Hype

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The Strange Case of JT LeRoy

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hype, Literary Hoaxes, Prank News, Publicity Stunts

JT LeRoy was widely presumed to be a gay prostitute from West Virginia who became the toast of NYC art-hipsterdom on the strength of his autobiographical books. The problem was that he didn’t exist at all – he was a character invented by a frustrated failed writer named Laura Albert and played by a friend of Albert’s in a blonde wig. Frauds and fabulists ran amok in the Bush years, and LeRoy’s unmasking didn’t garner the same attention and schadenfreude as the downfalls of rouge reporter Jayson Blair or manly-man poseur James Frey. But as a new documentary explores, his story was a hell of a lot weirder.


“JT LeRoy doc explores absorbing literary scandal”
by Lindsey Bahr
AP
September 7, 2016

downloadTo the general public, the name JT LeRoy probably rings only the vaguest of bells, if any at all. It didn’t for this particular critic. But that innocent ignorance is all the more reason to seek out the documentary “Author: The JT LeRoy Story ,” a fascinating peek into one of the wildest literary scandals in recent years and the bizarre nature of celebrity relationships. Director Jeff Feuerzeig’s film, while undeniably one-sided, will have your mind spinning with questions about authorship, authenticity, art and fame.

Read more.


Pokemon Go Crime Wave… Not

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hype, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

In less than a week, Nintendo’s new mobile game Pokemon Go has become a 2016 pop-culture phenomenon. (It is, you see, pretty much the only recent news item that isn’t wildly depressing.) With all the hype, think-pieces, newsjacking, and Facebook-sharing, some skepticism was lost in the shuffle.


“The Man Behind the Pokemon Crime Wave”
by Ben Collins and Kate Briquelet
The Daily Beast
July 11, 2016

wigglytuffAmerica is going crazy for the new game—crazy enough to kill, if you believe all the stories on Facebook. But the bloodbath is fake, and The Daily Beast tracked down the man behind it.

At CartelPress.com, the death toll from the first weekend of Pokémon GO is still piling up.

If you’re to believe that website, the new augmented reality game that has users walking into public parks and streets to catch Pokémon—and is nearing as many daily active users as Twitter—is responsible for a bloodbath. A teen killed his brother over a low-rent Pokémon called a Pidgey, the site reports. Countless were left dead on a Massachusetts highway when a 26-year-old stopped in the middle of the road to catch a Pikachu, it also alleges. And now, on CartelPress.com, the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS is claiming credit for the biggest Pokémon tragedy of all: rampant server issues.
Unbelievable.

No, really. It should be unbelievable. But 10,000 people shared that first story on Facebook. More than 64,000 shared the last one. And the Pokémon highway accident? Three hundred eighty-four thousand shares on Facebook in a couple of days.

And none of them are real.

CartelPress is just one part of the Pokésteria.

Now gamers on other sites are fooling people into donating to a Texas-based Uber driver who claims he witnessed a murder scene while trawling for Pokémon over the weekend—even though that murder scene, just like the rest of these stories, never existed.

That didn’t stop plenty of reputable news agencies from recycling the Satanic Panic-esque stories that were always too good to be true. The Atlantic referenced the highway death in the middle of its story “The Tragedy of Pokémon GO.” The New York Post did the same.

There are plenty more. Pablo Reyes almost caught ’em all. According to the 26-year-old internet prankster—who flooded America’s elevators and drive time radio shows with fake Pokécrime he invented on CartelPress, a new site he created—it’s all one big coding mistake. Read on for the interview.

We’re Gonna Need More Enthusiasm

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Pranksters

Davy Rothbard of Found fame profiles a company that hires out fake crowds. H/t Dave Pell.


“Crowd Source: Inside the company that provides fake paparazzi, pretend campaign supporters, and counterfeit protesters”
by Davy Rothbard
The California Sunday Magazine
March 31, 2016

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When he can, Adam trains his hired crowds himself, but more often he relies on local coordinators who manage the events. In Los Angeles, Del Brown — the woman I met at the Marriott — is Adam’s point person. Del moved to California in 2012 to pursue an acting career and soon landed a Doritos commercial, but after that, she mostly found work as an extra in student films and small indie projects. She worked a gig with Crowds on Demand, and Adam was so impressed he immediately put her on staff. Del has established a wide network she can reach out to when she needs, say, 60 crowd-fillers for a party on the roof deck of the W Los Angeles hotel or a 6-foot-6-inch man in a leather kilt to act as a fan at the launch of a book about S&M culture. Many of Del’s recurring crowd members are background actors she’s met on film sets, yet she is continually trawling for fresh faces.

At the Marriott, I’d met Jackie Greig, who typifies the crowd members Del and Adam often hire. Jackie is 50 years old, a film student at Los Angeles City College. A teacher had shared a posting about what she thought was an upcoming film shoot that was looking for paid help. Jackie showed up at the Marriott only to discover that this was not a film shoot. Yes, she was being asked to aim her camera at the life coaches, but whether she hit record was immaterial. On one hand, Jackie was frustrated. She’d skipped class and driven more than an hour to be there. On the other hand, after a couple of hours, she’d made $37.50 and could now afford a Foo Fighters concert for her daughter. “I just wish they’d been more transparent about what the gig really was,” Jackie tells me.

If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know.

The tricky thing, Adam says, is how many of his clients insist on secrecy. If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know. Adam must balance his goal of spreading awareness of his company, so he can attract more clients, with the benefits of keeping the public in the dark. If people start to doubt the veracity of crowds, his business might suffer. “Right now, we’re still kind of this secret weapon,” Adam says. “We have the element of surprise. Yeah, you might’ve heard about political candidates paying to bring some extra bodies into their campaign events, but it’s beyond the realm of most people’s imagination that crowds are being deployed in other ways. Nobody is skeptical of crowds. Of course, in five years that could change.”

Adam says he gives Del wide latitude to recruit crowd members. Most often, she presents the gigs as background acting work. This is only slightly misleading: Crowd members won’t bulk up their IMDB profile, but being part of a fake crowd is a kind of acting. In a world where everybody is constantly playing a part, staging moments to be broadcast later on social media, the line between counterfeit and authentic has become blurred. Is curating a version of yourself on Facebook any less fake than pretending to be a superfan of a life coach? Read more.


Flappy Bird Fakes

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hype

From Joe King: Flappy Bird game creator, Dong Nguyen, unceremoniously removed his hugely successful app from app stores, however, Graham Cluley reports: Criminals appear to be selling fake flappy bird games. This is probably a bigger threat to western civilization than NSA’s encroachments.

flappy-bird

Regardless, speculation abounds about why he removed the game from play.

  • ‘Flappy Bird’ creator cites ‘addiction’ for pulling game, USA Today
  • Then, there’s this from Jefferson Graham, also of USA Today:

    Watch the video:

    Ask The Fiddler #21: Ducking the Political Wrecking Ball

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    Filed under: Hype, Propaganda and Disinformation, Satire

    fiddler-75Editor’s Note: Ask The Fiddler is a lifestyle advice column that aims to remedy more chaos and confusion than it creates. Questions may be submitted to us here at Art of the Prank, and good luck.


    Dear Fiddler,

    Media vultures are trying to make a meal of my political career. What should I do?

    Chris in New Jersey

    Dear Chris,

    You are suffering from an attack of opposition research.

    nixon-virusOpposition researchers know that human behavior often involves patterns. Meaning, if you did it once, there are probably other instances. So, they are digging.

    You are in deep scat. As a former hard-charging anti-corruption prosecuting attorney who won convictions or guilty pleas from 130 public officials, you probably know that.

    Opposition research does far more damage than is generally reported, whether it takes the form of anonymous whispers or professionally prepared dossiers. Its dynamics usually only come to light through insider revelations. Why so? Because reporters don’t want to admit that their earth-shaking stories were the result not of their own brilliance but of spoon-fed, un-sourced tips.

    It used to be a shady, hush-hush, backroom activity that few admitted to. But today there are fancy firms devoted to opposition research, three-piece suits strutting down K Street with briefcases full of DUI reports and divorce records. For the amateur, there are handbooks and seminars led by private investigators.

    What the diggers are looking for, as you well know, is further examples of dirty tricks.

    (more…)

    Size Matters When it Comes to Squid

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    Filed under: Hype, Urban Legends

    How Big Is A Colossal Squid Really?
    by Dr. M
    October 22, 2013

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    Recently, Quarks to Quasar’s on Facebook published an illustration of how massive a Colossal Squid can reach. The Facebook post was liked by 3,300 people and shared 1,150 times (they have 351k followers). I am excited that the Colossal Squid is loved by this many people. One problem. The illustration is wrong. Really wrong. Although the Colossal Squid can reach, well, colossal proportions, the length of this big squid is grossly exaggerated in the above illustration. (more…)

    6 Famous Documentaries That Were Shockingly Full of Crap

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    Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hype, Illusion and Magic

    6 Famous Documentaries That Were Shockingly Full of Crap
    by Amanda Mannen
    Cracked.com
    August 12, 2013

    200154-425

    On some level, we all know that almost everything we see at the movies is bullshit, from the amount of bullets a person can take without dying to what the job of pizza delivery boy actually entails. Except documentaries. Documentaries are where we turn off the snark and open our minds to learn about distant lands, alarming realities, and how much McDonald’s a dude can eat.

    However, it turns out that some of the most acclaimed documentaries ever are about as real as Borat.

    Read the full story about Super Size Me, Waiting for “Superman”, Religulous, Searching for Sugar Man, Winged Migration & Nanook of the North!

    Ain’t We Cool? Delusional Advertising Campaigns

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    Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Hype

    Trying to Be Hip and Edgy, Ads Become Offensive
    by Stuart Elliott and Tanzina Vega
    New York Times
    May 10, 2013

    MntnDewAdSome of the biggest names in marketing, including Ford Motor, General Motors, Hyundai Motor, Reebok and PepsiCo, have been forced recently to apologize to consumers who mounted loud public outcries against ads that hinged on subjects like race, rape and suicide.

    PepsiCo found itself meeting this week with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the family of Emmet Till — the teenager whose death in Mississippi in 1955 helped energize the civil rights movement — to try to quell multiple controversies involving its Mountain Dew brand.

    “It’s like the Wild West,” said Paul Malmstrom, a founding partner of the New York office of the Mother ad agency.

    Advertising experts offer a long list of reasons for the increasing frequency of such incidents, but the primary reason they keep happening, they say, is the growing anxiety on Madison Avenue to create ads that will be noticed and break through the clutter. (more…)

    Tabloid Performance Art

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    Filed under: Hype

    10 Celebrities Branded “Performance Artists”
    Huffington Post
    June 24, 2011

    “Performance artist” has become a common slur against celebrities who thrive on tastelessness. There’s no way these people could be for real, the argument goes, so it must all be an elaborate ruse. But whether it’s from James Franco, who openly admits this act, or Joaquin Phoenix, who kept it going long enough to make a documentary about it, performance art is becoming a viable career option for established entertainers.

    It’s not just that these celebrities’ personas have infiltrated their lives. That’s gone on for decades, from The Beatles and Bob Dylan, who liked to manipulate and mock their interviewers, to Samuel L. Jackson, who became typecast for his enthusiastic use of profanity. But recently, with the likes of Snooki, Soulja Boy and, lest we forget, Sarah Palin, tabloid performance art has thrived. With the entertainment media’s hyper-short attention span, famous people who can continually make a spectacle of themselves can also usually make headlines. [Here’s a] slideshow… of ten celebrities who have been accused of performance art, with varying degrees of truth behind the allegations.


    Visit here for more…

    How to Unmask Shadowy Grassroots Groups

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    Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Hype, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

    Editor’s Note: The manipulative, deceitful and very effective tactics I have used over the past 40+ years as an artist, activist and culture jammer to shed light on institutional, corporate and media efforts to mislead the general public have now been fully co-opted by the organizations victimized by them. It’s interesting to see the pendulum swing. Kudos to Ann Landman for this insightful and very useful article aimed at unmasking corporate and political tricksterism that blatantly utilizes disinformation to sway public opinion. One hopes the general public becomes more aware and is willing to fight against this insidious hype, hypocrisy, propaganda, and disinformation. JS


    Attack of the Living Front Groups: PR Watch Offers Help to Unmask Corporate Tricksters
    by Anne Landman
    PRWatch.org / Center for Media and Democracy
    August 28, 2009

    zombies2-200Fake “grassroots” groups have started springing up like toadstools after a rain, and this time they’re coming at us from every angle: they’re on TV, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube: “Americans for Prosperity,” “FACES of Coal, “The “Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights,” “Americans Against Food Taxes,” the “60 Plus Association,” “Citizens for Better Medicare,” “Patients First” … It’s making our heads spin! Issues affecting some of the country’s biggest industries, like health insurance reform, a proposal to tax sodas and sugary drinks, and the FDA’s possible reconsideration of the plastic additive Bisphenol A, have boosted corporate astroturfing up to a dizzying pace. With all these corporate fronts coming out of the woodwork, how can citizens tell true grassroots organizations from corporate fronts operated by highly-paid PR and lobbying firms? Here are some tips to help readers spot this kind of big-business hanky-panky.

    What is a “front group,” really? (more…)

    When Advertising Bites

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    Filed under: Hype, Spin

    ‘Nightmarish’ Ad Created for WWF Shows Planes Converging on NYC
    1010WINS
    September 2, 2009

    New York — It’s enough to make New Yorkers who lived through the Sept. 11th terror attacks sick.

    1347144-425

    A print ad (above) purportedly for the World Wildlife Fund in Brazil featuring dozens of airplanes converging on lower Manhattan with the line “The 2004 Tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11.” The final line in the ad is “The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.” (more…)

    Astroturfing at the Supermarché

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    Filed under: Hype, Spin

    Supercherie au Supermarché
    schott.blogs.nytimes.com
    August 24, 2009

    “Hoax at the supermarket” – A French newspaper headline describing an “astroturfed” photo opportunity involving two government ministers.

    supermarche1-200The Times’s Steven Erlanger reported recently on a photo opportunity gone awry for France’s education minister, Luc Chatel, and commerce secretary, Hervé Novelli:

    Journalists accompanying Mr. Chatel and Hervé Novelli, the secretary of state for commerce, on a trip to an Intermarché supermarket in Villeneuve-le-Roi, southeast of Paris, became suspicious when the aisles were suddenly filled with well-dressed, articulate women eager to praise a government freeze on the price of some school supplies before the new school year began. …

    The radio station France Inter raised questions, and the newspaper Libération had a detailed article on Wednesday headlined, “Supercherie au Supermarché,” or “Hoax at the Supermarket.” It described how some of the women left the store together in a car after the minister left, without buying anything and leaving their school supplies in shopping baskets.

    According to Erlanger, the supermarket, Intermarché, released an apology following the visit, explaining that the supermarket’s management “took the initiative to invite a certain number of workers for the ministers’ visit,” and stating that the ministers were not involved in the astroturfing.

    photo: La-croix.com

    Old Delivery System for Nicotine

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    Filed under: Hype, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

    Tobacco Smoke Enemas (1750s – 1810s)

    Smoke-Enema-Kit-425

    The tobacco enema was used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient’s rectum for various medical purposes, primarily thte resuscitation of drowning victims. A rectal tube inserted into the anus was connected to a fumigator and bellows that forced the smoke towards the rectum. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration, but doubts about the credibility of tobacco enemas led to the popular phrase “blow smoke up one’s ass.” To learn more, click here.

    via tophattobacco.com, thanks Don

    Hypercommercialism and the Web

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    Filed under: Hype, Spin

    From Center for Media and Democracy / PRWatch.org:


    An Inescapable Web of Advertisements
    Source: New York Times, July 12, 2009:

    13blog.xlarge1-200The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “may soon require online media to comply with disclosure rules under its truth-in-advertising guidelines.” FTC assistant director Richard Cleland said, “Consumers have a right to know when they’re being pitched a product.” But the “hypercommercialism of the Web” may be “changing too quickly for consumers and regulators to keep up,” reports the New York Times.

    “Product placements are landing on so-called status updates on Facebook, companies are sponsoring messages on Twitter and bloggers are defining their own parameters of what constitutes independent work versus advertising.” Izea, the “online marketing company” that created PayPerPost in 2006 to match marketers with bloggers willing to promote products, is branching out. Not only does it have “25,000 active advertisers ranging from Sea World to small online retailers” and 265,000 bloggers, but it’s readying “a ‘Sponsored Tweets’ platform for Twitter users to blast promotional messages to their followers.” Giveaways to popular bloggers are often a part of such campaigns. Last year, Izea carried out a campaign for Kmart that gave “six popular bloggers known to be influencers” $500 gift cards “to shop at the discount chain.” The bloggers were “asked to write about their experiences,” and the campaign “generated 800 blog posts and 3,200 Twitter messages that reached 2.5 million people over 30 days,” according to Izea.

    George Harrison and His Autograph(s)

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    Filed under: Hype

    Submitted by W.J. Elvin III:

    Revealed:
    How George Harrison forged the Beatles’ signatures for a dying fan

    Daily Mail Online
    May 2, 2009

    George Harrison is believed to have forged all the signatures of the Beatles to make a dying fan’s wish come true.

    The report emerged after an autographed picture of the band was sold at Keys auctioneers in Aylsham, Norfolk on Friday.

    It was donated by Harry Bartlett, of Rickinghall, Suffolk, whose daughter Ann received the photograph shortly before her death in the late 1960s at the age of 16. Read the rest of the story here.

    harrisonautographs