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The Counterfeit Wildebeest: An American Fable

In a distant era when there was still ice in Antarctica and wild animals in Africa, a lazy young lion named Tad came up with what he thought was a clever way to save work when hunting wildebeest. “I will dress up in wildebeest hide and tell them all the lions have run away,” he said to his father, a grizzled old lion named Engelbert.

“That is a very foolish idea, son,” said Engelbert. “No wildebeest will be stupid enough to fall for it. The moment they hear your growly voice, they will all run away.”

“Ah, but I have a secret weapon, Dad. I have established a partnership with a spider named Parker, who will gain a lifetime supply of food from my leftovers.”

“How can a spider possibly help you with this daft plan of yours, son?” Engelbert asked, but Tad only smiled mysteriously.

The next day, Tad dressed up in his costume, climbed the tallest mountain in Zimbabwe, and descended regally down the other side, to where a herd of blue wildebeest was drinking at a water hole. One by one, the ungulates looked up, staring suspiciously at the newcomer, who was chanting as he approached:

When Kenya sends its white-bearded wildebeests
they’re not sending their best beasts
They’re sending wildebeest with lots of problems.
They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.
And some, I assume, are good gnus.

Immediately, violent arguments broke out among the wildebeest, between those who agreed that the white-bearded wildebeest occasionally seen around those parts were unwelcome competition and those who had a live-and-let-live attitude toward them. A few alert members of the herd said they smelled lion, but they were ignored amid the furious debate. Tad, who had swallowed a kazoo to disguise his voice, shouted loudly, “A lot of people are saying those white-bearded wildebeest are bringing mange with them! Just check out the web!” The wildebeest all glanced over at a spreading baobab tree where Parker had spun an enormous spiderweb glistening with morning dew, highlighting the words, WHITE BEARDS ARE MANGY. This fueled the rage of the anti-Kenyan-gnu faction, who began to butt the others.

“Where’s the proof that white-bearded wildebeest cause us any problems?” shouted an exasperated blue wildebeest whose butt was sore. “I say it’s fake news!”

Tad had been worried all along that the wildebeest would see through his flimsy disguise and trample him, so as soon as he heard that, he roared, “Fake gnus? Fake gnus? I say YOU’RE fake gnus, you elitists!”

The white-beard haters immediately took up the cry. “FAKE GNUS! FAKE GNUS! TRAMPLE THE ELITISTS!” And that was how the Great Zimbabwean Blue Wildebeest Stampede began. Afterward, Tad, Engelbert, and their whole extended family ate like kings, and Parker gorged himself so much he burst.

Moral: As Abraham Lincoln said, it pays to be skeptical of what you read on the Web.

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