model, or just sit around and hope a Leica competitor will bring out a new one.
Well, Ascough strung the internet along for a couple days, rendering the online camera nerd community delirious with excitement, and then revealed that it was a joke. Or rather, should I say, a prank. In response to the flood of angry email he received late yesterday, Ascough wrote:
I am fully aware that a lot of people have absolutely no sense of humour, and that some have chastised me for actually having a sense of humour, but alas that is really their problem and not mine.
Actually, no--it is his problem. To the hopeful camera nerd, Ascough's prank isn't funny--it's the internet equivalent of the captain of the football team knocking the books out of your arms in the hallway. It's a bit of smug bullying, like most April Fool's pranks--and as usual the victim is accused of having no sense of humor for not enjoying getting his glasses smashed underfoot.
If you think that my own childhood experiences have rendered me slightly sensitive to this dynamic, you're right. But here's the larger justification for my feelings--the April Fool's prank is a mockery of credulity. And credulity is a virtue, not a fault--especially for a writer. The writer has to go around with his heart and mind wide open. He has to believe that the world is filled with amazing possibilities. Conversely, the artist--indeed, the person--who approaches the world with suspicion and mistrust, who is careful never to be fooled, is sacrificing a little bit of his soul every day.
Anyway, denizens of the internet, enjoy your fake news stories and iPad parodies. I'll be lurking off the grid until the coast is clear. And if you call me to tell me I've won a MacArthur, or the Pulitzer, or that Obama was photographed reading Castle on Air Force One, I will never speak to you again.