not funny

Posted on March 14, 2010
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From The Guardian

Switching on their TV sets at 8pm on Saturday, Georgians were greeted with incredible news – Russia had invaded. The pro-government Imedi TV station reported that Russian tanks were once more trundling into Georgia. Not only that, but the country’s pro-western leader Mikheil Saakashvili had been murdered, the station said.

For the next half an hour there were scenes of absolute panic, as the mobile network collapsed, Georgians spilled on to the streets, and friends and relatives desperately tried to reach each other and seek out information. In fact, they needn’t have bothered.

The report, it turned out, was a hoax. The Kremlin hadn’t invaded and Saakashvili, it emerged, was very much alive. Not since Orson Welles persuaded Americans that the Martians had landed, during his hysteria-sparking War of the Worlds radio broadcast, had a whole nation been so duped.

Today furious opposition politicians denounced the TV stunt as dangerous and irresponsible. Angry residents in the capital, Tbilisi, gathered outside the offices of Imedi TV, hours after the report flashed erroneously around the world. Saakashvili, however, was unapologetic. He declared that the threat of Russian attack remained “very realistic”.

Zaza Gachechiladze, editor-in-chief of the Georgian Messenger newspaper, said: “People were completely shocked. I was driving to my friend’s party when I got a phone call telling me to turn on the TV.

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