I saw a cow and bull stopping traffic down in Texas, having sex on the highway. There were two ladies hiding their faces and another couple was angry. It was about fifteen or twenty minutes of delay on the highway, and I thought up the idea of clothing all these naked animals. So I wrote this story and sent it to the Saturday Evening Post, and they rejected it. I thought it was satire, but they thought it was real. The editor signed a personal note on the form rejection letter. So I thought, well, I'll put it on the world stage.
The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, or SINA [pronounced "sinna"], was a satiric hoax perpetrated by comedian Alan Abel from 1959 to 1962. In 1959 Abel wrote a satirical story about this imaginary organization for The Saturday Evening Post but the editors rejected it. Abel then transformed his story into a series of press releases from the organization that garnered media attention. The group used the language and rhetoric of conservative moralists for the aim of clothing naked animals, including pets, barnyard animals, and large wildlife. An alleged debate within SINA was how large an animal had to be to require clothing. Slogans such as "Decency today means morality tomorrow" and "A nude horse is a rude horse" were offered. Abel persuaded the actor Buck Henry to play the group president, G. Clifford Prout, in public appearances and Abel played the group vice president.
Alan and his wife, Jeanne, would go out picketing together. They traveled to the White House and held signs out front pleading with the Kennedys to cover their horse's private parts.
Support and Anthems
SINA actually acquired ardent supporters, some of whom attempted to contribute a great deal of money. That aided SINA's (false) claims of gaining momentum - at one time they claimed tens of thousands of members. They also published a newsletter, in an issue of which is this anthem:
High on the wings of SINA / we fight for the future now;
Let's clothe every pet and animal / whether dog, cat, horse or cow!
G. Clifford Prout, our President / he works for you and me,
So clothe all your pets and join the march / for worldwide Decency!
S.I.N.A., that's our call / all for one and one for all.
Hoist our flag for all to see / waving for Morality.
Onward we strive together / stronger in every way,
All mankind and his animal friends / for SINA, S-I-N-A!
The hoax was exposed when staff on Walter Cronkite's CBS television news show recognized Buck Henry while taping an interview. A 1963 Time magazine article exposed the hoax. Alan Abel managed to keep the newsletter going for several more years, hoaxing members who had not seen or heard of that Cronkite episode. The hoax appears in a recording of the short-lived television series One Man Show in an episode hosted by Groucho Marx.
When Time Magazine finally blew the whistle on their hoax in 1963, Abel was hailed as a comic genius, a jokester who had manipulated the burgeoning mass media to have a laugh at everyone else’s expense. While he was certainly laughing about the whole ordeal, Abel remains concerned that many people may have missed the point.
“It was about censorship,” he explains. “If we’re going to censor books, records and films,” Abel says, drifting into character, “Why not censor those naked animals out there? How do you explain to a three-year-old child why Rover the dog is naked, and mom and dad aren’t? You can’t. So he or she grows up with a double standard; they run away from home, they get pregnant, and they take up smoking, drugs, and we have to stop that.”
Watch a trailer to the documentary Abel Raises Cain, devoted to one of the greatest hoaxers of the 20th Century - Alan Abel:
Written and directed by his daughter Jenny Abel, Abel Raises Cain is a side-splitting, personal and loving tribute from daughter to father that uncovers the truth beneath the hoaxer. It is also a penetrating satire on the gullibility of the media that has become exceptionally relevant in this Information Age.
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