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Wouldn’t you need a heart of stone not to laugh along with “Sinon Reborn”, the hoaxer from Manchester who tricked White House staff with his phoney emails? He wound up poor Anthony Scaramucci into a volcanic rage by baiting him in the fake persona of former chief of staff Reince Priebus – whom Scaramucci has now joined on history’s scrapheap.

Just as the nuclear situation in North Korea gets tense and calm heads are needed, Donald Trump’s courtiers can be tricked into screaming alpha-storms of arrogant anger. And how will they vent their feelings, do you suppose? However, my enjoyment of this was clouded by memories of a very strange man called Michael “Rocky” Ryan, who repeatedly hoaxed British newspapers in the 1980s with false stories about Lord Lucan, Shergar and others. He claimed to be behind loads of “scoops”, but you never knew if he was just bragging. Then something deeply horrible happened.

In 1990 the Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft was executed on a nonsensical spying charge by Saddam Hussein’s government. Ryan had recently lost a British court case with Bazoft. He later claimed that, in revenge, he had pranked the Iraqis, telling them Bazoft was a spy. Was that a stupid lie? Or might he actually have punked Saddam? Even now that case makes me queasy. And if Trump’s cohorts are as gullible and excitable as Saddam’s were, then maybe hoaxing isn’t that funny after all.

How not to say sorry

Connoisseurs of the non-apology will have savoured the display of black-belt impenitence from Kevin Myers, the columnist sacked from the Sunday Times’s Irish edition for his antisemitic remarks about Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman. In response to Feltz’s complaint about his column – “so obviously racist it’s surprisingly hurtful” – Myers has said: “Speaking as I think, and sometimes you can make the wrong noises, I have been gravely insulted by them. A stigma has been placed on the name Kevin Myers which I don’t deserve. I’m not blaming them.”

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