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Tall Tale of Political Correctness Tricks Media

September 25, 1995

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) _ Imagine being lost in the Adirondack Mountains, forced to eat squirrels cooked with an eyeglass lens to survive.

Then imagine being prosecuted, under pressure from animal rights activists, for chowing down on too many squirrels.

Outrageous? Well, yes.

The story about a lost mechanic named Jake Landon was a purely fictionalized, satirical account in a newsletter that pokes fun of political correctness.

But some people didn’t get the joke.

It drew a mention on an episode ABC’s ``This Week with David Brinkley.″

Shocked letters to the editor were sent to upstate New York papers.

Phone calls flooded the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

And Paul Harvey read it on the radio.

It all happened last month following the story that originated in the May issue of Heterodoxy, a publication of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

``Heterodoxy skewers and ridicules the politically correct,″ said John Herr, a spokesman for the Los Angeles group. ``We have kind of a cheeky attitude.″

The story didn’t mention the story was a satire and even called it a ``real-life adventure.″ Herr said most readers should have figured out the joke by the fourth paragraph.

``What can I tell you, somebody bought it,″ said Mike McKeon, a state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman who fielded calls from reporters trying for an interview with Landon. ``We tried to tell people ... there is no guy. It was amazing,″

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for Brinkley, said somebody had sent the story to the show in the mail and said that if they had known it was satirical, they wouldn’t have aired it.

Derrick Mellon, a researcher with Paul Harvey’s show, said the broadcaster read the story in his morning report, but after it was checked further, it was dropped from the afternoon broadcast.

To the people at Heterodoxy, the tall tale illustrated even more of what they were trying to do: illustrate the extremes of political correctness.

``We’ve gotten so out of control,″ Herr said.

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