Propaganda and Disinformation

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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.

The Best Trick Wins the War

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Illusion and Magic, Political Pranks, Prank News, Propaganda and Disinformation, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

Infaltable decoys come of age with military sleight of hand. [Thanks Peter M.]


“A New Weapon In Russia’s Arsenal – And It’s Inflatable”
by Andrew E. Kramer
October 12, 2016
The New York Times

russianmilitarydecoysDeep in the Russian countryside, the grass sways in a late-summer breeze. In the distance, the sun glistens off the golden spires of a village church. It is, to all appearances, a typically Russian scene of imperturbable rural tranquillity.

Until a sleek MIG-31 fighter jet suddenly appears in a field, its muscular, stubby wings spreading to reveal their trademark red star insignia. A few moments later, a missile launcher pops up beside it.

Cars on a nearby road pull over, the drivers gaping in amazement at what appear to be fearsome weapons, encountered so unexpectedly in this serene spot. And then, as quickly as they appeared, the jet and missile launcher vanish.

“If you study the major battles of history, you see that trickery wins every time,” Aleksei A. Komarov, the military engineer in charge of this sleight of hand, said with a sly smile. “Nobody ever wins honestly.” Read more.


An Internet Writer Breaks Up With Her Boyfriend Over Trump… You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation

The ferocious and funny Anna Merlan takes an impressively deep dive into the made-up career of Rachel Brewson, the JT LeRoy of womens-interest clickbait.


“The Team of Men Behind Rachel Brewston, the Fake Woman Whose Trump-Fueled Breakup Went Viral”
by Anna Merlan
Jezebel
October 4, 2016

aotp_brewsonIn December 2015, readers at women’s site xoJane were enthralled and filled with all-caps rage by Rachel Brewson, a self-described “giant liberal” who boldly declared her love for a Republican named Todd. She described, in rapturous terms, how the couple’s political disagreements fueled an ecstatic third-date bipartisan fuck-fest that soon flowered into a real relationship.

Mid-date, they got into a “heated debate” about politics, Brewson wrote. They fought from wherever the date took place (she didn’t say), into the street, and into a cab. The discussion ended when Todd—who, as it turned out, was a gun-loving, Iraq-war-supporting libertarian—manfully invited himself up to her apartment.

“What followed was the best sex of my life up to that point,” Brewson wrote, whose author bio said she was a “dating editor” at a site called Review Weekly. “Somehow the political tension between us had transformed into sexual tension. I was hooked.”

The post was a modest success—it was shared just under 3,000 times on social media, and racked up 1,000 comments on xoJane itself (whose editor-in-chief is Jane Pratt of Sassy fame. The site was purchased by Time. Inc last fall). Many of those comments complained about Rachel’s privileged white-woman version of liberalism, which allowed her to ignore “petty differences”—her term—between her and Todd on issues like immigration.

“He flashed some money your way and you’re ready to label things like rape culture and systematic racism as ‘petty differences,’” one commenter fumed. “You aren’t as liberal as you want to believe you are.”

Three months later, the fairytale was over. (more…)

Fake Newspaper Endorses Reality TV Politician

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump may have his “personal Pravda,” but everyone from The New York Times to the Arizona Republic has endorsed his opponent, and the media at large have taken the gloves off with him. The real estate developer hasn’t gotten any extra love from the fourth estate in the wake of his rough debate performance on Monday. He’ll be happy to know that the Baltimore Gazette has his back.


“Trump Gets Big Boost From Fake Newspaper”
by Jason Linkins
Huffington Post
September 27, 2016

aotp_baltimoregazetteBig media news for Hillary Clinton Tuesday night as the Arizona Republic ― which had never in its history endorsed a Democrat for president ― has thrown its endorsement to the former secretary of state, citing her lifetime of never coming across like an impulsive man-baby: “The president commands our nuclear arsenal. Trump can’t command his own rhetoric.”

But not so fast! Donald Trump has a media coup of his own to brag about. Seems that some eagle-eyed investigative reporters at the Baltimore Gazette have brought home a dilly of a scoop: “Multiple reports and leaked information from inside the Clinton camp claim that the Clinton campaign was given the entire set of debate questions an entire week before the actual debate.”

Trumpet sting!

Earlier last week an NBC intern was seen hand delivering a package to Clinton’s campaign headquarters, according to sources. The package was not given to secretarial staff, as would normally happen, but the intern was instead ushered into the personal office of Clinton campaign manager Robert Mook. Members of the Clinton press corps from several media organizations were in attendance at the time, and a reporter from Fox News recognized the intern, but said he was initially confused because the NBC intern was dressed like a Fed Ex employee.

That’s some serious shoe-leather! Unfortunately there was un problema. Read more.

Uncle Sam’s Imaginary Pen Pal

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation, The History of Pranks

Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog examines the canon of opinion writer Guy Sims Fitch, a prolific non-existent writer for the United States Information Agency.


“Meet Guy Sims Fitch, a Fake Writer Invented by the United States Government”
by Matt Novak
September 27, 2016
Paleofuture

aotp_guysimsfitchGuy Sims Fitch had a lot to say about the world economy in the 1950s and 60s. He wrote articles in newspapers around the globe as an authoritative voice on economic issues during the Cold War. Fitch was a big believer in private American investment and advocated for it as a liberating force internationally. But no matter what you thought of Guy Sims Fitch’s ideas, he had one big problem. He didn’t exist.

Guy Sims Fitch was created by the United States Information Agency (USIA), America’s official news distribution service for the rest of the world. Today, people find the term “propaganda” to be incredibly loaded and even negative. But employees of the USIA used the term freely and proudly in the 1950s and 60s, believing that they were fighting a noble and just cause against the Soviet Union and the spread of Communism. And Guy Sims Fitch was just one tool in the diverse toolbox of the USIA propaganda machine.

“I don’t mind being called a propagandist, so long as that propaganda is based on the truth,” said Edward R. Murrow in 1962. Murrow took a job as head of the USIA after a long and celebrated career as a journalist, and did quite a few things during his tenure that would make modern journalists who romanticize “the good old days” blush.

But even when USIA peddled its own version of the truth, the propaganda agency wasn’t always using the most, let’s say, truthful of methods. Their use of Guy Sims Fitch—a fake person whose opinions would be printed in countries like Brazil, Germany, and Australia, among others—served the cause of America’s version of the truth against Communism during the Cold War, even if Fitch’s very existence was a lie.

Read more.

Can Snopes Keep Up with the BS?

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation, Urban Legends

Our friends Barbara and David Mikkelson have been separating facts from fakes since 1995, when the internet looked like it might be a fad. Their immensely popular and credible argument-settling website Snopes.com has held steady against a rising tide of digital lies. But in the era of Reddit, Twitter, and Trump, David admits that he sometimes feels a tad overwhelmed.


“Can mythbusters like Snopes.com keep up in a post-truth era?”
by Rory Carroll
The Guardian
August 1, 2016

davidmikkelsonThe most scenic way to find truth on the internet is to drive north of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast Highway, blue ocean foaming to the left, sunlit hills cresting to the right, until Malibu Canyon Road, where you take a sharp right and wind for a few miles through the oak-lined knolls and dips of Calabasas, past gated estates that are home to the likes of Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Mel Gibson, and keep going until you reach an odd-looking wood-and-brick house with a US flag on the porch: the home of David Mikkelson.

It feels like a good jumping off point for a hike, or a pony trek. But really it is the ideal place to explore fibs like whether Hillary Clinton stole $200,000 in White House furnishings, or whether Donald Trump called Republicans the “dumbest group of voters”, or whether Black Lives Matter protesters chanted for dead cops, or whether Nicolas Cage died in a motorcycle accident, or whether chewing gum takes seven years to pass through the digestive system, or whether hair grows back thicker after being shaved, or, if you really, really must know, whether Richard Gere had an emergency “gerbilectomy” at Cedars-Sinai hospital.

Mikkelson owns and runs Snopes.com, a hugely popular fact-checking site which debunks urban legends, old wives’ tales, fake news, shoddy journalism and political spin. It started as a hobby in the internet’s Pleistocene epoch two decades ago and evolved into a professional site that millions now rely on as a lie-detector. Every day its team of writers and editors interrogate claims ricocheting around the internet to determine if they are false, true or somewhere in the middle – a cleaning of the Augean stables for the digital era.

“There are more and more people piling on to the internet and the number of entities pumping out material keeps growing,” says Mikkelson, who turns out to be a wry, soft-spoken sleuth. “I’m not sure I’d call it a post-truth age but … there’s been an opening of the sluice-gate and everything is pouring through. The bilge keeps coming faster than you can pump.” Read more.


James O’Keefe’s Phone Prank Fail (and the Rise of the Professional Political Pranksters)

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation

Starting with an astounding botched sting operation from James “ACORN Pimp” O’Keefe and his team Project Veritas, The New Yorker goes in depth exploring the status of American political dirty tricks in a particularly nasty and absurd election year.


“Sting of Myself”
by Jane Meyer
The New Yorker
May 30, 2016

As Dana Geraghty recalls it, March 16th was a “rather quiet Wednesday.” That afternoon, she was in her cubicle at the Open Society Foundations, on West Fifty-seventh Street, where she helps oversee the nonprofit group’s pro-democracy programs in Eurasia. The Foundations are the philanthropic creation of George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire, who is a prominent donor to liberal causes, including Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid. Soros, who has spent nineteen million dollars on the 2016 Presidential campaign, is regarded with suspicion by many conservatives. National Review has suggested that he may be fomenting protests against Donald Trump by secretly funding what it called a “rent-a-mob.”

Geraghty, who is twenty-eight, had programmed her office phone to forward messages from unfamiliar callers to her e-mail inbox. She was about to review several messages when she noticed that one of them was extraordinarily long. “Who leaves a seven-minute voice mail?” Geraghty asked herself. She clicked on it.

AOTP_OKeefe“Hey, Dana,” a voice began. The caller sounded to her like an older American male. “My name is, uh, Victor Kesh. I’m a Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation . . . that would like to get involved with you and aid what you do in fighting for, um, European values.” He asked Geraghty for the name of someone he could talk to “about supporting you guys and coördinating with you on some of your efforts.” Requesting a callback, he left a phone number with a 914 area code—Westchester County.

She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything . . . before I hang up the phone.”

“That piqued my interest,” Geraghty recalls. Other aspects of the message puzzled her: “Who says they’re with a foundation without saying which one? He sounded scattered. And usually people call to get funding, not to offer it.” Victor Kesh, she suspected, was “someone passing as someone else.”

She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities. Soros, he assured the others, has “thousands of organizations” on the left in league with him. Kesh said that the name of his project was Discover the Networks. Read more.


When Dogs Ruled the World

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Filed under: Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

The Hypocrisy of Democracy (or When the Glue Comes Undone)
by Joey Skaggs

As an artist, satirist and activist, I am very fortunate that I live in America. My freedom is never taken for granted and I cherish my rights to criticize the misuse of power. I’m well aware of what happens to people who live in other countries where there is no tolerance for dissent. Not that this is a perfect country… If it were, I would be out of a career!

I read an article by Andrew Sullivan called “Democracies end when they are too democratic”, published May 1, 2016 in New York Magazine and I think it’s worth sharing. The messages are vital to our democracy.

democraciesend

This article led me to want to share a short story I like to tell every time there’s an election. This was told to me by Lew Jain, an old cowboy who lived in Northern Idaho. I met him in 1965, when I spent a summer painting landscapes near Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago–way before people existed–the world was populated only by dogs. It was very difficult being a dog, because all they did was fight amongst themselves. Consequently, there were homeless dogs; hungry dogs; sick, suffering and dying dogs. Big dogs picked on little dogs. Little dogs picked on littler dogs. It was, in essence, a dog-eat-dog world.

So, after what seemed like an eternity of turmoil, the dogs gradually realized they better do something to change their world. They decided to have a Bow Wow and put an end to their problems by electing a leader. One dog barked, “I think we should elect for our leader the French Poodle, the smartest dog!” A French Poodle seconded the motion, but another dog yipped, “Wait! Just because the French Poodle is a smart dog, he’s not a tough dog. He’s not as tough as the Doberman or the Pit Bull or the German Shepherd. I say we should elect the German Shepherd as our leader.” “Woof woof,” barked a German Shepherd, seconding the motion. “Grrrrr,” said another dog. “Just because the German Shepherd is a tough dog, he’s not as fast as the Whippet or the Saluki or the Greyhound. I say we should elect the Greyhound, the fastest dog, as our leader.” “Bow wow!” said a Greyhound seconding the motion.

“You gotta be kidding me,” howled another dog, “Just because the Greyhound is the fastest dog, he can’t pull the sled like the Huskey.” “Wait,” said another dog, “He can’t swim like the Labrador, he can’t smell like the Bloodhound, or do tricks like the Border Collie.” And the vicious fighting started all over again.

It seemed none of them could ever agree about who should be their leader. Finally, one little mutt, with a long wet nose, floppy ears and a bushy tail said, “Wait! I know who should be our leader!” All the dogs stopped their fighting, raised their ears and wagged their tails, looking at him as he proclaimed, “We should elect the dog whose asshole smells the sweetest!”

All the dogs barked in agreement and began sniffing each other’s butts, looking for their leader. This tradition continues to this day, which is why dogs sniff butts. They are still looking for the asshole that smells the sweetest. And this explains how I’ve always felt about politics.

NOTE: This story is also available here on Huffington Post.


RT News Report: What If We Make a Video and Show ‘Em How Everything Really Works Around Here?

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Filed under: Political Pranks, Prank News, Propaganda and Disinformation, Satire, Spin

The highly controversial Russian news network RT (f/k/a and a/k/a Russia Today) pokes a little fun on its own ruble. Clever, but all propaganda none-the-less… as always.

RT exposed in leaked video:
Watch how evil ‘Kremlin propaganda bullhorn’ REALLY works

Let’s Bomb Agrabah!

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Creative Activism, Media Literacy, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

A significant portion of the American voting public, particularly from the Republican ranks and particularly among Donald Trump fans, are at least somewhat in favor of bombing Agrabah.


“People Want to Bomb the Fictional Kingdom in Aladdin, But Don’t Panic Yet”
By Ariel Edwards-Levy and Natasha Jackson
Huffington Post
December 18, 2015

jafarvsaladdin“Americans are deeply divided over whether to bomb the kingdom of Agrabah, according to a new poll, with Republicans more likely to be in favor and Democrats tending to be opposed.

But here’s the problem: “Agrabah” happens to be the fictional home of Aladdin.

Public Policy Polling, a prominent Democratic-leaning polling firm, included the question in its most recent national poll. (Let’s not forget that this is the same firm that listed “Deez Nuts” as a candidate on a North Carolina poll.)

Over half of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans answered the Agrabah question. Thirty percent of Republican primary voters were in favor of bombing the fictional location, while 13 percent were opposed. Among Democrats, 19 percent were in favor and 36 percent were opposed. (more…)

The Big Lie Continues…

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation

It’s clear that if you say anything loud enough and often enough, people who want to believe you will believe you… whether or not it’s true. The Big Lie propaganda technique is a tried and true tactic. Planned Parenthood is only one of its recent victims. As the election season heats up, finding any truth anywhere will be almost impossible.


Republicans Are Legislating Based On Fake Videos. Should Someone Tell Them?
by Laura Bassett
Huffington Post
September 18, 2015

The House passed a pair of bills related to Planned Parenthood funding and “abortion survivors” on Friday.

woman in supermarketWASHINGTON — In the second GOP presidential debate Wednesday night, candidate Carly Fiorina passionately described a graphic scene from an undercover video of Planned Parenthood in which a fetus that survived an abortion waits, its “heart beating” and “legs kicking,” for a technician to harvest its brain. On Friday, House Republicans passed a pair of bills inspired by the same videos: One measure would defund Planned Parenthood and another would protect “abortion survivors.”

The problem is, the videos are so heavily edited that they bear little resemblance to reality, and the scene Fiorina described doesn’t exist.

She was most likely referring to the video in which Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement technician for a biomedical company, talks about having seen a fully formed aborted fetus, with its heart still beating, in a pathology lab. The video doesn’t show any footage from the scene, but instead shows a graphic image of someone holding a small fetus in their hands. That image is not an aborted fetus, as the video suggests. Rather, it was taken from the blog of a woman named Alexis Fretz, who miscarried at 19 weeks and posted images of her still-born baby online. (more…)

Non-profit that entrapped Planned Parenthood in supposed “fetus selling” scandal is not what it purports to be

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Filed under: Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Update, August 1, 2015: A Los Angeles judge has placed a temporary injunction on the Center for Medical Progress, stopping them from issuing any further anti-Planned Parenthood videos they may have illegally obtained using fake IDs.


CMP logoHuffington Post states that the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group behind the sting that has discredited Planned Parenthood by publishing a video about the organization selling fetal parts, is a sham non-profit. The Center, in turn, created a “shell” group called Biomax, calling it a “fetal tissue procurement company,” to entrap a Planned Parenthood executive into speaking casually over a meal with wine about procedures for shipping fetuses to laboratories for research.

The final video was edited to make it appear that Planned Parenthood sells fetuses from abortions, when in actuality, at the request of some women, they donate the fetuses for research. Reimbursements are to cover the cost of transportation. None of this is illegal. According to Slate.com, there appears to be a link between the head of the group David Daleiden and James O’Keefe, known for creating similar dishonest and inflamatory videos in support of hot right wing political issues.

Here’s the video in question. Watch carefully. Look for the numerous camera angles, as there are at least 2 if not 3 concealed cameras. And listen to the dialog to see how easy it is to take what someone says out of context, turning it into a story about something totally different.

Read more about this here:

  • Slate.com: What Is the Center for Medical Progress, the Group Behind the Latest Viral Abortion Video?
  • Huffington Post: Group Behind Planned Parenthood Sting Video May Have Tricked IRS, Donors

  • The Credibility Crisis: Who do you believe? Me or your lying eyes?

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    Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation

    A must-read recommendation from Joey Skaggs: Don’t miss Adrian Chen’s article, The Agency, in The New York Times, June 2, 2015


    Wag the Dog, online and updated
    David Strom’s Web Informant
    June 3, 2015

    In one of my favorite movies, Wag the Dog, we declare a fictional war on Albania in an attempt to manipulate a presidential election. While the movie (which was made 18 years ago) posits a ridiculous scenario, it is coming of age in today’s era of ubiquitous Internet and inexpensive video editing and social media aggregation tools.

    MV5BMjA4OTQzODE1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDIyMjY0NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_-300x201According to Adrian Chen’s article in the New York Times, a secretive Russian agency has been fabricating various events for both American and Russian audiences using very similar “Wag the Dog” scenarios. Chen finds You Tube videos, fake Twitter accounts by the truckload, and phony websites and other postings that seem to all come from this agency. The effort is so realistic that many people are fooled into thinking its fabricated disasters, conflicts, and other newsworthy events are real, rather than the work of some clever and dedicated troll army. (more…)

    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

    JamesO'Keefe-425

    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.

    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…)