Recently, Tyler Cowen, on his blog, reported a story of a German court case where Demitrius Soupolos sued Frank Maus for "breach of contract". Demitrius paid Maus to do a certain service, which Maus then was unable to deliever. Maus argued that he was only paid to make a good effort on said service but was prevented from doing so (due to an "act of god", as one American legal scholar supposedly claimed). This got me curious: who would win that court case? So I began doing a Google search for more information about this case...only to see that this case has been repeated over and over. Tyler Cowen's blog post links to an article on this case written in March 30th 2009...and that all these other news stories just copy this article, word-for-word. There is no mention of a verdict anywhere in my searches (which I think would be fairly important concerning that this is a court case after all), nor were any of these news articles about Soupolos were written in Germany (where the court case was supposed to be held), leading me to conclude that this is nothing more than a hoax. Now, this may not be a hoax, but I'm fairly confident that it is a hoax.
Tyler made his blog post in March 23rd 2011...so why would this hoax story continue to spread long after 2009? The answer is simple: the context of the story. Frank Maus' service was impregnation of Demitrius' wife, a "beauty queen"*. The "act of god" that prevented Frank Maus for carrying out this service...was the fact that Frank Maus was infertile and didn't know of this infertility because his wife deceived him.
The story seems so weird, strange, and soap operaic when you added in the 'context' that it becomes understandable that somebody may instinctively wish to grapple with the implications of this story as opposed to digging in deeper and questioning the story's inauthenticity (and I must admit, when I was doing my research, I was not intending to question the story but merely wanted to know who won the court case in question). Let's assume that the Maus story is a fake. I have two questions based on that assumption:
1) If someone wants to create a hoax story that is generally accepted by the population (either for purely sadistic entertainment or for more sinister purposes), would he desire to create a story that is weird or unbelievable just to capitalize on the 'weird' factor and get people to accept it? If so, at what level of weirdness or unbelievability?
2) Assuming that a "rational" individual would prefer to have accurate and true information, how does one guard against some prankster using this sort of tactic?
*The excuse given in the story was that Demitrius Soupolos was infertile...but considering that a beauty queen should be someone of means, then Soupolos could have used technological advances such as IVF to deal with the infertility problem. This, alongside the bizzare nature of mentioning the detail of a beauty queen (who, when I did the search, once again bring up repeated copies of the same court case article), as if that is the only important thing about this woman in question, suggests that this is yet another evidence of this being a hoax.
EDIT: According to Douglas Knight, this story had originally started as a article in Jet Magazine, written in 1978. While it doesn't prove that it's not a "hoax", this new piece of evidence does help to explain why I was unable to find anything on Google search relating to the court case (other than repeated copies of the same story).