Sympathy hoax

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A sympathy hoax is a kind of hoax or ploy designed to hook an iinocent parties sympathy.[1] According to Theresa Heyd, the author of "Email Hoaxes: Form, Function, Genre Ecology" all sympathy hoaxes have three elements, a "hook", a "threat", and a "request".

The hook is intended to first engage the listeners or reader's sympathy.[1]

Jesse Jackson used the term in 1981 when a senior official with the Chicago School Board admitted he had falsely claimed clandestine listening devices had been monitoring his boss's office, and she didn't trust the Chicago Police Department to investigate.[2]

Jintaro Ito, a Japanese business man who planned to announce his candidacy for a seat in the Diet, the lower house of its National Assembly, died of a failed sympathy hoax.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Theresa Heyd (2008). Email Hoaxes: Form, Function, Genre Ecology. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 34, 40, 62, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, 93, 95, 96, 179,. ISBN 9789027254184. Retrieved 2013-06-10. "Both the suggested moves 'hook' and 'threat' refer to the sensationalist quality that is usually inherent to EHs [email hoaxes]. To stand out in a users' mailbox and compete with the innumerable informational offers of the Internet, an EH must have a 'point'; it must be eminently tellable." 
  2. "School official says bugging was hoax". Chicago: The Telegraph. 1981-04-24. p. 10.,5688903&dq=sympathy+hoax&hl=en. Retrieved 2013-06-16. "The Rev. Jesse Jackson, national president of Operation PUSH, called for Miss Love's immediate resignation. He said the incident was a "political sympathy hoax to gain broad-based support" and said he suspected Mitchell had not acted alone." 
  3. "Politician wanted sympathy, bled to death instead: Killing hoax succeeded too well". Miami Times. 1979-09-19. p. 3.,3317046&dq=sympathy+hoax&hl=en. Retrieved 2013-06-16. "A Japanese politician stabbed himself in the thigh in an assassination hoax to get sympathy from voters but he drove the knife in too deeply and bled to death, police said today."