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A "hoax" is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. There is often some material object involved which is actually a forgery; however, it is possible to perpetrate a hoax by making only true statements using unfamiliar wording or context (see DHMO). Unlike a fraud or con (which usually has an audience of one or a few), which are made for illicit financial or material gain, a hoax is often perpetrated as a practical joke, to cause embarrassment, or to provoke social change by making people aware of something. Many hoaxes are motivated by a desire to satirize or educate by exposing the credulity of the public and the media or the absurdity of the target. For instance, the hoaxes of James Randi poke fun at believers in the paranormal. The many hoaxes of Joey Skaggs satirize our willingness to believe the media. Political hoaxes are sometimes motivated by the desire to ridicule or besmirch opposing politicians or political institutions, often before elections.

Governments often perpetrate hoaxes to assist them with unpopular aims such as going to war (e.g., the Ems Telegram). In fact, there is often a mixture of outright hoax, and suppression a...

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