Archived News

Fake News Freakout! Episode 8

Fake News Freakout!  Episode 8

Welcome to the eighth installment of The Smoky Mountain News’ annual Fake News Freakout. I feel like I say this every year, and I do, but this satirical feature was initially conceived as a one-off back in 2016, when it seemed the whole world had gone mad with literal fake news. 

Of course, we thought we’d get in on the action with a tranche of Onion-esque fake news stories, and since then, well, we’ve had some doozies. Especially the ones that don’t get printed.

But after another year full of ridiculousness, coming fast and hard from all quarters, we couldn’t help but soldier on; so long as society continues to support calling lies “misinformation” and liars “misinformed,” calling medicine “poison” and poison “medicine,” calling war a “special military operation” and calling traitors “tourists,” there will continue to be fake news, and we’ll continue to be there, once a year, to join in the fun with another batch.

A word of warning: we’ll be back with this feature next year — if we have to be.

(SMN Staff Writer Hannah McLeod and Outdoors Editor Holly Kays contributed to this fake news report, which is fake.)

Legislature somehow gerrymanders U.S. Senate maps 

The North Carolina General Assembly’s latest round of redistricting has already prompted several lawsuits over allegations of gerrymandering, but watchdog groups were shocked last week to discover that lawmakers had radically altered the state’s borders to ensure the election of Republican U.S. senators remains free and fair.

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“We really don’t know how this happened,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who in October drew himself a congressional district to run in after a 2022 attempt was thwarted by courts. “But I think this new map looks pretty good, actually.”

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This is totally not North Carolina’s new U.S. Senate District map. Cory Vaillancourt photo illustration

Earlier this year, state legislative districts were again drawn to preserve Republican supermajorities in the General Assembly, while the state’s congressional districts — previously a 7-7 partisan split — were likewise rejiggered to all but guarantee a 10-4 Republican advantage in a state that Donald Trump won in 2016 and 2020 with 49.8% and 50.1% of the vote, respectively.  

The new map incorporates several counties from north Georgia and far western Virginia into North Carolina’s U.S. Senate district, and also subsumes a vast swath of the east Tennessee mountains. South Carolina’s oceanfront Horry County, home to Myrtle Beach, is included as well.

U.S. Senate districts, commonly understood to be the legally established borders of the several states, were once thought to be unaffected by partisan gerrymandering.

Article 1 Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State,” but is silent on the meaning of the word “shall” as well as the meaning of the word “two” and the meaning of the word “state.” 

Election advocacy groups, led by the Soros-funded, China-based nonprofit Voting Voters Gonna Slay the Vote Y’all, vowed legal action in the state’s highest court. A spokesperson said in a TikTok video that they’d already raised millions of Dogecoins to fund the suit.

Moore said any suit would receive a fair hearing by the Republican Senate President Pro Temp’s son in the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court and, if necessary, would also receive a fair hearing in the Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court.

Due to recent legislation by the General Assembly allowing only the General Assembly to decide what public records the General Assembly has a duty to release, public records requests by The Smoky Mountain News intended to shed light on how, exactly, the new maps came to be went unanswered.

Moore, however, did answer a question about the apparent exclusion of Mecklenburg County from North Carolina’s new U.S. Senate map.

“Who cares? Nobody cares. And nobody can’t do nothing about it, neither,” Moore said. “They’re Lindsey Graham’s problem now.”

Cannabis delivery dogs to earn ultimate ‘good boy’

The dogs of Swain County are expected to play a key role in the future of Cherokee’s cannabis business, forever solidifying their title as man’s best friend, the Qualla Enterprises LLC Board of Directors announced today.

For months, the board has been stuck on how to legally transport cannabis grown on the farm on Coopers Creek to the dispensary on the main Qualla Boundary. Driving between the two locations requires traversing a short stretch of road that falls under Swain County’s jurisdiction, where marijuana remains an illegal drug.  

But as Qualla Enterprises Board Chair Carolyn West was playing fetch with her dog one night, the solution struck her.

“Swain County doesn’t have an animal control department, so while the sheriff would certainly stop any vehicles that attempted to transport our product through county land, nobody will bat an eye at a pack of off-leash dogs,” she explained.  

The canines will be equipped with individually fitted packs and given a load of cannabis proportional to their body weights. Then, they’ll be driven to the property line and released while Qualla Enterprises employees fry up some bacon at the edge of the main Qualla Boundary, about a quarter-mile away. After arriving at the bacon fry, the dogs’ packs will be unloaded, and they will be given bacon, scritches, and repeated assurance that they are all good boys and good girls.

“It’s a foolproof plan, really, and allows us to do something good for the community at the same time,” West said. “We plan to include shelter dogs in need of a permanent home in our dog pack, and we expect those dogs to be promptly adopted by grateful customers.”

The Smoky Mountain News attempted to obtain comment on the plan from representatives of the canine community, but could not get further than the word “bacon” without the interview degenerating into a prolonged episode of excited slobbering.

Chinese reveal real mission of ‘spy’ balloon spotted over Haywood 

After some in government raised concerns about espionage, a representative of the Chinese Communist Party is now speaking out on the true purpose of the mysterious white balloon that in February floated across the United States — including right over Haywood County.

“We just wanted to know if Ghost Town was open yet,” said Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China. “I have some great memories from there back in the 1980s.” 

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This is totally not a spy balloon. Cory Vaillancourt/pngtree photo

Wu explained that the CCP has been monitoring its favorite local newspaper, The Smoky Mountain News, to keep up with developments on the legendary mountaintop amusement park’s condition since at least 2012, but lately began using the balloons to acquire more frequent updates.

The park closed for good in 2016, and has gone through several unsuccessful rehabilitation attempts since.

“It would just be really great if I could bring my family there, and also my grandchildren,” said Wu, who also visited the Knoxville Wigsphere while he was in the region on a student visa. “I wish somebody would do something with it. I heard Dolly Parton is going to buy it.”

Wu said that the metal undercarriage hanging beneath the balloon contained a sophisticated array of high-definition video cameras used to capture images of the languishing park.

They’re looking for signs of construction activity, but absent any, they’ll just store the footage until it’s used to create another batch of anti-Trump clickbait advertisements on Meta and X. The ads will be ready in advance of the 2024 election, Wu said.

Wu added that he was ultimately “disappointed” to learn that the balloon had eventually been shot down by an Air Force F-22 off the coast of Myrtle Beach, but said he wasn’t overly concerned.

“You must remember it was but one balloon,” said Wu. “We launch these things, like, six times a day now.”

Local county commissioners craft apologies 

In a stunning turn of events, two commissioners who were publicly called on to apologize to their constituents seemed to have been taken by the holiday spirit as they both addressed the public’s complaints in heartfelt apologies last week.

Earlier this year Jackson County Commissioner John Smith was called on to make a public apology after he referred to the LGBTQ+ community as the “perverted one percent.” 

“In light of these events, both the executive board of Sylva Pride, as well as Sylva Belles Drag, calls on Jackson County Commissioner John W. Smith to issue a formal apology to the Sylva Pride community, as well as to refrain from using his title to manipulate public policy at the whim of his personal views,” said Burgin Mackey during the Sept. 5 Jackson Commissioners Meeting. “As a representative for all the tax-paying citizens of Jackson County, it is not acceptable to discriminate against an entire community.” 

A few months later, just over the county line, similar calls were made for Macon County Commissioner John Shearl to apologize after he asked for County Manager Derek Roland’s resignation after falsely stating that the budget has increased by $25 million under his management.

“On behalf of a lot of citizens in Macon County … a lot of us feel that publicly, John, you owe Derek an apology,” said Hazel Morris. “We need to be pleasant. Whether we like one another, whether we agree with one another, whether we don’t agree with one another, we still need to be pleasant and civil and respectful.” 

Until now, neither commissioner had even hinted at the possibility of an apology. But just last week, residents finally got what they’d been asking for from their local representatives when both men crafted public apologies in the spirit of the season.

“We understand that as elected officials, our job is to sow unity, not division, and that we were put in this position to represent the will of the people,” their statements read. “In this case, the will of the people called for more compassionate, mature behavior from their elected leaders.”

Cause of Canton earthquakes determined, UFOs involved

For months, credentialed geologists insisted that the string of eight minor earthquakes that shook Canton this summer was due to geologic stress from the long-ago formation of the Appalachian Mountains, but new testimony indicates they were in fact the result of alien visitation from the planet Arrakis — and that geologists knew it the whole time.

“If you’d seen her when she was as tiny and adorable as when the aliens gave her to me, you’d do the same thing I did. You’d do your best to keep her safe, to tell people the earthquakes were part of the natural rhythm of things, nothing to worry about, blah blah blah,” said Duane Johnson, senior geologist for the N.C. Geological Survey, who added that, no, he is not “that” Dwayne Johnson, pointed out that he spells his first name differently, and acknowledged that, yes, it is funny that his career also deals with rocks.

It all started, Johnson revealed while under oath in a Senate hearing held this fall, when a spaceship landed in his backyard during July 2022. Johnson treated the weary travelers, who introduced themselves as Fremen from the planet Arrakis, to North Carolina barbeque (ketchup-based sauce, of course) and sweet tea. They were so grateful for the hospitality that they gifted him a baby sandworm, a valuable specimen from a line bred for companionship, without the aggression so prevalent in the wild population.

But the sandworm, which Johnson named Precious, eventually became strong enough to escape its terrarium. One day Johnson came home from work to find Precious gone, and a deep, deep hole in the front yard.

“She left a note,” he said tearfully. “She’d escaped to celebrate the Year of the Trail. It was her dream to create sandworm-accessible facilities underground. I only wish I could have gone with her.”

Unfortunately, Precious’ activities have caused consternation to Canton residents, some of whom have watched nervously as crystal dinnerware vibrated on the shelves or family photos suddenly began to hang crooked on the walls.

The sandworm remains at large, but Johnson predicts that Precious-caused earthquakes will cease in the New Year. 

“Once the Year of the Trail comes to an end, she’ll stop tunneling,” he said. “She’s always been a very punctual sandworm.” 

Festival-goers disappointed to learn ice festival won’t involve meth 

Visitors from across the southeast will flock to Haywood County this winter for the annual Maggie Valley Ice Festival, but some are already demanding ticket refunds after learning that the event has nothing whatsoever to do with the ingestion of methamphetamines, known on the streets as “ice.”

Organizers encountered the same problem last year, when some attendees felt they’d been misled after they showed up to find wholesome family activities instead of free-range open-air intravenous drug use. Angry customers stormed out, only to steal thousands of catalytic converters on their way home and leave the fairgrounds parking lot strewn with colored pencils and coloring books.

Maggie Valley Police, however, ended up arresting an estimated 832 people on various outstanding warrants, like child support, failure to appear and trespassing. Officers also impounded 32 unregistered vehicles, seized $3.2 million in copper tubing and confiscated 7,976 items suspected to be drug paraphernalia.

This year, organizers want to clear up lingering confusion over the nature of the event, which will draw thousands to participate in ice skating and ice carving, but not ice snorting. Local vendors will offer plenty of artisanal, home-made holiday products, none of which will be methamphetamine, methamphetamine-based or methamphetamine-derived. Precursor substances are likewise strictly prohibited.

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