Let's put it this way: since early this morning, I have been in a nearly constant gigglefit about this whole thing.
Here's a sample of the correspondence that's come in...
"Brilliant, pure genius with Johnny and his minions."The traffic to the blog in the past 24 hours has been enormous: one of the biggest days ever without a post that didn't make it on Slashdot or some other major news site. Near as I can figure, more than five thousand hits since the article went up at 1 a.m. yesterday morning. This joint has received visits from Washington D.C., Rome, Manila, Tokyo, Bern, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, all across the Fruited Plain, and just about everywhere else that you can put a pin on the map. And numerous hits from Vatican City itself. There have been more people coming to the blog about Johnny Robertson's reported arrest while trying to accost Pope Benedict XVI than there have been about that Guitar Hero Metallica commercial.
"I'm speechless, absolutely without a single bit of speech."
"Chris, Chris, Chris... this one goes down in the history books: Best. April. Fools. Post. Ever."
"what a stunt, dude... You know that I bought it for THIRTY WHOLE SECONDS? (even with my knowledge that this was gonna happen - I bought it!) It looks so real! Well done! :-)"
"This is horrible but actually expected. I do hope the boy will be OK. It's a shame he has to pay for Johnny's evilness."
"Bahahah ... April Fool's, eh?"
"Chris, You have written a masterful work of fiction."
"Oh MAN that is hilarious!!"
"That is frackin' awesome! :) You were going for authenticity, and that really proved you nailed it, man! :)"
"Every phone call you make now is going to be monitored by the FBI probably , and your blog, and your emails! But it was brilliant!!!!! LOL You Rock!"
"Only you could pull that off :)"
"Maybe you'll get invited to Rome to talk about security concerns for the Pope's visit to Martinsville Speedway?"
"HAHAHA You crack me up Dude!!!!!! Just read your blog!!"
"funny as hell."
"Ummm -- just went to your blog. My jaw hit the floor so hard it nearly broke through to the foundation. Unbelievable!!! Truth really is stranger than fiction ... ... or maybe it's not stranger than fiction. Johnny Robertson is so bizarre that it didn't even occur to me until sometime after I read your article that I was reading it on April 1. As over the top as the whole story is, I really bought the whole thing! That says something about the guy, doesn't it? You've really out-done yourself, my friend. :)"
"Mr. Knight, the blogg you wrote about Johnny Robertson going to the Vatican true or a joke. If it is true then I can't understand why it hasn't been reported on WGSR star news. They usually report every little thing. Would you please let me know. Like your bloggs and keep up the good work."
"This was one of the best researched and well written pieces of parody that I have read in my life. It was EXTREMELY convincing and your graphics evoked sheer shock. Brilliantly done!" -- The editor of a major American newspaper
"Your story caused considerable alarm here this morning." -- An official at the U.S. State Department
"We wish more information about Mr. Johnny Robertson and his followers." -- excerpted from an e-mail written by an official in Vatican City
But as with previous April Fools stunts, the time has come to make a confession of it all. So here's the checklist for this year's gag...
1. The New York Post cover graphic was obviously a Photoshop job. Although I took considerable pains to make it look as "legit" as possible... right down to including an actual weather forecast for New York City today.
2. The BBC World News graphic supposedly showing Micah Robertson being apprehended after getting shot is also a fake. Although that was made with a real 2005 photo of the Papal Swiss Guard stopping a man who tried to get too close to Pope Benedict XVI.
3. I always try to include a "clincher": a clue, albeit sometimes obscure, that whatever work of mine you are looking at is really a joke. For this one, it was "Hank Vorjes". Who is not a reporter with the New York Post at all. "Hank Vorjes" was the name of the fictitious Associated Press reporter who filed the "story" of Microsoft buying the Roman Catholic Church from a famous 1994 Internet hoax that fooled quite a lot of people at the time.
4. I made up all the "comments" that were allegedly made to the post by blog readers. Just my own lil' way of trying to uphold the illusion :-) This is the only time that I ever post comments on this blog as someone other than myself, without my own signature.
5. However, with the exception of the line about "the pope's house", every quotation in this article that was attributed to Johnny Robertson of the Martinsville Church of Christ... is a quotation that he has ACTUALLY stated in public.
6. And obviously, Johnny Robertson has not been arrested at the Vatican. Neither has his son been shot in Saint Peter's Square. So far as I know James Oldfield isn't being held in custody by Rome police either.
But you wanna know something that's downright scary?
The few people who were "in the know" about this April Fools prank, without exception, told me before I executed it words to the effect that "What's so bad is that this COULD conceivably happen. Johnny Robertson really is the kind of man who would try to do something like that."
That same sentiment has been echoed many, many times throughout the day.
Heck, it has downright startled me that a huge number of people read this, and thought that it was a SERIOUS news report!
Which I think, says more about Johnny Robertson, James Oldfield and their cult than anything I could have possibly come up with in this clearly fictitious piece of work.
Or maybe not so fictitious. I mean, all I really did, at all, was take some very legitimate quotes by Johnny Robertson, had them doing exactly what he and his followers have publicly done not just throughout this area but in towns across the country, and merely transplanted that into an admittedly very extreme location. The most extreme that I could have come up with. Hey, give me some credit here: I could have set Johnny Robertson loose at the Wailing Wall or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and had him cut to pieces by angry mobs at either place. I was trying to be Christ-like and kindly in my attempt at pointed parody...
What y'all read in this piece about Johnny Robertson and his twisted sect: I didn't make up anything about them. All I did was put them in an absurd situation so that I could demonstrate their own absurdity.
Seriously: does anyone who knows anything about this "church" believe that Johnny Robertson wouldn't possibly do something like assail the Vatican, if he were given the opportunity?
Johnny Robertson is a man who recently invaded and tried to violently confront a Baptist church in Bay, Arkansas (a town that I received several reports about how Robertson tried to "start a war" throughout the entire community). Johnny Robertson is a man who has repeatedly harassed one particular minister in Martinsville. Johnny Robertson is a man who intimidated one preacher's wife at her home to the point that she was compelled to threaten him with a gun if he did not leave. Johnny Robertson is a man who has persistently violated the privacy of individuals with his "in your face" camera confrontational tactics. Johnny Robertson is a man who apparently ordered a "bomb threat" painted on the side of one of his own church buildings so as to cast blame on a group of Muslims. Johnny Robertson is a man who has had dissidents and their children followed in stores and had their homes photographed. Johnny Robertson is a man who has accused a church in the area, without any evidence, of engaging in acts of child pornography.
(I could say something about how no ethical and responsible television station would ever give this man airtime... but too many of us already know that there is no such "ethical and responsible" television station to speak of, so there's no need to comment further about that.)
You know what? I don't care what beliefs Johnny Robertson and his very small contingent of followers hold to. Because one of the things I do believe in is that every person has an absolute and sacred right to seek God as best he or she can understand Him.
And Johnny Robertson has that right too.
But his right to that ends where the rights of others to seek God begins.
And he has no right to attempt to hurt people as he and his followers are doing.
They aren't acting like "Christians". They're acting more like the Taliban. And a lot of people around here regard Robertson and his cronies as just as potentially dangerous as any Islamic extremist. As one friend told me recently: "I will gladly do a Bible study with Johnny Robertson... so long as I have a Bible in one hand and a .38 in the other."
Honestly, I'm glad that this wasn't a real news story. Just as I must solemnly admit that the events depicted in this fictitious account could quite possibly happen someday. Maybe it won't be in the heart of the Vatican, but it could happen in Martinsville, or Reidsville, or Danville, or anywhere else that Robertson and his followers try to threaten and scare people in the name of God.
If that day comes, and God forbid it from ever coming, then somebody will be seriously hurt. Or worse.
And when that day comes, I sure as hell won't be laughing.