The king who cried ‘fake news’


(Photo: Office of Marketing and Public Relations)

by Ken Fuson, Special to The Simpsonian

Once upon a time, the people of a great land decided it was time to choose a new king.

“I will save you,” the new king said. “I will protect you from our rivals, the Visigoths. I will pave the streets with gold and make sure that our storage bins are filled to the brim with grain for your bread. It will be fantastic. Believe me.”

And the people did.

One day, a messenger approached the new king’s throne.

“Forgive me, your majesty, but I must warn you that the heavy rains have caused the rivers to rise, and there is a very serious danger of your kingdom being flooded.”

The king was incensed.

“Sit down!” he shouted at the messenger, who was confused, given that there was no chair. “You are a fake messenger, and what you tell me is a lie. The sun has shined every day since I sat in this throne. Out with you!”

The messenger was thrown out of the castle and sent to teach Town Crying 101 to first-year college students.

Several days later, a new messenger approached the throne.

“My King,” he said, “it is my duty to report to you that the Visigoths are amassing at all four corners of the kingdom. The rivers are still rising, and the your loyal servants are getting restless.”

The King was incensed.

“Fake news!” he cried out. “Lies! We have defeated the Visigoths. The rain has stopped. We have made the kingdom great again. My national security adviser can confirm this.”

At that point, the king’s aide, the Earl of Bannon, whispered in his ear.

“I didn’t need a national security adviser anyway,” the king said. “Our new amazing moat will keep the enemy out. The deepest ever.”

Another aide, the Prince of Priebus, shook his head sadly.

“No moat, either, huh?” the king said. “Well, we don’t need it. What we need is a new messenger who does not fill the people’s heads with fake news. Get out!”

The messenger was dispatched from the kingdom and now appears on a weekly “Ye Olde Roundtable” discussion with other retired messengers.

Several days later, another new messenger approached the throne.

“My exalted King,” he said, “I have been sent here to let you know the storage bins are empty and the people have no grain for their bread. The Visigoths are only a mile away, and the floods threaten to overwhelm us.”

The king was incensed.

“More fake news!” he screamed. “You are a disgusting, miserable human being. The grain bins are full and the people are satisfied.”

The messenger replied meekly, “We have surveyed the people of the kingdom, and your approval rating is dropping precipitously.”

The king looked confused.

“Quickly,” the messenger added.

The king was incensed.

“These polls are rigged! They are fake! The people love me. I carve messages to them in the bark of our mighty oaks. I call it Treeter.”

The messenger groaned.

“Out!” the king said.

The messenger was banished from the kingdom and worked as a free-lance writer until he starved to death.

Several days later, another new messenger approached the throne.

“Great news, my king!” said Kellyanne, who arrived on loan from Bowling Green. “The floodwaters have ebbed, the Visigoths have been vanquished and the grain bins are overflowing. Long live the king!”

The king was pleased.

“Finally, a nice messenger who brings me real news. You shall be rewarded with the finest garments and perfumes from the country of Ivanka.”

Just then, the wooden doors protecting the king’s throne burst open, collapsed by the powerful force of a tremendous flood, followed by an army of Visigoths, followed by an angry mob of citizens from the kingdom.

The king’s voice could be heard over the din:

“Not my fault! Somebody should have warned me! Bring the royal chariot to the back door! Take me to Mar-a-Lago!”

It would not be accurate to say that everyone lived happily ever after. Nor can we report that the kingdom fully recovered.

That only happens in fairy tales.

Ken Fuson is a writer for the Office of Marketing and Public Relations at Simpson College. This piece originally ran in the N’West Iowa Review.