The New Pranksters
by Ellen Gamerman
Wall Street Journal
September 12, 2008
Across the country, young people are joining campaigns that are drawing thousands of followers inspired by a common purpose.
They’re not handing out leaflets at rallies for Barack Obama or John McCain. Instead, they’re posing like statues in public squares, dropping their pants in train stations and bursting into song in malls.
Cities are being swept up in a wave of inane pranks. On a recent weekend, “zombies” smeared with fake blood idly roamed the streets in downtown San Francisco. That same weekend, a crowd of people in New York’s Union Square danced to music that no one else could hear; and in Berkeley, Calif., jokesters in white, flowing robes handed out pamphlets at a farmer’s market, touting the benefits of joining a cult. (Reason No. 5: “A great excuse not to talk to your birth family anymore.”)
Pranksters say the random events are meant to jolt strangers out of their routines, shake up the monotony of urban life and create mildly awkward moments that play well on YouTube. Organized almost entirely online, the stunts also create a real-life sense of community among participants, many of whom are young people who spend their days in less-than-exciting office jobs.
“We’re finding ourselves more and more disconnected,” says Ari Lerner, a 24-year-old software engineer in Los Angeles who helps run a prankster group called GuerilLA. “We all sit at our computers and we forget there’s a sun outside. It’s a reaction to that.” (more…)