Peak Hoaxing?

Never mind the Whole Foods hate cake hoax, or the various campus hate crime hoaxes that happen almost daily right now. I think I may have spotted the greatest hoax against pretentiousness since Clifford Irving fooled the New York publishing industry with his Howard Hughes “autobiography”40 years ago. It’s called “Helena,” and it’s website opens with this:

Helena is an organization of thirty global influencers who work together to achieve positive world impact.

The group collaborates to create breakthrough ideas, then leverages its collective reach, strategic partnerships, and network to make them happen.

Half of Helena’s members are under the age of twenty-five, and half are older than twenty-five. Every Helena member represents the pinnacle of accomplishment in their field.

They have fought diseases, created currencies, and commanded armies. They have disrupted industries, overcome oppression, and discovered technologies. They are actors, linguists, economists, biochemists, activists, technologists, explorers, financers, filmmakers, and much more.

The result is a broad and powerful platform that spans talents, skills, and generations. When Helena’s members collaborate, their diverse abilities, generational experiences and influence come together to address issues, advance technologies, and guide movements in previously unexplored ways.

Oh-kay. There follows glam photos of a disparate range of famous and semi-famous people, and there’s a slide deck that suggests PR is being handled by Rogers & Cowan, one of the top marketing firms in Hollywood. You can also get their slide deck (PDF file), which includes such gems as:

Breakthrough solutions and innovations happen in rooms filled with people who are all exceptional at different things. Everyone in Helena is exceptional at a different thing.

Or:

Helena is not an conference, a summit, or an event. We believe that making real, lasting change requires some of the most powerful and creative people in the world, collaborating throughout the year on issues they care about. That’s why Helena is designed for concerted, lasting collaboration.

As you keep going the whole thing becomes repetitive and self-referential:

Helena is not an event. It is a sustained community and a long-term impact engine. Massive global change happens when great people collaborate throughout the year, not just once.

Impact-focused organizations often have large memberships. And yet rarely do their members connect in a way that leads to collective action. Often, senior members worry about being overburdened, remaining inaccessible or declining to join such groups altogether.

Helena members meet together and individually throughout the year, collaborating on a sustained, ongoing basis. Their relationships are organic, forging paths that might otherwise never cross.

Next slide:

Helena extends far beyond a networking group. We come up with powerful ideas, then leverage collective influence and outside partnerships to make them happen.

We benefit from the strength of a collective network that reaches far beyond single-issue organizations. When Helena creates initiatives, ventures, and other efforts, we call upon our relationships both inside and outside of Helena, where we retain partnerships with some of the world’s most capable and innovative governments, organizations, and companies.

Together, we utilize our unique reach to create change on the ground, through message dissemination, monetary efforts, and policy change.

This has to be an elaborate practical joke, right? Gawker is on the story, and is similarly skeptical. Inc. magazine was apparently conned into doing a story that is just a rehash of Helena’s press release and slide deck.

My hat’s off to the folks behind Helena, because I expect people will fall for it, chiefly because we live in an age when this parody of a TED talk sounds shockingly plausible:

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