Hoaxes: Sympathy for the Devil

Last Updated on June 2, 2020 by

Upon seeing the video of a Unicorn being passed around as real published by the Ontario Science center, it was immediately suspicious that a viral marketing campaign was being put into motion in conjunction with their Mythic Creatures exhibit.  But with the nature of viral hoaxes these days, it certainly opens a dialogue for future generations about the nature of advertising and the distinction between capturing a genuine sense of wonder about the world around us and films such as The Blair Witch Project and The Fourth Kind which serve to entertain, but only under the pretense of fabrication.

In mythology to slay a Unicorn -a creature of purity and magic- is nothing short of the greatest diabolical deed that can be performed in a PG rated story.  And yet even so the symbol of the Unicorn as an object whose very existence would prove a universal law above all others that was harmonious and good can be translated as easily into today’s world as it would have been at its inception.  So it comes very strongly that in writing this the subject, even if easily discounted, must be dealt with using only the utmost sincerity and care.  After all, according to the works of Joseph Campbell and even Carl Jung symbols in our minds mean the world to us on a subconscious level.

So perhaps this is why, when the very symbol of a Unicorn -whose existence is said to hold portents of all that is magical in the world- should be the vehicle for a discussion on the direction our society will take as storytelling and indeed even symbolism itself progresses.

Viewing the video it was easy to see the unicorn allegedly bounding through the forest and disappearing behind a bush was a simple job of taking a model horse, blowing a fan on its mane in front of a green screen, and then translating it into an image of a forest with a shaky camera.  But is that all we can see upon viewing it?  Can we not also see the loving interest of the perpetrators of the hoax attempting to create a bit of doubt in a world all too often falsely perceived as mundane?  Can we not see the excitement it brought some people in those few seconds as they watched the video the first time and the magic of childhood fairy tales came back to life for that fleeting moment?  And can we not indeed see in ourselves that part of us all that wants to live in a more symbolically represented world of concrete good and evil?

And while hoaxes often seem to generate a hostile reaction from those attempting to carry on a lengthy and hazardous conversation about the elements of our universe we truly do not yet understand, is it possible some of those hoaxes actually help the discussion more than hurting them?  After all, there is certainly no shortage of mysteries in the universe.  And for every discounted hoax there will always be an unending torrential rain of genuine mysteries.  Never in the history of the universe has the flame of mystery ever been truly extinguished, and never in our future is it likely to be.  To use Hamlet’s famously prescient line, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

So for just one day, a center for Science -the discipline which values reason above all else- cast aside the skepticism we normally employ and for one moment in each viewer’s eyes, Unicorns lived again.  It’s unlikely they expected the hoax to go very far.  And in bringing back a myth that is normally relegated to the realm of children’s fantasy, the discipline showed the most beautiful scientific discipline of them all: the acceptance of mystery and the perpetuation of curiosity for the unknown.