The next time you are playing that ever popular parlor game; "Name five famous Belgians" - I usually get stuck after Jean Claude Van Damme and Plastic Bertrand - spare a thought for Yves Thiran, the "Orson Welles of Wallonia", who as head of news at a Belgian public television aired a fake broadcast on Wednesday reporting that the Dutch-speaking half of the nation had declared independence. Thiran claims the mock broadcast, which featured real political figures and reportedly took a year to make, was intended to stimulate broader public debate on the important topic of the possible consequences of Flemish separatism.
It was also, by all accounts, a botched ratings bid that managed to outrage Belgians of all political persuasions who were duped by the newscast with its scenes of crowds waving the Black Lion of Flanders in the streets and their King being spirited away to the airport and parts unknown.
“Irresponsible,” “questionable” and “regrettable” were among the reactions from Belgium’s political mainstream in both French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders after a fictional report that Flanders had declared independence.
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s office described the program as a “misplaced joke.”
Now where have we heard that before?
If you are still working on coming up with five famous Belgians, here are 259 of them. Plus Thiran.