Though popular in the nineteenth century and widespread since, the elements of the hoax form can be traced to the origins of rhetorical theorizing, principally in the strategies of probability and counterprobability developed by the early orators and sophists. This article begins by defining features of the hoax as a textual event and then describes how hoaxes use traditional rhetorical techniques of both probability and improbability to transport viewers from credulity and acceptance to doubt and disbelief, demonstrating technical mastery over rhetorical conventions of the genre to mock their targets and to entertain and instruct their audience.

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