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Alex Jones: Post-Reality Rodeo Clown?

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fact or Fiction?, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Spin, You Decide

Talk show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones began his career as an Austin eccentric, known for his associations with comedian Joe Rogan and filmmaker Richard Linklater. His paleoconservative media profile has risen steadily since the election of Barack Obama – he’s now better known for egging on Charlie Sheen’s meltdown, describing the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre as “crisis actors,” and throwing his bulk behind the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.

Now, he’s engaged in a vicious custody battle, and his lawyers are suggesting that he’s not an increasingly unhinged paranoid maniac, but a performance artist playing a character.

Blogger Ken White adds some insight on the importance of this story.


“Alex Jones Says He’s A Performance Artist. Surprisingly, Actual Performance Artists Agree.”
by Priscilla Frank
The Huffington Post
April 19, 2017

Following his 2015 divorce, far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is embroiled in an ugly and somewhat bizarre custody battle.

In response to his ex-wife’s claims that the InfoWars founder and Pizzagate controversy propagator is “not a stable person” ― and therefore should not receive custody of their children ― Jones is arguing that his publicly jacked-up, trumped-up, vitriolic rants are merely instances of “performance art.”

Jones’ lawyer Randall Wilhite outlined the novel defense, telling those present at a recent pretrial hearing that Jones’ InfoWars persona does not reflect who he is as a person. “He’s playing a character,” Wilhite said. “He is a performance artist.”

Jones himself made a similar claim in early April while facing criticism ― and potential criminal proceedings ― after calling Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) an “archetypal cocksucker” and threatening in an expletive-laden rant to “beat [his] goddamn ass.” Jones later posted a follow-up video describing the comments as “clearly tongue-in-cheek and basically art performance, as I do in my rants, which I admit I do, as a form of art.”

Jones’ most famed “performances” to date include calling the 9/11 attacks an inside job, claiming the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was “completely fake with actors,” and suggesting that the American government is “encouraging homosexuality with chemicals so that people don’t have children.” Is it possible that Jones has been putting on some sort of persona to stir up controversy and garner public attention? Of course. It is unlikely, however, and ultimately dangerous, that Jones’ approximately 2 million listeners ― including his most famed fan, President Donald Trump ― were all aware that Jones’ red-faced tirades are for show.

In calling himself a performance artist, Jones is referencing a controversial live art tradition with roots in the 1950s and ‘60s, involving movements like Gutai and Fluxus and individuals like Marina Abramović and Vito Acconci. One of the earliest artists recognized for her performances is Carolee Schneemann, who was recently awarded the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. In one of her most iconic performances, 1975’s “Interior Scroll,” Schneemann stood nude on a table, painted her body with mud, and extracted a scroll from her vagina, from which she proceeded to read.

When asked about Jones’ performance art defense, Schneemann responded swiftly: “I think it’s all a load of crap,” she told The Huffington Post. But ultimately, any attempts to strictly classify what is or is not performance art, she clarified, are futile. Read more.

Subway Sexual Assault Prevention Gets Physical

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Political Pranks, Publicity Stunts, Satire

An aggressive awareness campaign hits handsy men where it hurts.


“Mexico City Subway Installs Plastic Penis on Seats to Fight Sexual Harassment”
by Kieran Corcoran
Heat Street
March 14, 2017

Subway bosses in Mexico City have fitted plastic penises onto seats in a bizarre campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault.

The smooth shape of some plastic seats on the billion-passenger network has been replaced with the sculpted shape of a male body.

The upper half of the seat is fitted with a chest, nipples and a belly – while the lower half is given legs, and a prominent, flaccid penis. Watch the video here:

Text placed on the floor next to the modified seats makes the point that sitting there is uncomfortable – but not as uncomfortable as getting sexually assaulted. Read more.

Snopes Checks In on the Facebook Standing Rock Check-in Trend

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fact or Fiction?, Legal Issues, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, You Decide

Our friends at Snopes have their hands full these days, but hubbub around the Standing Rock Facebook check-ins got too big for them to ignore.


“DAPL Radar”
by Kim LaCapria
Snopes
October 31, 2016

A viral Facebook status update urged users to check in at Standing Rock in order to prevent the Morton County Sheriff’s Department from geotargeting DAPL protesters.

AOTPStandingRockProtests

Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2016]

This popped up on my Facebook newsfeed today, any idea as to its validity? It seems like Facebook “share spam” but I’m curious if there’s any element of truth.

“The Morton County Sherriff’s Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Randing Stock in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps. So, Water Protectors are calling on EVERYONE to check in at Standing Rock, ND to overwhelm and confuse them. This is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes.
Will you join me in Standing Rock?
If you’re sharing your location at Randing Stock (which you should be doing)
1) make it public
2) make the clarification post separate, and so that only your friends can see it
3) don’t clarify on your check in, message friends who say “stay safe!” to let them know what’s up — the stay safe posts are more convincing / confusing for p*lice
4) copy paste to share clarification messages (like this one) because making it public blows our cover
5) say “Randing Stock” in clarification posts so that when they filter out / search those terms, your post is visible to the right people”


Hey,

I saw this and I’m slightly confused by why this would help disrupt police action. My theory is that this is a message meant for people actually there protesting not the Facebook community at large. Protestors are probably posting at unique locations/ tribe grounds they get to. Instead of doing that, this message is for them, telling them to keep their location general. Adding in the Facebook mass is just an added touch to show support for the action against DPL.

Origin:On 31 October 2016, a viral Facebook status meme began circulating, claiming that the Morton County Sheriff’s Department was using Facebook check-ins to target and disrupt prayer camps at Standing Rock protests.

The rumor involved a two-part status update, along with a message that the actions described would “confuse” or “overwhelm” police officers in their purported attempts to target individual demonstrators… Read more.

Voter Intimidation Shenanigans Exposed

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Legal Issues, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation

Here’s an inside look at the bullying and election fraud Donald Trump’s buddy Roger Stone had in mind for “certain areas.” Also, check out this really good guide to ways to prevent you from voting and what you should do about it.


“Trump Loyalists Planned Voter Intimidation Using Fake ID Badges, Fake Exit Polling – Until HuffPost Asked Them About It”
by Christina Wilkie
Huffington Post
October 25, 2016

aotpvoteprotectorsVote Protectors, the anti-voter-fraud group hosted by Donald Trump ally and political dirty trickster Roger Stone, plans to send volunteers to monitor polling places in nine cities with high minority populations on Election Day, Stone said last week. Untrained poll-watchers have intimidated voters in previous elections. But Vote Protectors is going further than its predecessors.

Stone’s group created an official-looking ID badge for its volunteers to wear, and its volunteers planned to videotape voters and conduct fake “exit polls,” efforts that election experts say risks intimidating and confusing voters. Or at least that’s what the group was planning to do before The Huffington Post asked Stone about it on Tuesday. The controversial Trump ally, long known for his bare-knuckled political tactics, said that key proposals on his group’s websites were there without his knowledge, and assured HuffPost that he would operate within the confines of election law.

Stone had initially refused to explain just how Vote Protectors planned to accomplish its goals. So on Monday, The Huffington Post responded to the group’s request for additional volunteers to work as “Exit Pollers and Citizen Journalists.”

Once registered, HuffPost used the site’s “I.D. Badge Generator” to create this badge, which could pass for an official credential to people unfamiliar with polling signage and rules. Read more.

Journalist Who Posed as Middle Eastern Tycoon Gets Prison Term

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

UK journalist Mahzer Mahmood didn’t let ethics or truth get in the way of a hot scoop, and now he’s headed to prison. It’s a story that beggars belief, involving politics, pop star drug scandals, royalty real and fake. We’re left to wonder what’s up with the screen rights.


“British Reporter ‘Fake Sheikh’ Jailed for 15 Months”
by Danica Kirka
AP
October 21, 2016

aotpmazhermahmoodA judge sentenced a British journalist who often posed as a Middle Eastern tycoon in sting operations to 15 months in prison on Friday, after the tabloid reporter was convicted of perverting the course of justice in an effort to get scoops.

Mazher Mahmood, a tabloid reporter nicknamed the “Fake Sheikh,” was found guilty earlier this month of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drug trial of pop star and actress Tulisa Contostavlos. The case against Contostavlos originally was based on interviews Mahmood, 53, conducted for the Sun newspaper.

The Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing another 25 convictions linked to Mahmood’s work and has dropped active criminal cases in which Mahmood was to be a witness.

As he was led away to prison, a man in the crowd shouted, “Your turn now, Mazher.”

One of his most famous scoops involved the wife of Prince Edward, youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II. Edward’s wife. Posing as an aide to a Saudi Arabian prince interested in hiring her public relations company, Mahmood charmed Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, into making indiscreet comments about the British government in 2001.

The countess also was caught on tape describing then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, as “horrid, horrid, horrid.”

For the sting involving Contostavlos, Mahmood posed as a film producer and discussed a movie role with her that would have her share screen time with Leonardo DiCaprio. Prosecutors said Mahmood gave evidence to police that led to Contostavlos being charged with supplying illicit drugs. Continue reading.

Renowned Journalist Faced Harrowing Legal Scare

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues, Political Challenges

As part of a wave of arrests surrounding a Dakota Access Pipeline protest in September, esteemed and controversial journalist Amy Goodman was charged with major felonies for, uh, reporting on the protest. On Monday, her case was dismissed. Nevertheless, this sort of mock execution should put First Amendment defenders on high alert and draw attention to what is obviously a sore spot for the North Dakota government authorities.


“Amy Goodman Is Facing Jail Time for Reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline. That Should Scare Us All.”
by Lizzy Ratner
The Nation
October 14, 2016 (Updated: October 17, 2016)

Update: Case dismissed! On Monday, October 17, District Judge John Grinsteiner rejected the “riot” charge that had been leveled against Amy Goodman for her coverage of a September 3rd Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Standing before the Morton County courthouse, surrounded by supporters, Goodman said: “It is a great honor to be here today. The judge’s decision to reject the State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson’s attempt to prosecute a journalist–in this case, me–is a great vindication of the First Amendment.” And she added: “[W]e encourage all of the media to come here. We certainly will continue to cover this struggle.”

amygoodman

This Monday morning, shortly after the sun rises over the small city of Mandan, North Dakota, the award-winning journalist, and host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman will walk into the Morton County–Mandan Combined Law Enforcement and Corrections Center and turn herself in to the local authorities. Her crime: good, unflinching journalism.

Goodman had the audacity to commit this journalism on September 3, when she was in North Dakota covering what she calls “the standoff at Standing Rock”: the months-long protests by thousands of Native Americans against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The $3.8 billion oil pipeline is slated to carry barrel after barrel of Bakken crude through sacred sites and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and tribe members fear it could pollute the Missouri River, the source not only of their water but of millions of others’, should the pipe ever rupture. Their protests, which began in April and ballooned through the summer months, represent the largest mobilization of Native American activists in more than 40 years—and one of the most vital campaigns for environmental justice in perhaps as long. Read more.


Documentarian Faces Decades in Prison

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues, Political Challenges

The Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was arrested while shooting anti-Keystone Pipeline activists in North Dakota. Schlosberg wasn’t protesting anything – she was reporting on the events, which is what journalists do for a living. She is being charged with three conspiracy counts, and her case has some unusually horrifying First Amendment implications.


“Filmmaker Arrested at Pipeline Protest Facing 45 Years in Felony Charges”
by Nick Visser
The Huffington Post
October 14, 2016

aotp_schlosbergA documentarian arrested while filming an oil pipeline protest on Tuesday has been charged with three felony conspiracy charges ― and could face decades in prison if convicted.

Deia Schlosberg, the producer of the upcoming documentary “How to Let Go of the World and Love All Things Climate Can’t Change,” was detained while filming a protest against TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota. Activists at the event, associated with the group Climate Direct Action, shut down the pipeline, which carries oil from Canadian tar sands to the U.S, for about seven hours.

Two of the protestors, Michael Foster and Samuel Jessup, were also charged and Schlosberg’s equipment and footage from the event was confiscated. Schlosberg said shortly after being released on bond that she couldn’t comment on her arrest until she spoke to a lawyer.

She has been charged with three felonies: conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service. Together, the charges carry 45 years in maximum prison sentences.

Josh Fox, the director of the film and two others related to fossil fuels, including the Academy Award-nominated “Gasland,” said Schlosberg wasn’t participating in the protest herself but acting as filmmaker to document the event. Her arrest appears to reflect a “deliberate” targeting of reporters, he said.

“They have in my view violated the First Amendment,” Fox said, referring to the state’s Pembina County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s fucking scary, it knocks the wind of your sails, it throws you for a loop. They threw the book at Deia for being a journalist.” Read more.

Bare-Assed Pedaling for a Change

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Legal Issues, Prank News, Pranksters

World Naked Bike Ride Day, a recurring sight gag with a message of self-care and sustainability, streaks through Philly.


“Thousands of Naked Bicyclists Storm the City of Brotherly Love”
by Dino Hazell
AP
September 10, 2016

AP Photo: Dino Hazell

Thousands of bicyclists dared to be bare for the city’s annual nude ride promoting positive body image, cycling advocacy and fuel conservation.

About 3,000 people gathered Saturday for the eighth annual Philly Naked Bike Ride through the city’s streets. They set off from a park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Sylvester Stallone ran up the steps in the “Rocky” movies.

The annual ride featured people sporting underwear, body paint, glitter or nothing at all. Some riders concerned about being recognized by their parents or co-workers wore masks while others wore just their shoes.

“It’s a really open and fun way of destigmatizing nudity,” said Oren Eisenberg, who was riding nude for the fifth time. (more…)

Joey Skaggs to the NY Daily News, “You Gotta Realize There Are Consequences”

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Filed under: Hoax Etiquette, How to Pull Off a Prank, Legal Issues, Prank News, Pranksters, What Makes a Good Prank?

Call us snobs, sticklers… call us the Emily Post of prankdom. But releasing a bunch of live crickets in a crowded subway car, as Brooklyn’s Zadia Pugh was recently arrested for doing, isn’t much of a prank. When there is so much groupthink and hypocrisy to expose and so many passersby thirst for wonder and delight, it’s not enough to simply scare and annoy people. That’s a sad and boring way to go viral. People are plenty scared and annoyed as it is.

Legendary prankster Joey Skaggs was asked to comment on Pugh’s stunt and to lend some guidance to cavalier young instigators of her ilk. Irreverence is just the beginning.


“Seasoned prankster Joey Skaggs chides rookie Zadia Pugh for unleashing crickets on packed D train: ‘You gotta realize there are consequences'”
by Graham Rayman
New York Daily News
September 3, 2016

crickets4n-2-webAs a prankster, Zaida Pugh — who terrified straphangers in August when she released live crickets on a packed subway train — is no more than a misguided rookie.

And Joey Skaggs should know.

For the past 40 years, Skaggs, 70, a New Yorker who now lives “somewhere in the south,” has conned the media into reporting fake stories as fact.

His elaborate pranks include creating a brothel for dogs and posing as a man who invented a vitamin pill made of cockroaches which supposedly would make people invulnerable to radiation.

The press bought it.

He got the press to buy that he had windsurfed from Hawaii to California. He created a Celebrity Sperm Bank, and a “Fat Squad,” made up of commandos who supposedly physically restrained people from breaking their diets.

He unrepentantly posed as a priest and pedaled a full-size confessional booth around St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and got on the news for that, too.

Author Andrea Juno once wrote that he “uses the media as a painter uses a canvas.”

crickets4n-4-webSkaggs told the Daily News on Saturday even though Pugh claimed to be making a statement about homelessness, her stunt on the Manhattan Bridge on Aug. 24 was “irresponsible and dangerous.”

“To me, the expose’ is the most important part,” he said. “It’s not the ‘hahaha, I got you.’ It’s the ‘Aha.’ When they realize they have put aside critical thinking.

“The goal is to get people to become more media literate and more skeptical about information that’s given to them by governments and corporations. And you have to be ethical and careful in going about it.” Read more.


YouTube Pranksters Jailed

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

The rise of YouTube has shifted the way people think about media, fame, and, definitely, pranks.

YouTube’s “user-created content” has always been conspicuously subject to Sturgeon’s Law, but over time, its most popular and influential celebrities have concentrated their power while newcomers have found it harder and harder to break through.

“YouTube pranksters” generally perform “social experiments” (read: wacky stunts) in public, preferably for unwitting audiences. As their attention economy becomes more stratified, certain performers have become increasingly confrontational and occasionally felonious.

The UK-based channel TrollStation operates on the genre’s outer fringes. TrollStation affiliates have violently broken the law and alienated some in the YouTube community before, but achieved peak notoriety with two fake museum heists on July 5, 2015, that just landed three (more) of them behind bars. Their sentences were light – 20 weeks is nothing for genuine art theft or violent B&E – and their case was complicated by the fact that, although they definitely horrified innocent bystanders, they didn’t actually steal anything.

Upon release, they can doubtless expect increased viewership.

For the details, read Katie Rogers’ May 19, 2016 article in The New York Times, “When YouTube Pranks Break the Law”.


STEM, Social Engineering and Stealing

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues

The Kernel delves into the hidden subculture of liars, thieves, and hackers who expose and exploit gaping loopholes in e-commerce via Jonah (not his real name), someone who’s been there and back.


“Confessions of a social engineer”
by Dell Cameron
The Kernel
August 9, 2015

serialcodegenerator…Part theater and part science, social engineering is the method by which hackers, for lack of a better term, exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology; for Jonah, it was a key to getting anything he wanted, from televisions and laptops to smartphones and expensive wines. One of his largest takes netted him around $60,000 worth of product, he says. He showed me a Rolex Daytona watch—part of a gallery of stolen goods he’d photographed in his bedroom—which retails on Amazon for around $26,000.

Whether through face-to-face interaction, by phone, or by email, the human gatekeepers of any network can be exploited—if you know how to play the game. They’re the weakest link in any company’s security.

Almost every major electronics company is vulnerable in nearly the same way: They all have warranty-based replacement systems that can be exploited. Most companies, for instance, don’t require a defective item to be returned before mailing out its replacement. It’s likewise difficult to prove that an in-warranty item has been lost or stolen.

Through repeated phone calls, social engineers develop strategies for navigating a company’s customer help line. They get a feel for which sob stories and which “yes” or “no” responses will work best toward achieving their objective. Intelligence, temperament, and even humor all come into play. The questions and responses are then mapped out, as if composing a flowchart, with the goal of expediting the con. Read the whole article.


Flappybird Photo Hijack

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoax Etiquette, Legal Issues

In case you think the risque photos on your Android phone are secure…


Hackers plotted fake Flappy Bird app to steal girls’ photos from Android phones
by Graham Cluley
September 6, 2014

Next time you install an app on your phone, you’d best think twice if it asks permission to access your photos.

As The Guardian reports, following a tweet from security researcher Nik Cubrilovic, the very same hackers who merrily collected naked photos of more than 100 female celebrities, including Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, had plotted a variety of dirty tricks to increase their haul.

At least one hacker openly posted on the AnonIB image board, proposing what he called a “genious” idea: (more…)

Have a Secret? Good Luck

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues

Ever wonder what’s happening with all the data the NSA has collected on you?


New Snowden Leak: NSA Shares 850 Billion Metadata Records Via Search Portal
by Graham Cluley
Tripwire.com
August 27, 2014

783640841-425

Some are starting to consider Edward Snowden as the NSA’s old, boring uncle. His leaks grimly pass around secrets of the NSA: online surveillance disclosures, the MonsterMind program and privacy invasion of international governments. And still revelations about the NSA’s classified activities continue to tumble out.

The latest? The National Security Agency is supplying data to two dozen US government agencies courtesy of a “Google-like” search engine designed to share 850 billion records about emails, cellphone locations, Internet chats and phone calls, according to classified documents provided to The Intercept by none other than Edward Snowden.

The tool, called ICREACH, includes millions of records on innocent US citizens (not accused of any wrongdoing), as well as private communications of foreigners. While a multitude of NSA programs have been exposed for collecting large data of communications, and the NSA has admitted sharing some of the collected information with domestic agencies, no one had a clue about the scoop and insights of its sharing. Read the rest of this article here.

The Royal Prank: Unintended Consequences

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Filed under: Legal Issues, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, You Decide

The Royal Prank: The Story Behind The Worst Radio Stunt In History
by Andrew McMillen
Buzzfeed
Aug. 1, 2013

royalprank-425

When a pair of Australian DJs went viral by prank calling the London hospital treating Kate Middleton last December, they were lionized at home and vilified in the U.K. Then the nurse who answered the phone committed suicide amid the outrage, raising questions about mental health, privacy, and the very definition of a joke. What responsibility do pranksters have to their victims?

Unsanctioned Art’s Guilty Pleasures

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Filed under: Legal Issues, Pranksters

Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty: Five Other Art-Related Crimes
by Dale W. Eisinger
International Business Times
February 27, 2012

When we reported Shepard Fairey pleaded guilty to charges of contempt in Manhattan federal court Friday, it closed the book on an admittedly strange battle that Fairey initiated, and then tried to cover up — the 42-year-old artist ended up forging documents in an attempt to steer clear of legal problems altogether. Now he faces jail time and fines.

A lively discussion is still bubbling around whether or not his use of an AP-licensed photo of President Barack Obama was “fair use”” or not, but the fact is: dude’s in deep do-do. However, I find it kind of admirable he’d go to such a great lengths to conceal and deceive and commit crime for his art. With that in mind, here are a few risk-laden art endeavors, some of which went off better than others.

(more…)