Fact or Fiction?

A look at conspiracy theories, “official truths”, political spin, propaganda, tall tales, urban legends, magic, and illusion, all as they relate to the Art of the Prank. When truth intersects with a personal agenda, established facts are challenged, or human gullibility is preyed upon for ulterior motives, we hope that skepticism, logic, reason, and facts have a balancing effect.

Blog Posts

Political Hacktivism, Iran Style

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges

Iran Is Using a Neocon to Hack Its Foes
Daily Beast
by Eli Lake
May 29, 2014

John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador under George W. Bush, is playing an unexpectedly prominent role in an Iranian cyberspying campaign.


In Iran’s intelligence war against America, the regime has a new weapon: “John R. Bolton.”

No, Iran has not turned President Bush’s former ambassador to the United Nations into a sleeper agent. Instead, hackers believed to be connected to the Tehran government are posing as Bolton on social media platforms in a scheme to get human rights activists and national security wonks to hand over their passwords and user names.

Read more 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
Aug. 1, 2013


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?

Inside James O’Keefe’s Latest Hollywood Hit Job

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Inside a Hollywood Hit Job: How Sting Artist James O’Keefe Tried to Set His Latest Trap – And Got Stung Himself
U.S. News
May 22, 2014


On Wednesday, conservative activist and controversial video sting artist James O’Keefe made an appearance in Cannes during the Film Festival with a new, secretly recorded 20-minute video that he said exposes the hypocrisy of two environmentalist documentarians and two Hollywood actors. At the end of the clip, after Josh and Rebecca Tickell, Mariel Hemingway, and Ed Begley Jr. appear to have unwittingly agreed to accept financing for an anti-fracking film from Middle East oil interests, O’Keefe claims he’s caught other allegedly altruistic actors and filmmakers in his trap, teasing a clip of a phone conversation with filmmaker Josh Fox.

But this time, O’Keefe wasn’t the only one making secret recordings.

Read the rest of the story here.

Just Walking the… Cabbage

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, You Decide

From Jon:

Report: Walking Cabbage Trend Combats Loneliness
May 2, 2014

A report this week claims that Chinese teenagers are leashing cabbages and taking them for walks with hopes of relieving depression and feelings of isolation…


…One teenager explained the trend to Metro, “I feel I can transfer my negative thoughts about myself to the cabbage, go for a walk with it and come home feeling better about myself…In fact afterwards, I can throw the cabbage away and feel that I have tossed my feelings out with it.”

Read the full article here.

Danish Parliament’s Message: Vote or Else! [English & Danish]

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

This cartoon was intended to encourage young people to vote in the European elections and was published on the Danish Parliament’s YouTube channel.


In it, a superhero called Voteman finds himself in bed with a group of women before jetting off on a pair of dolphin waterskis to punch and kick non-voters all the way to the polling station. The video was withdrawn the day after its launch after a barrage of criticism…

Watch the video:

Magical Skateboard

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Media Pranks, Pranksters

From Andrea:

From the HUVrTech website:

What began as a summer project in 2010 at the MIT Physics Graduate Program has evolved into one of the most exciting independent products to be developed out of MIT since the high-powered lithium-ion batteries developed by Yet-Ming Chiang in 2001. Our team consists of materials science, electricity & magnetism experts who’ve solved an important part of one of science’s mysteries: the key to antigravity.

The HUVr Board team ultimately aims to improve the efficiency, speed and sustainability of mass transportation. Yet rather than spend several more years closed off from the world while investing in research and development, the team and our world-class investors have worked to change the economics R&D by marketing this exciting consumer product in order to fund ongoing R&D.

Watch the video

Read more here

Facebook Fraud

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception

From Emanuele: Veritasium takes a break from his wonderful science videos to dig into the realities of Facebook “likes.” Finally, someone provides insight into ever declining user engagement with Facebook. Is this the somber sound of a social network death knell?

Watch the video:

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.


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 #22: Costly Cures for Imaginary Illnesses

    Filed under: Fraud and Deception, 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,

    I have a headache that starts in my toes, I’m allergic to my allergy meds, and my boomerang won’t come back. What remedy do you suggest?

    Barry in D.C.

    Dear Barry,

    Obviously you need a hearty dose of that legendary scourge of internal corruption, Dr. Fiddler’s Electro-Cleanse Elixir, completely recyclable and manufactured under strict sanitary conditions when circumstances permit, available at the side door at the conclusion of this essay. Two dollars for the bottle.

    stethescopeOn the other hand, you could undoubtedly improve your condition if you would quit watching TV medical ads and cease asking the Internet for a diagnosis.

    Those ads and questionable posts can be hazardous to your health. Experts say “exposure to advertising that sells a fantasy of flawless health, perfect skin, clockwork bowels, extended youth and perpetual cheerfulness in the face of disappointment, aging, money woes” … “can create expectations and perceived needs that lead to unnecessary and expensive drug consumption.”

    Of course the drug companies argue that their ads are educational. The U.S. and New Zealand are the only countries where drug companies can advertise directly to consumers. It is estimated that every ad dollar spent by Big Pharma yields a four dollar boost in sales of prescription drugs. (more…)

    Fiddle File #10

    Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Prank Busters, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

    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.

    The Fiddle File #10

    Here we go with another madcap roundup of hoaxes, scams and damn fool idiocy making the rounds these days. Take heed. Some of these fiddles may soon be showing up on your computer, phone or even up close and personal. Check it out:

    Kentucky & Etc: Take it off? You got a gig serving burgers and fries. Now the restaurant manager is ordering you to submit to a strip-search. Here’s the history of a very bizarre hoax, pulled time and again.

    FaceBook: What makes you click? Here are some hoax headlines that have steered the curious into a marketing scam: Huge plane crashes into bridge? – Terrible roller coaster accident! – 99% Can’t Watch More Than 15 Seconds – Half Girl Half Snake! – Terrible accident with pencil! – HUGE pimple explodes – Shark eats living man! – Spider lives under skin!


    FaceBook, email: Here’s another example of the “What makes you click?” hoax. (more…)

    Ask The Fiddler #21: Ducking the Political Wrecking Ball

    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.


    On Squaids and Squids

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    Filed under: Urban Legends

    David Emery investigates urban legends, hoaxes, rumors, and all manner of codswallop for About.com. Hears a taste of this week’s fodder. For more, check out About.com Urban Legends:

    Internet Prank Causes ‘SQUAIDS’ Panic in NJ Township


    The Ocean County Health Department issued a press release yesterday responding to “numerous calls and emails” about an online report claiming that the squirrel population of Lacey Township, New Jersey is infected with a communicable disease called “SQUAIDS.” Read more…

    Giant Squid Found in California?


    Viral article claims a 160-foot-long giant squid was found washed up on a California beach and is believed to have originated from waters near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. Read more…

    U.S. Run by Alien Nazis Since Eisenhower’s Time. Sounds About Right.

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    Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, You Decide

    From Joe King:

    y_nutsNick Farrell writes for Fudzilla.com in Iranians buy into web hoax that the Fars News Agency, Iran’s “semi-official news agency” ran a story, in all seriousness, that the U.S. has been run by Nazi aliens since Dwight Eisenhower’s era in the 1950s. The information reportedly comes from Edward Snowden’s documents. Believe this story at your own peril. Read the full story here.

    John Gray on the Power of Unknown Knowns

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    Filed under: The Big One

    From Joe King: We can proceed blithely into the chaos of war or financial ruin provided we ignore obvious truths…


    John Gray, a political philosopher and author of False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, explores “facts that we prefer to forget” on BBC News’ A Point of View.

    Satanists Demand Equal Rights at Oklahoma State Capitol

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, The Big One

    From IBTimes.co.uk:

    A group of Satanists who hope to build a statue of the devil next to a monument of the Ten Commandments by Oklahoma’s Capitol building have unveiled their proposed design.


    The Satanic Temple, a New York-based organisation who describe themselves as “the most active satanic organisation in the world”, applied for a permit to erect a monument of Satan next to the Ten Commandments memorial.

    Read the rest of this article here.

    Watch the video from the group’s Indiegogo fund raising site, where, with 10 days to go, they’re already 10% above their goal.