A ban on twerking. Discriminations against Koreans. Issuing guns to every student.
These are some of the hoaxes that the small Louisiana town of DeQuincy has fallen victim to this year. While most residents recognize these stories are phony, they have set off quite the stir in this town of 3,200.
“Everybody likes a good joke but after a while that’s enough,” states DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan. “We wouldn’t waste our time putting kids in jail if they’re doing a dance not everyone approves of. We put criminals in jail.”
Not only are the basic ordinances incorrect, made-up names also appear: Maynard Wilkens is listed as mayor, not Henagan; Bobby Joe Williams, rather than Tony Mancuso, as the sheriff. The terms “counties,” a descriptor that is not used in Louisiana, is used, rather than the correct “parishes.”
At one point, the Calcasieu Parish School Board had to release a statement in response to the false claims regarding arming students. “We want to ensure you that this story is entirely false and we have no plans of arming our students. We take safety and individuals in our schools very seriously,” they said. “Any conversation otherwise will not be tolerated.”
The releases appear to have been originally posted through the website PRLog, which distributes press releases through the web. While the fake news spread through smaller television stations and newspapers, social media also largely contributed to how the stories were able to gain traction.
PR Log did not immediately respond for comment, but their terms and conditions state that the contributors are “entirely responsible for the content” of each press release. The releases have since been taken down from the website.
While Mayor Henagan has local authorities trying to trace the publisher, he has hope that the residents will continue to outsmart these pranks.
“This is a small town made out of a lot of good people,” he says. “We’re not just a bunch of dummies.”