ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a video online of a dog frolicking in a swimming pool while its masters were away. The dog was running down the slide. It was cute, it was funny, but not all pet videos turn out quite this way.

This next story is about allegations of animal cruelty being investigated by the Marine Corps thanks to an online video. That video had plenty of witnesses - thousands, if not millions. The video has been viral, but as DAY TO DAY contributor Andrew Wallenstein notes, sometimes looks can be deceiving.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: Two soldiers stand on a cliff in the desert, one dangling a puppy by the scruff of its neck. Over the course of the next 17 seconds the animal is hurled into the distance, its cries audible in this videotape.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man #1: So cute, so cute, little puppy.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, oh, oh, I tripped.

(Soundbite of dog yelping)

Unidentified Man #3: That's mean.

WALLENSTEIN: It wasn't long before this scene became one of the biggest draws on YouTube, which has since removed the video. That hasn't stopped a wave of condemnation. There have even been death threats to the family of a Marine suspected of being the culprit.

But the reaction has had a flip side. There's been almost as much skepticism as there is scorn. Read enough message boards, and you'll find frame-by-frame analyses worth of the Zapruder film.

Was the puppy already dead when it was thrown? How could the cries be audible so far away? Were they dubbed in? The skeptics allege this is a homemade hoax, and so many are popping up on YouTube these days that it's practically a genre onto itself.

These are videos that might seem like spontaneous moments caught on tape but are actually staged to achieve Internet infamy. Think Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds," the do-it-yourself edition.

The clip that set the standard arrived early last year. It's called "The Bride Wig Out," and it's a faux home video of a bride just before her wedding having a meltdown over a bad haircut. Then she pulls out the scissors and starts hacking away at her hair.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Woman #1: Hey, everybody calm down.

Unidentified Woman #2: It's fine.

Unidentified Woman #3: Oh my God.

Unidentified Woman #4: It's okay. I wanted to have shorter hair anyway, for a while.

Unidentified Women: Oh my God, oh my God.

Unidentified Woman #4: Can you please just like go away? Can you just go away, you guys? Can you just go away?

WALLENSTEIN: Millions of video streams later, "Bride Wig Out" was revealed to be a hoax, a marketing stunt concocted by a Canadian hair products company. All the women are actresses, but you'd never know it. "Bride Wig Out" is a masterpiece that seems real even on repeated viewing, even when you know it's bogus.

Hoax videos remind me of hidden-camera TV shows like "Candid Camera" or "Punked," but there's a crucial difference. On TV you the viewer are in on the hoax. On the Internet, the hoax is on you. That's because online anyone can upload anonymously and take no responsibility, but if someone tried that on TV, well, people would know where to direct the hate mail.

Last month, the Internet audience got taken again, this time by a piece of fake footage seemingly pulled from a local newscast. A correspondent standing under a tree gets hit by bird droppings. He looks up with his mouth open wide and - you get the idea.

(Soundbite of video)

WALLENSTEIN: Not long after this video rocketed to the top of YouTube, comedian Bob Odenkirk revealed he'd concocted the scene. He followed up with some hilarious videos that pulled back the curtain on how the hoax was staged, complete with fake promotional hoopla.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man #4: "Bird Poops in Mouth" has now been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Special Effects...

WALLENSTEIN: The bird and the bride are one thing. Whether the puppy toss is a fraud we don't know, and we may never know. I'd like to think a Marine wouldn't take things too far, but even if he didn't, the next hoax video that comes along just might.

COHEN: Andrew Wallenstein is deputy editor of the Hollywood Reporter and a regular contributor on DAY TO DAY.

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