There is a harrowing ritual of childhood that far too many youths in our Amazon, Instacart, and Seamless-equipped world may never need to suffer (especially post-COVID): grocery shopping with your parents. Let me tell you, kiddos. This sucked. You’d get dragged around through the aisles without being allowed to play hide-and-seek, met with rejection every time you asked whether you could have the new flavor of PopTarts or your favorite heart-stoppingly sugary breakfast cereal, and if you did anything like excitedly scream ‘LOOK! DEAD SNAKE MEAT!’ you’d be hushed and told it was just spicy Italian sausage and you should be using your indoor voice anyway.
But there was a bright spot: at the checkout line, in between celebrity gossip rags and TIME magazine special editions about the British royal family (did anyone ever buy those?) you’d get to sneak a look at the latest issue of the Weekly World News, which probably made the whole excursion worthwhile. Because the Weekly World News was amazing. Full of ‘news’ that even an eight-year-old could determine was very obviously fake, it welcomed you into a fantastical black-and-white newsprint alternate universe of Bigfoot, aliens, Elvis, haunted toilets, human-chimpanzee hybrids, and most famous of all — Bat Boy. The world of the Weekly World News was pretty much the planet that every bored suburban kid wished they lived on.
The notorious satirical tabloid hasn’t been published in print for over a decade, and its website is a shell of its former self. But not for long, because a few days ago a Kickstarter campaign to revive the Weekly World News reached its goal. And with the publication soon to return in all its glory, I’d like to make a modest proposal: I think they should hire me.
In order to make my case, I will now share a few sample headlines for outlandishly fake news stories that I would write should I become the newspaper’s newest staff writer.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CLAIMS TO BE ALIEN WHO SEES ANGELS!
Oh, shoot. I thought this was a winner for sure! But then I took a gander at a few of Marianne Williamson’s greatest Twitter hits and it turns out this is pretty par for the course for the onetime Democratic hopeful. Not fake enough.
I’ll have to get a little bit more imaginative.
CONGRESSMAN’S SHOCKING REVEAL: HE MARRIED A PSYCHIC!
Wait — nope. This happened, too. Louisiana congressman Clay Higgins claimed last week that his wife Becca ‘has the gift of premonition’ and ‘dreamed that Federal squads were in our home seizing guns, knives, “unauthorized foods” and stored water.’
Time to really think big. This is my dream job, after all.
DONALD TRUMP PLANS REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT ON THE MOON!
… except that this also just happened, with the official Republican party Twitter account revealing that one of Trump’s priorities, should he win a second term, would be a permanent presence on the moon. (The GOP has yet to reveal whether it will have a golf course.)
In spite of his tabloid-friendliness in his New York tycoon days, Donald Trump was never really a Weekly World News fixture. They did report in 2002 that he had purchased the Loch Ness Monster from the Scottish government and was keeping it as a pet at Mar-a-Lago.
So maybe I should steer away from politics altogether as I try to get ‘The World’s Only Reliable News’ publication to hire me. Here’s my last shot.
AN ALIEN SPACECRAFT IS SPYING ON NEW JERSEY!
Several dozen people in northern New Jersey earlier this fall did claim to have seen a UFO, only to be told that what they were actually seeing was the Goodyear blimp. Sure. The Weekly World News will do its duty and tell the real truth:tThat not only was this a true alien spacecraft, but it has been keeping an eye on the Garden State so that it can eventually abduct former governor Chris Christie and force him to use his Bridgegate expertise to create a ‘traffic jam’ of asteroids around a planet full of hostile aliens who won’t pay their property taxes.
Joking aside, the media landscape — and our perception of what constitutes real and fake — has changed a whole lot since the last print issue of the Weekly World News appeared in a supermarket checkout aisle in the late Noughties. And as we’ve learned lately, truth really can often be stranger than fiction. Will a news-weary populace actually find egregiously fake news amusing? Or, worse, will they potentially think it’s real? (According to a phenomenal Mental Floss oral history of the tabloid, some people actually did back in the day.) And many of the tabloid’s classic howlers wouldn’t pass muster these days, like Bill Clinton hiring a three-breasted intern or the many stories about people who allegedly weighed over a ton. Nevertheless, I hope in spite of our cynicism, we do still have a place in 2020 America for our love of the absurd truck-stop folklore that made the Weekly World News such an institution, from ‘Bigfoot Kept Lumberjack As Love Slave’ to ‘Dick Cheney is a Robot.’
And with that, here’s one more headline I’d like to pitch to the tabloid responsible for so much childhood amusement, in the hopes that they’ll offer me an internship at the very least:
HILLARY CLINTON EATS BABIES!
Oh. Too soon.