Documentary of Lies

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The following tale of alien encounters is true, and by "true," I mean "false." It's all lies, but they're entertaining lies, and in the end isn't that the real truth? The answer... is no.

Normally, a Documentary is supposed to be a movie or TV show about something true: it "documents" something that really happened. Not all documentaries actually succeed in portraying the truth, however. People make mistakes, and some documentary makers are trying to promote their point of view and, understandably, choose to gloss over things they don't consider important. Usually, a documentary filmmaker is expected to adhere to reasonable standards of journalistic integrity and remember to do the research.

Sometimes, though, a documentary filmmaker just doesn't care, and any attempt at accuracy or finding the truth goes out the window, but the result is still presented as non-fiction. When this happens, you usually end up with a Documentary of Lies.

A Documentary of Lies is not a Mockumentary, which makes no secret of the fact that it was made up. In order to be guilty of being a Documentary of Lies, a documentary has to claim that something is actually true when any reasonable investigation should show otherwise.The filmmakers were either negligent, outright liars, or just plain crazy. Don't Shoot the Message becomes a common result.

Television networks that produce a Documentary of Lies usually justify it by saying - off camera - that the programs are entertainment only and the filmmakers have no more of a duty to reflect the truth than do the makers of The X-Files; if viewers mistake it for non-fiction, that's their problem. That defense might work if the programs themselves were actually presented as fiction...

Frequent topics of this sort of program include psychics, UFOs and Alien Abductions, conspiracy theories, ghosts and other supernatural entities, and objects with alleged religious significance.

Not to be confused with the Documentary Episode, the Faux Documentary, the Mockumentary or the "Faux To" Guide. See also Twisting the Words, which is this trope applied to subjects who were telling the truth in the first place. If the news takes it utterly seriously, You Can Panic Now.

When adding entries, please remember the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment, since this page tends to attract a lot of Complaining About Shows You Don't Like. Also keep in mind that there are some things out there that, while they could never be proven (religious beliefs, etc.), are not necessarily false and should not be dismissed as "lies."

Examples of Documentary of Lies include:

Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Mondo Cane, and, in general, any Mondo film, was this. Content was exaggerated and sensationalized in hopes of fulfilling the films' primary purposes of drawing as large a box office return as possible. Though the films would boast of featuring authentic footage, the greater majority of what was in them was in fact staged.
  • What the Bleep Do We Know: The constant misrepresentation of the laws of physics (especially quantum physics) is unbearable. Not surprising, since the whole thing was produced as a giant promo for J.Z. Knight's Ramtha cult. Additionally, the film selectively edited an interview with Columbia University physics professor David Albert in order to make it appear that Albert endorsed its claims, when he had actually spent four hours explaining why they were wrong.
  • Back in The Fifties, Disney made their True Life Adventure nature documentaries, complete with a neat disclaimer declaring that they depicted nature untouched by human hands. They were all staged and faked, of course, with a pompous narration full of erroneous "facts." Most infamously, the 1958 installment White Wilderness (about the Arctic, but actually filmed in southern Canada) helped perpetuate the myth of lemming suicide. The filmmakers achieved this by actually herding lemmings (purchased, as they were non-native to the area) off the edge of a cliff! It's a cross-species snuff film... that won an Academy Award.
  • The Other Side of AIDS, a documentary by AIDS-deniers who believe that HIV does not cause AIDS. Full of bad biology (Koch's postulates do not work that way!), but also has a tragic story attached to it. In the movie, Christine Maggiore, the director's wife and leader of a large AIDS-denier foundation, proudly talks about how even though she's HIV-positive she breast-fed her children without taking any precautions to prevent them from being infected by HIV and they're both fine. One year later, her three-year-old daughter died of untreated AIDS-related pneumonia. Maggiore refused to change her beliefs, and three years later died of the same cause.
  • House of Numbers is another AIDS-denial documentary in the same vein. This one claims to present a more "unbiased" view by interviewing several AIDS experts... and using Manipulative Editing to skew their statements into agreeing with AIDS-deniers. Unsurprisingly, Maggiore is one of the interviewees... and the film conveniently fails to acknowledge the fact that she died of AIDS several months before the film's release.
  • The Burning Times is an "academic" documentary on matriarchal prehistory, goddess worship and witch hunts in the early modern period, which uncritically endorses hyperbolic and improbable neo-pagan and feminist claims (which most serious neo-pagans and feminists now admit were rubbish) about early modern witchcraft as surviving pre-Christian European paganism, body counts in the millions, and universal femaleness of victims. Notable for frequently being shown at universities and being financed by the National Film Board of Canada.
  • The Beautiful Truth: A lengthy advertisement for cancer quackery that, if used in place of conventional treatments, will likely result in the cancer killing you.
  • The trashy Hong Kong film Supernormal (Da Mi Sin) [dead link], purportedly a documentary about supernatural occurrences in Hong Kong, is almost entirely staged. One may charitably dismiss it as a harmless shenanigan, if not for the fact that, after the film was released, the "haunted asylum" in the film—a building of great historical value—was burned down by irresponsible teenagers seeking adventures.
  • Michael Moore's documentaries are often accused of this even by those who generally agree with his broader points, and he's been found to have falsified or doctored events and shots in order to make his point (a more extensive point-by-point picking can be found on www.mooreexposed.com).
    • Take the incident in Bowling for Columbine where he walks into a bank, opens an account, and walks out with a rifle, for example. What the documentary doesn't show you is how the bank actually does it: it gives you a certificate that you take to a gun store down the street, which does the standard, mandatory background checks and the waiting period. Moore staged the shot to make it seem as if none of this happened.
      • He was similarly ripped by the Canadian authors of The Rebel Sell for failing to mention that all those guys he visited in the Ontario shooting range aren't actually allowed to take those weapons around with them when they leave. As one of his arguments is "gun control is not the answer, because look at Canada and all their guns but less violence!", in order to argue that a wholesale cultural shift is required to solve problems of violence (the falsity of such arguments in counterculture being the central premise of The Rebel Sell), this omission was very self-serving.
    • He has also been accused of quote mining interviews and deceptively editing Stock Footage. In Columbine, he stringed together several of Charlton Heston's speeches to make it sound like one speech. Also in the film, he implied that the NRA deliberately scheduled its annual conference that year in Denver to exploit the Columbine shootings, when the truth of the matter is the conference had been scheduled months or years in advance, and the NRA cut back the conference in response to the shooting, so that only those portions of it that they were obligated to perform by federal law took place. Moore also accused Heston of holding an NRA rally right after a shooting in Flint; however, the footage he used was of Heston visiting the city almost a year later for a campaign event.
    • In Bowling for Columbine, he discusses Willie Horton, who committed felonies while on furlough from prison. He shows an ad he claimed to have been aired by the Bush campaign; but what was actually shown was spliced together footage from the Bush campaign, an independent group, and new material added by Moore. Moore himself removed the scene from his VHS release in response to criticism, but re-added it after the controversy subsided for the DVD version.
    • Moore quotes statistics for the number of gun homicides in various countries. The numbers didn't match any known independent studies. Eventually, it was revealed that he took US Government crime statistics for gun homicides, and added uses of guns for self-defense and the use of guns by police.
    • In Fahrenheit 9/11, he approached several Congresspeople coming out of the Capitol and confronted them about a draft for children of those who voted for the war. Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota gives him a confused look and then the camera cuts away to a Moore voiceover saying that no one wanted to send their own children. However, the cut came just before Rep. Kennedy noted that his nephew was serving in Afghanistan.
    • Also in Fahrenheit 9/11, he claims that the US gave a quarter billion dollars to the Taliban regime in the two years before 9/11. In actuality, this was money given to the United Nations, who spent it on famine relief and landmine clearance as part of general programs in these areas.
    • Bowling for Columbine featured a short cartoon called A Brief History of the USA, which implied that much of American history was rooted in violence and guns. Its many false claims included: the Pilgrims being the same people as the southern slaveholders,[1] the Colt revolver being invented by a Southerner,[2] the NRA and the KKK being formed to disarm blacks,[3] and white flight being the main driver of suburban expansion.[4] Virtually every single one of these claims was a downright lie.
      • The cartoon, edited in the style of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, was shown right showing footage of them. The implication, that the two agreed with Moore and had produced the cartoon, was false. Stone and Parker were so offended that in a subsequent movie (Team America: World Police), they portrayed Moore as an America-hating suicide bomber.
    • Capitalism: A Love Story may or may not fit this, depending on how you feel about its serious trouble with definitions. While its references are generally solid, the "capitalism is evil" statements at the end of the film are awkward when in interviews Moore had to continually qualify that when he said capitalism in the film, he meant capitalism as its practiced in America today, which honestly has little to do with traditional Adam Smith capitalism and would be better be defined as corporate statism.
    • The film that first brought Moore to national prominence, Roger and Me, claimed, or at least very strongly implied, that General Motors had completely pulled out of Flint, Michigan, devastating the economic life of the town. That film was released in 1989. In 1998, a strike by GM workers in Flint, Michigan, brought GM operations to a standstill across the continent. Moore was also accused of editing the footage of the GM annual shareholders' meeting shown in the film to make it look, falsely, as though Roger Smith, then the CEO of GM and the "Roger" of the title, was refusing to answer Moore's questions.
    • Farenheit 9/11 also had some more stuff recently revealed to be falsehoods: You can find a good list of them here.
  • Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a creationist... sorry, "intelligent design" propaganda piece that utterly ignores the readily available facts about the cases highlighted, all wrapped in an "evolution leads to Nazism" bun. The scientists interviewed have since claimed that the interviews were quote mined, and that they were interviewed under false pretenses.
    • What's especially Egregious is a lengthy quote from Charles Darwin that seemingly supports the central premise to the documentary... the problem being that they omitted a passage wherein Darwin is thankful that humans are above natural inclinations, and actually care about each other as human beings, regardless of defect. This passage occurs in the middle of the quote given, so it is not as if they Dan Browned. They deliberately left out contradictory evidence.
    • The central idea that the film pushes is that a "pro-evolutionary conspiracy" among scientists is suppressing the theory of intelligent design, with several interviewees claiming that they had been "blacklisted" for daring to support it. A simple Google search turned up articles that these people had authored for major publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, published years after their supposed "blacklistings".
      • They also lied about what the pro-ID scientists had actually done, as well. For a thorough debunking of the movie, see here.
  • 28 Days on the Pill is a pro-life documentary that intends to prove that the birth-control pill can be considered abortive because "there's no way of knowing it's not starving embryos to death". Since there's absolutely no scientific data to back it up, and the pro-life doctors who agreed to appear on the film were emphatic on saying there's nothing remotely similar to abortion in the way the pill works, the filmmakers had to resort to things like footage of high school students saying they don't know how the contraceptive works.
  • Demographic Winter is another anti-abortion documentary that claims that Western civilization is on the verge of collapse because we're not making enough babies; some could call this Children of Men: the Documentary. Needless to say, the creators go for the alarmist route very quickly. When they're not bombarding the viewer with charts and headlines, whose "interpretations" tend to amount to ranting and "SEE, IT'S HAPPENING!", one is shown vanishing images of children pretty much every five minutes. It doesn't help that the film is filled with hard-Religious Right propaganda (complete with some excessive emphasis on economics) where the religion aspect was edited out; one of the reasons cited for the "downfall" is the fact that more women are working. The lower-budget follow-up Demographic Bomb gets even "better," with suggestions of a Abortionist Conspiracy. It also doesn't help that Europe and Japan get the full brunt of the Demographic Winter argument (though it's somewhat justified for Japan, Europe's is much more debatable), while America gets off the leash "for now." And there's the undertone of not making the "right babies..."
    • To put in shorter words, the documentary utterly simplifies and distorts facts pertaining to populations, birth control, culture, social changes, etc. to promote an absolute (and hypocritical) pro-natalist agenda that seems reliant on alarmist and conspiratorial imagery.
    • In order to emphasize this "unprecedented" trend, the folks behind this attempt to repackage the past in a stereotypical anti-modern, pro-natalist image; an early comment amounted to a dubious anecdote about how everyone had multitudes of kids a hundred years ago. One look at European birth rates from roughly that time says otherwise (eg. France during the late 19th century had a birth rate of zero). And that's not counting the attempts at tying contraceptives, the Sexual Revolution and modernity itself as the source of population decline.
    • Another is the debatable and contentious use of statistics such as birth/fertility rates and replacement values. For all the supposed pretense of valuing human life, there is ironically a strong emphasis on number games, racism and sexism.
  • Nanook of the North, which claimed to document the lives of Inuit living in Northern Quebec, was released in 1922 and believed to be one of the first documentary films. Many of the events in the film, however, were staged; the peril in which the Inuit faced in the film was believed to be exaggerated, and the Inuit actors were encouraged to use traditional Inuit weapons rather then the guns they normally used when hunting. Though it is often noted that the depiction of this subject matter in film was ground-breaking at the time, and there was little precedent for the director to draw upon while making his film, as few documentaries had been made at this time.
  • The Anti-Vietnam and arguably anti-military documentary, Hearts And Minds, similarly had several things wrong with its making: For starters, when interviewing a member of the Vietnam board, the director asks a series of blatantly loaded questions, to the point where even the editing can't disguise the interviewee's growing confusion and eventual indignation.
  • America: Freedom to Fascism. The creator, Aaron Russo, pretty much instantly fails when he says that there's no law requiring you to pay taxes. Part of his "evidence" for this is interviewing random people on the street to ask if they can name the section of the U.S. Code where it says they have to pay taxes. Guess what? Nobody could. He didn't bother asking a tax lawyer or IRS agent, of course. He also digs up Conspiracy Theories claiming that the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution (which legalized the income tax) was never properly ratified, despite that any legal expert will happily tell him that he is wrong.
  • What was your favorite part of Zeitgeist: The Movie? The part where Peter Joseph lies about Christianity, the part where he lies about 9/11, or the part where he lies about everything else?
    • For those who don't want to watch the movie, it's split into 3 parts. The first part claims that Christianity is completely made up using bits and pieces of other religions, specifically the 12 apostles and the resurrection of Jesus. However, the parts Joseph cites are either distorted, out of context or completely made up. His sources are also non-existent or heavily biased. All of part one can be refuted by reading a Religion 101 textbook. The other 2 parts are bog-standard 9/11 and New World Order conspiracy theories (A missile hit the Pentagon/ North America Union theory, respectively).
    • The sequel is even better. Apparently, we can build a self-maintaining maglev train from China to California under the ocean and delegate all tasks in life to robots and machines that will never need to be tended to or repaired... in a society without money. Seriously, is this real?
      • But while some of the most blatant things about the documentary are seriously hard to believe (like all those phone calls proving everything the author had to say about 9/11), some parts are backed-up by evidence. It's just the whole tone of "Revolutionary Documentary" that makes some people feel so bullshit'd.
    • The second sequel, Moving Forward puts more of a spotlight on Peter Joseph's purported solutions to the "issues" brought up in the previous Zeitgeist movies. While feigning to be more constructive and reliant on talking heads, the end result is at best wishful thinking and at worst, deceptively manipulative if not totalitarian. All the while using "critical thinking" as a cop-out from actual critical thinking.
  • In a rare invoked example, Las Hurdes by Luis Bunuel falls halfway between this trope and Mockumentary. He did actually go to poor areas of Spain to shoot and was addressing real social issues, but some events appear to have been staged or restaged and at least a few of the statements made by the Unreliable Narrator are Blatant Lies. How much is true and how much isn't is just part of a surrealist package.
  • Western Fuels association produced a documentary called The Greening Of Planet Earth, touted as "A professionally produced documentary that examines the beneficial effects of carbon dioxide, including increased crop yields and vegetative growth."
  • The Money Masters contains what is an essentially accurate description of how money is created and destroyed by fractional reserve banking, but the filmmakers also draw some rather strange conclusions about the process, present various conspiracy theories involving bankers, and end by suggesting an extremely unorthodox "solution" to the problems they think are present in the modern monetary system.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor argues that Franklin D. Roosevelt and the US Government in general deliberately provoked Japan into war and manipulated an isolationist America into a horrific conflict against their will. The book has been thoroughly rebuked by historians and military experts over the years. It's also part of a long line of conspiracy theories that play on antiwar pretensions, emphasizing "War is Evil" polemics over actual facts in a similar vein to Hearts And Minds mentioned above.
  • Men Against Fire by S.L.A. Marshall made several claims and statements that were found wanting long after his death. Among these were his findings from World War II that only 25% of American soldiers actually fired their weapon or killed anyone, which dramatically increased by The Vietnam War through better "training" techniques. This would go on to be standardized and expounded upon, especially in works like Dave Grossman's On Killing. In later years however, historians and military experts noticed several discrepancies such as questionable authenticity and unverifiable data, putting Grossman and Marshall's work in more dubious and controversial territory ever since.
  • The late Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, considered a seminal work of the academic far-left, has come under harsh scrutiny from even those otherwise sympathetic to his ideas. Zinn made it clear that his work was biased and ideologically charged, for the purpose of telling the truth. In theory, such an approach would offer a refreshing alternative take on history. But in practice, this amounted to cherry-picking facts, recasting heroes as villains (and vice versa), bordering on conspiracy theories and imposing his worldview upon the past to the point of whitewashing history along his lines. The end result has been described as a "demented fairy tale" that does no real justice to its subject matter.
  • Zoe Quinn's 2017 memoir, Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life is ostensibly about Gamergate, her experiences in the events around it and the harassment, bigotry and sexism she and others are said to have suffered. Although lauded by critics, her book has come under criticism for, among others, distorting information surrounding Gamergate, questionable claims on harassment and appeals to online censorship. To say nothing of downplaying if not ignoring allegations of hypocrisy and defaming individuals accused in the book of attacking her.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In 1995, FOX aired a made-for-TV "documentary" called "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction," which was about a 17-minute film which the owner claimed was taken from secret government records of the dissection of a space alien found in a spaceship crash. (A DVD version was also published.) Most of the "evidence" used to "confirm" the film's validity consisted of baldfaced lies and Twisting the Words; for example, Kodak never dated the film to 1947. Additionally, according to That Other Wiki, the film's owner now claims the film is a "recreation" of an original film he once saw that has since completely decayed.
    • According to the book How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, the people who made the alien autopsy film did it as a prank and couldn't stop laughing while filming it.
    • In 2001, Fox aired an hour-long "documentary" titled Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? which presents and "confirms" the thesis that the Apollo moon landings were faked. A thorough rebuttal of the show can be found here.
  • So-called documentaries about Ancient Egypt that end up bringing in aliens about twenty minutes into the show. Fox's Live from the Pyramids didn't even wait that long.
  • The History Channel, since their Network Decay, has become notorious for the lack of research and iffy subject matter present in their programming. It's probably easier to compile a list of their shows in the last five years or so that don't qualify for this trope, and most of those are probably related to World War II, the Nazis or the Civil War.
    • Numerous post-Da Vinci Code specials about various "secrets" of Christian apocrypha, including one segment that seriously considered the argument that the Ark of the Covenant was a giant electrical capacitor (thus explaining the stories of people touching it being destroyed by divine light).
    • "Documentaries" on UFOs, crackpot theories about The End of the World as We Know It, and more crackpot theories on Nostradamus, which are always prime examples of Did Not Do the Research and often veer into Critical Research Failure territory.
    • Ancient Astronauts and Ancient Aliens attempt to make the case that aliens had visited and interacted with various prehistoric and ancient cultures. However, just about every argument they make, including Pumapunku and its "impossible" temple of diorite, the vimanas, and the Piri Ries map, has been soundly and thoroughly addressed and debunked.
    • Lots of shows that try to answer the question of who really shot John F. Kennedy, or the real identity of Jack the Ripper, almost always coming to a different conclusion than the ones they made before.
    • Secrets of the Founding Fathers had some solid, interesting facts about the founders of the US, but the vast majority of it was spent entertaining easily disproved, crackpot anti-Masonic conspiracy theories. It's sadly representative of most History Channel "documentaries" lately, where they'll feature one or two respected historians and then have an equal number of known cranks for "balance."
    • Monster Quest is a series about unexplained creatures and mysterious sightings, yes. But whenever they talk about real-life examples or the episode is about giant scary versions of real animals (the episodes involving Megalodon, giant killer snakes, giant octopuses, Giant Squid, etc), the amount of "These are vicious, deadly animals who mercilessly slaughter other animals and will end your life in a nanosecond and kids are in peril from these savage beasts!" approaches Face Palm-inducing.
      • The bigger problem is the number of unscientific investigations used, such as giving polygraph tests to witnesses. Even overlooking the unreliability of polygraphs, an eyewitness account is still relatively worthless. And in one or two investigations this was the majority of their inquiry.
    • Notably, The History Channel often airs "documentaries" that tie in with a current movie. When The Da Vinci Code was in theaters, they began airing tons of programs about The Knights Templar, the Holy Grail, and other related topics. Not coincidentally, this marked the beginning of their Network Decay. When I Am Legend came out, featuring trailers prominently depicting scenes of a deserted New York, History began airing "Life After People", a show dedicated entirely to exploring what urban landscapes would look like if people vanished from the Earth. And after National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets came out, the network began airing a program about a theoretical "President's Book of Secrets," in which they list several already-well known bits about the type of information that the President of the United States would be privy to... and at the end of every other sentence, shoe-horn in the question "But could these secrets be recorded in... *dramatic pause*... a President's Book of Secrets?!" to the point where it could easily become a drinking game.
  • Many television series, such as In Search Of... and Sightings, were notorious for being composed of these. They now occasionally air on a more appropriate venue: Syfy.
    • It's probably no coincidence that the point at which the aforementioned History Channel began briefly to show In Search Of reruns was the point at which they began to go downhill.
    • The current Syfy series Fact or Faked is a Documentary of Lies about other peoples' Documentaries of Lies. They profess to be truth-testing paranormal viral videos to determine which are genuine, but the producers recently got caught offering money to a video's creators to reshoot their footage, proving that they take it for granted such clips are always bogus. Which, well... fair enough.
    • The 2016 series The Internet Ruined My Life is less a collection of testimonies from traumatised victims about the perils of social media and online culture. And instead, is more a vehicle for opportunists and propagandists to push a narrative at the expense of the truth. The episodes featuring Suey Park and Brianna Wu[5] are among the more infamous ones.
  • In 1993, CBS aired a documentary titled The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark, featuring a man named George Jammal who claimed to have discovered Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey and brought back "sacred wood" from it. Only Jammal was an actor, and the "discovery" was a hoax intended to discredit Sun International Pictures, a studio that had been making documentaries (including this one) pushing fundamentalist pseudoscience while presenting themselves as factual, "scientific" investigations. Jammal claimed to have been assisted by people named Mr. Asholian, Vladimir Sobitchsky, and Allis Buls Hitian, names intended to be obviously fake. He had never been to Turkey (a fact reflected on his passport), and the photographs he claimed Vladimir had taken of the site didn't exist (since the photographer didn't either). The "sacred wood" smelled like teriyaki sauce, since that was part of how he had artificially aged the wood. All these errors were intentional, to demonstrate just how bad SIP's fact-checking was.
  • Animal Armageddon. While the facts aren't as twisted as most of the other shows, they are still twisted enough to showcase Peter Ward's crazy theories and nihilistic agenda. Case in point, it claims that the Triassic-Jurassic extinction (which, while bad, wasn't going to do much more than wipe out most of the larger animals) nearly wiped out all life on Earth and turned Earth into a new Mars. It doesn't help that the graphics are bad too.
  • Clash of the Dinosaurs seriously sucked big as the staff quote mined a paleontologist interviewed, and is showing no signs of taking responsibility for that. More obvious signs of this trope are present in the rest of the documentary as well, like making Quetzalcoatlus a scaly, flying reptile hunting eagle-style from the air instead of the fur-covered, terrestrial pterosaur it was, and having dinosaurs defending themselves with sonic weapons.
  • Monsters Resurrected, a Discovery Channel series, is easily one of the most inaccurate documentaries on prehistoric animals ever made; particularly in regards to the Spinosaurus episode. If anyone thought Jurassic Park III did a misleading job at portraying the creature, it was nothing compared to this episode. Essentially, the Spinosaurus is portrayed as the ultimate predator of all time, able to effortlessly kill any other predator that lived in its time and region. In short, it is depicted as devouring a Rugops with one bite, killing a Carcharodontosaurus by slashing it across the face with its claws and effortlessly tearing apart the giant crocodylomorph, Sarcosuchus. And that isn't all, its size is practically Godzilla-portioned, as it is able to pick up a 30 ft long Rugops in its mouth and the thing appears to be no bigger than its head. Spinosaurus didn't grow much larger than 60 ft, meaning the one depicted in the episode would have been close to 300ft. The episode also seems to take a lot of facts that we know about the animal out of context, seemingly with no other reason than to turn Spinosaurus into some kind of prehistoric Villain Sue.
  • The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan dances over the line between this and Mockumentary since it was presented as true upon the initial broadcast, but was revealed to be a promotional stunt for The Village.
  • In 1996, NBC aired The Mysterious Origins of Man, hosted by Charlton Heston, in which creationist claims were a warm-up for some even wilder ideas. For instance, Atlantis was located in Antarctica, but the civilization was buried in ice when the entire Earth's crust shifted the continent to the South Pole 12,000 years ago.
  • A documentary, The Pyramid Code, makes all sorts of outrageous and wacky claims such as that the pyramids were giant night-lights, that King Tutankhamun was murdered because the greedy polytheist priests didn't like the "superior" religion his parents had introduced to Egypt and that Tutankhamun continued (King Tutankhamun died of natural causes, and rejected the religion his parents tried to impose on Egypt), and the only reason Egyptologists don't date the kingdom all the way back to back before the end of the ice age is because each and every sample they've ever carbon dated was contaminated. It also claims that the yuga cycle and the Mayan 26,000 year cycle are the same thing. Aside from the fact that the Mayans had no concept of a 26,000 year cycle, a yuga cycle is 4,320,000 years long.
  • Channel 4 once made a documentary called Fat Girls and Feeders with real feeders and feedees brought in to tell their stories. According to the feeders and feedees who took part in the documentary, Channel 4 edited the footage to make it look like the feedees were sad and the feeders were abusive.
  • The entire Walking with... series has been heavily criticized for presenting everything as a true fact, down to the skin patterns and colors of the prehistoric animals, and only backing up a fraction of their claims with supplementary books, "behind the scenes" documentaries, and their website. The creators defended themselves by playing the "it's meant to be entertainment" card, but their shows were always presented as scientifically accurate, educational docus. Nowadays, after the paleontological advancements of the last decade have proved a good deal of what's shown to be false, people are finally beginning to regard the series as more of an entertainment program.
  • The American television show Operation: Repo supposedly follows a crew of repossession officers on their routine of reclaiming vehicles. The show quickly brushes over the fact that the portrayed "live footage" segments are staged recreations and numerous lawsuits have been filed by the people who actually had their vehicles repossessed for being portrayed on the show as patently insane. Some segments take the usual, mean-spirited exchanges and amp them up into acts that would be considered crimes.
    • There are a whole slew of these on the same network, truTV (a more ironic name for a station there has yet been) that are extremely similar. Hard Core Pawn, Southern Fried Stings Lizard Lick Towing etc. Southern Fried Stings deserves particular mention. It too consists of "re-enacted" cases of a "private investigator". The "cases" involve things that fall far outside of the purview of private investigators such as vehicle chases and drug busts.
  • Subverted/parodied by The World's Strangest UFO Stories, a Discovery Channel series, which showcases people advocating various theories such as "the US president and the Queen of England are man-eating, humanoid lizards" and "everything you see is an alien simulation" while the narrator snarks at how insane most of these theories are.
  • The Untold History of the United States, a Showtime documentary series released in 2012 by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, is a Spiritual Successor of sorts to Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, with all that entails. As while it quickly gained accolades among progressives and parts of the mainstream media, it's also since gained ire from both the right and left, including those more receptive to the likes of Zinn. When it's not forcing false equivalencies between America and the Soviet Union or indulging in thinly-veiled apologia for the latter, the series tends to either reinterpret and distort known historical facts or slyly slip in dubious conspiracy theories and propaganda to suit Stone and Kuznick's narrative. The end result being a skewered, simplistic take on revisionist history that does no service to either the facts or the American people.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • In March 2012, This American Life, one of the most popular shows on NPR, spent an entire episode retracting, denouncing and dissecting a prior episode, which was based on monologuist Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, about alleged working conditions at Apple production plants in China. Large portions of Daisey's monologue was shown, with very little effort, to have been fictionalized and fabricated.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Loose Change, an internet 9/11 conspiracy theory "documentary" that has been edited and re-edited multiple times in response to heavy criticism. Even so, most of the points highlighted, for example, here have still not been addressed.
    • One of the sequels to Loose Change uses various out-of-context quotes from Kevin Smith's podcast, where the director claims that everyone "needs to see" the film, seemingly an "endorsement" by a celebrity of the project. What the documentary doesn't do is end that quote, as the reason why Smith wants people to see the movie is because he believes it to be hilariously incompetent and incorrect, and he spends most of the rest of the podcast mocking it and its contents. The rest of Smith's quotes used are still obviously dripping with sarcasm regardless of the Manipulative Editing.
  • 180, a "documentary" on abortion, with completely fabricated "evidence" and "testimony". They even made up their own awards ceremony to make it "award-winning"! Can be watched on YouTube (if you have issues with Holocaust denial or trivializing, please don't watch)
  • Feminist Frequency's videos, particularly Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series and its spinoffs have been accused of being a whole selection of these. As while there are some factual details to be found of varying credibility, much of those are either buried or twisted to suit a narrative bemoaning sexism and reactionary values in the industry and among gamers at large. Ironically, the videos alienate a number of the very women they purport to be speaking for.
    • Also, plagiarism.
  • The Sarkeesian Effect, a purportedly pro-gamer documentary by Jordan Owen and Davis Aurini, tends to be seen as this by gamers at large. This is thanks largely to publicized backroom drama and disputes and a less-than-competent final product that's more notable for how the creators managed to interview Jack Thompson, to say nothing of its rather skewered and questionable research. There are suspicions that the whole production may have been an elaborate "e-celeb" con to garner support particularly from those sympathetic to Gamergate, who weren't particularly pleased with the results.

Parodies[edit | hide]

Fictional examples[edit | hide]

  • Kimba the White Lion has an in-universe example where a Prima Donna Director who's making a nature documentary in Africa put a captive orangutan in his film even though there are no orangutans in Africa. When he's called out on this he says that because he has an orangutan in Africa, he can say that there are orangutans in Africa.
  • Gerry Romero is working on one in Mega Man Star Force 2. He fakes a string of monster sightings using a submarine... then eventually becomes the monster thanks to Em Wave Changing and goes completely insane.
  • Babylon 5 had an example in the fourth season episode, appropriately named "The Illusion of Truth". Earth had fallen under control of a malevolent dictatorship, which controls the Inter Stellar News Network. The title station had broken free of Earth Control in protest of the President abusing his executive powers and bombing civilian targets on Mars. A group of reporters from the Inter Stellar News Network come to get the station's personal side of the story back home. They Lied. Every line and image was twisted and distorted to make the heroes, namely Captain John Sheridan, look like villains who bow down to alien pressure and commit human experimentation.
  • Tropic Thunder has shades of this, with all the various lies that are revealed throughout the course of the story. The movie added lies to a book that was itself a lie... and then they made a documentary about the making of that movie, so.
  • Bloom County had a week of strips detailing "The Great Snake Massacre", an event where the main cast tried to eliminate the snakes infesting the swimming hole. While the Lemony Narrator attempts to make their actions sound thrilling and heroic, they're just achieving a more-epic Epic Fail than they usually do (being scared to death of snakes, Binkley nearly kills Portnoy by accident before collapsing from fright), before "succeeding" in beating senseless a battery cable from a '73 Pinto.
  1. The Pilgrims colonized present-day Massachusetts, long the heart of Yankeedom, in search of religious freedom, while much of the South was colonized either by entrepreneurs or, in the case of Georgia, convicts.
  2. Colt is based in Connecticut, a Northern state if ever there was one. In fact, most of the "historic" gun companies were founded in the Northeast -- Remington and Ithaca were originally based in upstate New York, Winchester and Ruger are from Connecticut, and Springfield Armory and Smith & Wesson are both based out of Springfield, Massachusetts. The Connecticut River Valley of western New England was even known as "Gun Valley" at one point (similar to today's Silicon Valley), due to it being the cradle of American firearms manufacturing for much of the 19th century.
  3. While the Klan did seek to (among many other things) disarm black people, the NRA was formed in New York as a civilian marksmanship program, and only started lobbying in the 1930s after the National Firearms Act was passed. It has never had any connection to the Klan or to segregation -- in fact, several chapters of the NRA were founded by free blacks seeking assistance against Klan violence!
  4. It was only one of them, and it only became a factor at all after Brown v. Board of Education, by which time the trend towards suburbanization was well underway.
  5. Whose commentary ties in to Gamergate and her alleged harassment from its supporters.