On a Monday afternoon, local conservative KXL radio host Lars Larson spoke on the air with Tim Jordan, an alleged spokesperson for Pacific Northwest Energy Consortium (PNEC). According to Jordan, PNEC proposed to settle a two-reactor nuclear power station in bucolic Astoria. Larson quizzed the PNEC spokesperson about the pros and cons, and the logistics for the power plant.
It was breaking news. By that evening the story about the Astoria nuclear power plant had grown legs of its own. Without bothering to corroborate its truth, two local television stations featured the story on their nightly broadcasts. By the following day, Yahoo! News presented the story as a controversy and alluded that opposition, worried about "environmental disaster," was digging in its heels.
Problem was, the whole story was a hoax; a hoax instigated by Jordan, who's not really a spokesperson for PNEC, but a local cable access personality. Only days earlier, Jordan had registered a URL, pirated the website from the International Atomic Energy Agency and sent out press releases. Without double-checking with the Department of Energy or looking for other supporting evidence, news outlets simply trumpeted the story as true. Set against the West Coast's pending energy crisis and Oregon recent voter disapproval of the Trojan Nuclear Plant, the story was ripe for plucking.
"I wanted to show that the media doesn't investigate anything," said Jordan in an interview with the Mercury. While the story was running in local and national media outlets, Jordan met with the Mercury to discuss his underlying motives. "It is unconscionable to fall for this crap," said Jordan, referring to what he believed was a transparent scam. Then, smiling mischievously, he added, "It's funny."
It took two days before the truth caught up and quietly smothered the hoax. The Daily Astorian, one of the few media outlets contacted but not duped by the press releases, uncovered the website's falsity. Along with other troubling inconsistencies, the alleged power plant had been sited on federally protected wetlands.
About the same time, the news team from KXL, Larson's hosting radio station, received a phone call from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, one of the predominant research stations in the country. They said that they had never heard of PNEC.
By that time, however, KXL already had posted a jumpsite from their webpage to PNEC. Larson briefly interviewed a scientist from Livermore Lab on the air. (During the interview, Jordan tried to call in and discuss the larger issues of media's gullibility with Larson, but was rebuffed.) Otherwise, the story simply slipped away as quickly as it had come.
Jordan claims that he particularly targeted KXL in response to conservative talk show hosts like Larson lambasting freewheeling media expressions, from John Waters to obnoxious cable access shows. As a host for a smarmy and sexually blunt cable access show, Jordan, who goes by the onscreen name of Dr. Harry Lime, has been the target for censorship. Airing monthly on Multnomah Community Television, the shows feature a hooded Dr. Harry Lime--sometimes chomping on a cigar, other times wagging a giant dildo--bantering with call-in guests on topics from the Sex Pistols to just sex. Every year, Jordan and his cohorts are forced to change the show's name or face removal from the airwaves by lobbying from rabid Christians.
At the core of Jordan's concerns are that the media has become more "homogenized" over the past 20 years. The hoax, akin to guerilla warfare, had the primary purpose of exposing weakness in these "corporate" media outlets. Jordan sees his action as sticking up for his First Amendment rights.
He further says that the power plant hoax was just a "trial balloon"--one that buoyed his Machiavellian sensibilities. When asked whether more hoaxes would follow, he smiled impishly: "No comment."