UMass-Dartmouth Student Admits Hoax

We've been following allegations that Department of Homeland Security agents visited the home of a UMass-Dartmouth student because he requested a copy of Quotations from Chairman Mao. (Previous articles, with links here and here.) Today's (New Bedford, MA) Standard-Times shoots the story it broke last week in the head:

The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.

… but not before a considerable number of Bush-haters had gullibly swallowed his story whole. Start with his professors, who despite their high scholarship and experience were completely fooled, no doubt because "everyone knows" this is the kind of repression that occurs all the time in Bush's Amerikkka.

The reporter, Aaron Nicodemus, I don't blame so much; he may have been duped at the beginning, but he stayed on the story until it crashed and burned under its own increasing implausibility. Good on him for that, anyway.

Among folks uncritically reporting the tale were Teddy Kennedy in a Boston Globe op-ed. In addition, as James Taranto pointed out, Teddy referred to the forbidden text as "Mao Tse-tung's Communist Manifesto"; apparently that blunder passed by the op-editors.

Molly Ivins also found the story too in line with her prejudices to avoid swallowing whole. And, if you ask The Google, you can get countless similar examples.

Will the debunking of this hoax get as big a play as did the original lurid yarn about Homeland Security cops checking up on what people are reading? Doubtful.

By the way, I strongly recommend reading the Standard-Times story; it's a pretty good tale of how a little tiny lie blows up to echo around the Whole Wide World, and then comes down to a 22-year-old kid breaking down and crying in his parents' house in New Bedford. The Boston Globe has more details.

Last Modified 2005-12-24 12:23 PM EDT