I've had the Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit" on my iTunes for some time now. A few days ago... Thursday, I think... I was wondering what was up with the lyrics, so I did a Google search. I stumbled upon a comments thread where the book Go Ask Alice, which takes its name from a line in the song, came up. Someone asserted it was a forgery.
Wondering if there was anything to the assertion, or if it was just an online crank spouting off (something that can be found in no short supply), I went to that great source of wisdom, Wikipedia. In the "authorship" section Wikipedia article on Go Ask Alice, a number of points were listed in favor of the work's being a fiction. Rather than recite or cut & paste them all here, I'll just tell readers to read the wiki article, as well as the Snoes.com page, which doesn't hesitate to label the book bogus. I will say that I had to slap my forehead when I found this, as I read Go Ask Alice back in high school, and looking back on it, it seems altogether too ridiculous: the girl didn't decide to start taking drugs but rather was slipped LSD in a soda (a cheap ploy to maintain the character's innocence), she becomes a priestess of Satan at one point, and then when she cleans up the otherwise non-religious "author" rambles off some stuff abouthow she's going to be dedicated to Jesus now, even though there wasn't any sort of dramatic conversion story involved, much less a plausible one. Then the author... okay, let's be honest, main character, gets killed off in an unexplained and too perfectly tragic to be true death, vaguely related to drugs.
The thing is though, and the time I read it, I believed all of it. Even though at the time publishers were already listing the book as fiction, indeed had been since the mid-eighties. I seem to vaguely remember seeing the word "fiction" somewhere in small print inside the book and casually ignoring it; though it may be my memory is playing a trick on me here. The revelation was thus a minor shock.
It immediately got me thinking about how willing many Christians are to assume everything about the Bible's origins is kosher and the authors of the books of the Bible are who church tradition says they are. This is a hideously naive view in light of what we know about how easy it is for people to be taken in by cons. If it can happen to someone in modern America, where a national media to instantly report exposes of lies all over the nation, indeed, involving a fraud that had already been so exposed, then it could certainly happen in a barely-literate society 2000 years ago, prior to any reliable systems of mass communication.
In a sense, I knew this already. It must be at least a year since I found Snopes' Amityville Horror page and laughed at the people who still didn't know it was a hoax, decades after the hoax was confessed. But things like this really don't hit home until they've happened to you.