Hoaxes used to be fun, I imagine, before the internet turned them into weapons of mass disinformation.
One shudders to think what kind of lunacy might have resulted had the Paul McCartney-is-dead-and-has-been-replaced-by-a-lookalike hoax first spread on Facebook instead of college newspapers, local radio stations, and good-old word of mouth.
The hoax is emblematic not only of how misinformation spread differently fifty years ago, but also how the counterculture figured out information warfare, and used it to produce reams of satirical proto-viral content.
Whether the author of the
original 1969 article
-"Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?," from the Drake University student newspaper the Times-Delphic-intended to fool the public hardly matters.
His speculation reads like parody, like a star chart crossed with lurid tabloid gossip that, through a strange twist of fate created a network of people who believed that Paul was killed in a 1966 car crash and the band found an imposter named Billy Shears to replace him.