Monday, March 27, 2006

For Some Fools, It Doesn't Have To Be April

Alan Able is at it again. The prankster best known for the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals hoax recently teamed with Esquire magazine on an article about a proposed "fat tax". Posing as a heavy, rich Texan named Irwin Leba, he outlined a plan to "tax Americans annually according to their weight or body-mass index (BMI)" in order to "ensure that overweight Americans are paying their fair share for the burden they impose on our nation’s healthcare infrastructure." According to the bogus Web site he set up for the "Institute for a Healthy America":

The IHA is a non-partisan proponent of the position that a new tax, calculated in proportion to Body Mass Index (BMI) and scaled to income, must be an essential part of a new federal "war on obesity." We believe such a "fat tax" could generate $150 billion in increased revenue for the federal government and could cut obesity in half by 2013 while saving 250,000 lives.

Esquire was in on the April Fool's joke, and even built a notice that the site was fake into the "Calculate Your Fat Tax" feature. Still, they had to field quite a few angry letters to the editor. The WaPo exposed the trickery yesterday.

Personally, I'm relieved that it's not real (I'd be broke after tax day), and tickled by the idea. After all, we tax alcohol and cigarettes alledgedly because they are health threats - is it really that far-fetched? The thing that makes a good hoax is the line it treads between whacky and just plausible enough.

However, I think the very best part of all this is the following bit:

"Under his plan, Leba himself would have to pay an extra $70,000 to Uncle Sam -- a stiff penalty for his love of deep-fried Twinkies. "You ever had a deep-fried Twinkie?" Leba asks. "If you condensed all the goodness of Jesus Christ into one of those plastic wrappers, you'd have something that would be almost -- but not quite -- as divine as a deep-fried Twinkie."

I think it's fair to say that rivals "a nude horse is a rude horse" for best hoax quote.

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