Earlier this week, the gullible Huffington Post fell victim to a hoax article calling for white men to be stripped of their voting rights. The site became the subject of widespread derision and condemnation after HuffPost editors stood up to defend the article’s content.
But as was later revealed, the author submitted the piece to Huffington Post South Africa as a hoax, intending to prove a point about the outlet’s radical leftist stance. He did so under a fake persona masquerading as a feminist activist named “Shelly Garland.” He has since lost his job after being outed by the site.
Following its publication and subsequent retraction, the HuffPost identified the author behind the “Shelly Garland” persona as Marius Roodt, a researcher at South Africa’s Centre for Development and Enterprise. According to the site, the email address Roodt used to submit the piece was traced back to him. The site claims that his identity was further “confirmed with facial recognition technology,” as he digitally altered a picture of himself to look like a woman.
Roodt admitted his role in the hoax when confronted by HuffPost reporters and was forced to submit his resignation from his job at the CDE (the resignation was accepted). The organization stated: “This kind of activity contradicts everything we stand for, is completely contrary to CDE’s media policy and our ethos as an organization.”
The hoaxer apologized for his actions. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to go where it did, there was no intention to go after Verashni (Pillay, HuffPost South Africa’s editor-in-chief),” he said.
Roodt told the publication that he sought to prove a point about the lack of fact-checking in South African journalism. “I thought, would it work? And it worked. In hindsight I wouldn’t have done it, I didn’t think it would get this big,” he said.
In contact with another website, Roodt compared his hoax to the Sokal Affair, a hoax perpetrated by physics professor Alan Sokal, who submitted a nonsense article to a postmodern cultural studies journal to test their intellectual rigor (they failed).
Roodt told reporters that other pieces in the media, which he believed to contain inaccurate facts, served as the motivation for his actions.
“I’m not part of the alt-right and I don’t like Milo (Yiannopoulos) and I don’t believe there’s a white genocide in South Africa, and I’m certainly not a racist,” he said. “I don’t believe white men are under attack.”
Curiously, the Huffington Post’s exposé of Roodt delved deep into his entire history as a person, including his educational credentials, work records, personal hobbies (he likes Star Trek), and online activities. Hell hath no fury like a journalist scorned.