By Pamela S Meyers
The term “fake news” is in our current vocabulary a lot these days, but did you know that as far back as World War I, an important announcement about the war was later said to be false?
On the afternoon of November 7, 1918, news broke that World War I was over and an armistice had been signed in France. War-weary people the world over rejoiced at the news and began celebrating.
|Headline Prematurely Announcing the End of the War|
Source: Library of Congress, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030193/1918-11-07/ed-1/seq-1/#words=Ended%2Bend%2BEnd%2BWar%2Bwar
When the announcement reached Great Britain, workers streamed into the streets, leaving their work and began what would be an all-night celebration. Likewise, when the news wire arrived a short time later in New York City and traveled west from there, people started dancing in the streets and rejoicing. It had been a very long and debilitating war that cost many lives and terrible injuries. At last, it was over.
|Source of Photo: https://www.history.com/news/false-armistice-report-world-war-i-early-celebration|
The next morning, the celebrants woke up with terrible hangovers, to the news that it was all a mistake, and the war was still on. People were angry and blamed everyone from the U.S. government to the governments of the Allies. As they trudged back to their jobs and daily routines, conspiracy theories abounded.
Of course, on November 11, 1918, the news declared that the actual armistice was signed in a railroad car in France, and people celebrated all over again. In time, for the most part, the fake news that had misled them was forgotten.
How did such a thing happen? If you want a full detail-by-detail account as to the why, you can read it here. But, in a nutshell, the wheels were already turning for a summit between Germany and the Allies to end the war. In order for the German officials to safely make their way into France for the meeting, a local cease-fire was ordered so the contingent could securely pass through the front line. As the wires went out about this, the word cease-fire tripped off a misunderstanding, and, like the old telephone game many of us played at birthday parties, when the information reached the papers, the announcement read that the war was over.
When I read about this while researching World War I for my next novel, I couldn’t help but think about how much fake news is mentioned today. Nothing is new under the sun. Right?
Of course, this event made its way into my book, Tranquility Point, which will release next year.
Have you ever learned something unique about the past? If so, please share!
Pamela has written most of her life, beginning with her first diary at age eight. Her novels include Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and Second Chance Love. Safe Refuge and Shelter Bay, Books 1 & 2 in her Newport of the West series, are set in her hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She lives in northeastern Illinois with her two rescue cats.