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A false document is often promoted in conjunction with a criminal enterprise, such as fraud or a confidence game.

However, a false document is also a technique employed to create verisimilitude in a work of fiction. By inventing and inserting documents that appear to be factual, an author tries to create a sense of authenticity beyond the normal and expected suspension of disbelief for a work of art. The goal of a false document is to convince an audience that what is being presented is factual.


In businessEdit

Forged documents in business are typically for financial gain.

Material certificatesEdit

A material's certification, essentially a report of its composition and properties, may be forged. A low-property material, produced for lower cost, may be passed as a higher-property material, which has a higher price. The difference becomes illicit profit. Counterfeit fasteners have low-strength alloys or inferior production processes, but are sold as high-strength fasteners.

Safety certificatesEdit

Similarly, parts, systems, and processes for high-valued operations may have their quality-assurance documents forged. Substandard items may be cheaper or simply more readily available. Nuclear power plants in Japan and Korea have found components with forged safety documents. See also: Information Assurance

Degree certificatesEdit

Academic degrees often qualify for recruitment, promotions and additional pay. There are many methods to get false degree certificates. First, university officials have been bribed to issue a certificate without study. Second, false universities called diploma mills issue certificates that have no legal standing and are usually purchased outright without study, but they may still be legal. Finally, degree certificates have been directly forged, which is a felony in most jurisdictions. Besides the degree certificate itself, final theses and essays have been falsified by e.g. plagiarism, ghost writing or inclusion of fake references. Thus, the degree certificate itself is genuine but it may be revoked.

In politicsEdit

A forged document, the Zinoviev Letter, helped bring the downfall of the first Labour Government in Britain. Conspiracies within secret intelligence services have occurred more recently, leading Harold Wilson to put in place rules to prevent in the 1960s phone tapping of members of Parliament, for example.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination, was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century.

In artEdit

Artist JSG Boggs's life and work have been extensively explored by author and journalist Lawrence Weschler. Boggs draws currency with exceptional care and accuracy, but he only ever draws one side. He then attempts to buy things with the piece of paper upon which he has drawn the currency. His goal is to pass each bill for its face value in common transactions. He buys lunch, clothes, and lodging in this manner, and after the transactions are complete, his bills fetch many times their face value on the art market. Boggs does not make any money from the much larger art market value of his work, only from reselling the goods bought, the change and receipts and other such materials. He has been arrested in many countries, and there is much controversy surrounding his work.

Orson Welles' F for Fake is a prime example of a film which is both about falsification (art forgery and the journalism surrounding art forgery) as well as having falsified moments within the film. The movie follows the exploits of a famous art forger, his biographer Clifford Irving, and the subsequent fake autobiography of Howard Hughes that Irving tries to publish. The issues of veracity and forgery are explored in the film, while at the same time, Welles tricks the audience by incorporating fake bits of narrative alongside the documentary footage.

In cross-marketingEdit

There is a long history of producers creating tie-in material to promote and merchandise movies and television shows. Tie-in materials as far-ranging as toys, games, lunch boxes, clothing and so on have all been created and in some cases generate as much or more revenue as the original programming. One big merchandising arena is publishing. In most cases such material is not considered canon within the show's mythology; however, in some instances the books, magazines, etc. are specifically designed by the creators to be canonical. With the rise of the Internet, in-canon online material has become more prominent.

The following is a list of "false document" in-canon supplemental material:

  • Twin Peaks spawned three canon books:
    • The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes ISBN 0-671-74400-3
    • The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer ISBN 0-671-73590-X
    • Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town ISBN 0-671-74399-6

Additionally, a set of trading cards was produced which are also canon.


A number of hoaxes have involved false documents:

See alsoEdit