As I traveled around the Catholic blogosphere today (virtually, of course) I noticed several incidents of April Fool's Day blog pranks. They ranged from the silly and harmless to the unbelievable to the heart stopping and dubious, which is to say, they were pretty much par for the course.
And they were all lies.
Lying, as we know, is a violation of the eighth commandment. It consists of saying or writing as true something which is not. It is a sin.
Many people excuse April Fool's Day lying as a "joke" or a "prank." They argue that because April Fool's Day is known to be a day when people will say false things or give false impressions on purpose for the sake of humor, it's all right to say things which are technically not true. But we know that this is consequentialism. It doesn't matter if the purpose of a lie is to tell a joke or be funny; a lie is still a lie.
Other people say that there are plenty of clues to let the listener (or reader, in the case of blog posts) know that something is an April Fool's joke instead of the literal truth. We could just as easily say the same thing of stories about Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, right? But if playing a game with our children doesn't excuse lying, how is it that playing a similar sort of game with adults as well as children does? Just because someone may embed clues in a blog post which the clever reader will instantly recognize as "tells" that the blogger is lying through his or her teeth, does that make the lie all right? Just because the blogger may end, even, with the actual word "Gotcha" and some cutesy emoticons, does that make his or her preceding falsehoods morally okay?
If we look at the situation closely, besides, we can see that the whole point of an April Fool's Day prank is to get the lie accepted as the truth, at least for those few seconds until the listener or reader realizes that he or she has been had. And isn't that intent, the intent to say something false and have it accepted as the truth, the very essence of lying? Sure, some clumsy pranksters will reveal too soon that they are joking, but the successful ones get away with the lie for the longest, before pulling the metaphorical rug out from under their victims and laughing at (or with, if you must) them. In other words, to pull off a good April Fool's prank, the joke can't be revealed too soon--and the added deceitfulness of the whole enterprise just adds to the moral dubiousness.
In the end, there's only one creature who thinks that lies, and getting humans to tell them, is funny. And we all know who that is.
And if you believed for one second that I was serious about a word of this...
:) :) :)
Happy April Fool's Day!!