The World of the Prank

The artist as social provocateur and activist incorporates humor, satire, irony, political commentary and/or direct action to provoke critical thinking. Pranks challenge convention and the status quo and expose prejudices and biases.

Blog Posts

Activism: Where the Action Is

by
Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News

The sprawling anti-Trump resistance movement has proven to be stronger, funnier, and more creative than any American countercultural force we’ve seen in decades.

As soon as the race was called, the backlash was inevitable. And, like ants at a picnic, the marketers were not far behind. The Guardian has a rundown on the new profits of rage.


“Sex Doesn’t Sell Anymore; Activism Does. And Don’t the Big Brands Know It.”
by Alex Holder
The Guardian
February 3, 2017

Three days ago I hadn’t heard of Lyft. Not until I was greeted on Monday morning by a right-on colleague demanding to know if I’d deleted my Uber app and replaced it with Lyft. On Saturday #deleteuber had been trending after many believed it had undermined a taxi strike at New York’s JFK airport protesting against Donald Trump’s immigration ban. By Sunday, with swift marketing prowess, Lyft’s CEO Logan Green tweeted that the company was donating $1m to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). Which led to Lyft’s downloads surpassing Ubers for the first time ever. They used to say sex sells; now, evidently, it’s activism.

Lyft wasn’t the only company flaunting good deeds this week. In reaction to Trump’s immigration ban, Starbucks CEO wrote an open letter to staff committing to hiring 10,000 refugees and Airbnb’s Brian Chesky tweeted that it was providing free accommodation to anyone not allowed in the US. Even Uber, presumably in a bid to outdo Lyft, created a $3m fund to help drivers affected by the “wrong and unjust” ban.

Companies are now attempting to outdo each other with major acts of generosity, but there’s a catch; they’ll do good as long as they can make sure their customers know about it. There is no room for humility when a brand does a good deed. They’re always Larry David and never the anonymous donor. (more…)

Trump’s Security Detail Unimpressed With Ballsy Golf Course Stunt

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

Noted British prankster Simon Brodkin hits Donald Trump where it hurts, and columnist Pat Kane reflects. (Feel free to share your own testicular puns through social media.)


“Why Serious Stuff Still Demands a Sense of Humour”
by Pat Kane
The National
February 4, 2017

So if you’re going to prank Donald Trump by chucking swastika-covered golfballs at him, as he opens one of his tremendous courses, you should do it at Trump Turnberry.

According to the comedian Simon Brodkin, whose stage name is Lee Nelson and who perpetrated said stunt last June, he was slumped in custody when a Scottish sergeant noted: “You’re that guy”.

“In that moment I realised I had an ally,” recalled Brodkin this week. “They loosened the cuffs so the blood went back to my fingers and asked if I wanted some Lucozade. Big love for the Scottish police.”

In next week’s Channel Four documentary Britain’s Greatest Hoaxer, Brodkin also relates that the Scottish police refused to let Trump’s secret service people interview him. Instead they sped him to the nearest airport and told him to “get the hell out of the country”.

As the furore rises around Trump’s potential state visit, the question of how modern dissent and protest is most effectively expressed comes to the fore. On this occasion, should it be a dignified boycott by political leaders (as all the Scottish political leaders did last June), and a protest action mutually agreed between activists and police? Or is Brodkin’s kind of hoax the best way to get an oppositional message under the plates of the Great Narcissist?

Watching the enthusiastic Brodkin’s preparations for his hoax – involving disguise, costume (a Trump Turnberry sweatshirt), bags hidden under hotel beds and the ludicrously easy detection of the Sunbed God’s itinerary – you imagine this kind of prank will never be achievable again.

The scene where his goons are scrabbling around the grass, filling red Trump caps with Nazi-balls, is inordinately pleasing. But no doubt the full apparatus – human and technological – of American and British national security will be sweeping and detecting every clump of cells that gets anywhere near the man-baby. Read more.


Jon Stewart: “Bullshit Only” Replaces “English Only” Movement

posted by
Filed under: Political Pranks, Satire

The bullshit is getting so deep, soon we’ll need to walk around on stilts.


Jon Stewart: President Donald Trump Is Making Bulls**t The Official U.S. Language, by Ed Mazza, Huffington Post, February 2, 2017

He also found what may be the one saving grace of the Trump presidency.

Watch the video…

Jon Stewart is back, and he wasted no time going after President Donald Trump.

Appearing on the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night, the former “Daily Show” host made some unusual wardrobe choices in honor of the new president.

“The president sets men’s fashion,” Stewart said. “I saw the inauguration, super-long tie, dead animal on head.”

So wearing a dead animal on his head — and a super-long tie — Stewart proceeded to read what he claimed were some upcoming executive orders. One of them was to make bullshit the official language of the United States.

“I, Donald J. Trump, have instructed my staff to speak only in bullshit,” Stewart read. “And by the way, none of that ‘Sure, I’ll speak bullshit at work but at home I’m going to use facts and real information.’ No! Bullshit all the time. Immersion: It’s the only way to be fluent.”

From Bright Bart News

posted by
Filed under: Satire

Bart Simpson reports on fake news…



WhatsApp Fuels India’s #FakeNews Fire

by
Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Media Literacy, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

India has a long history of politically motivated hoaxes and guerrilla propaganda. A popular messenger app has thrown it into overdrive.


“Viral WhatsApp Hoaxes Are India’s Own Fake News Crisis”
by Pranav Dixit
Buzzfeed News
January 19. 2017

The United States is currently experiencing a fake news crisis — bogus news articles disguised to look like real ones to mislead people, influence public opinion, and/or to simply use their massive reach to reap advertising profits. These operations are sophisticated, data-driven, and highly targeted. But in countries like India where internet penetration and literacy still lag far behind the US, misinformation tends to have a more grassroots quality. Twitter is a fertile ground for all kinds of rumormongering, but with just over 30 million users in the country, its impact is limited.

The primary vector for the spread of misinformation in India is WhatApp. The instant messenger is fast, free, and runs on nearly all of India’s 300 million smartphones. It’s also encrypted end-to-end, which means it’s nearly impossible to track what flows through it. Its real-world ramifications, nonetheless, can be brutal.

In November, WhatsApp rumors of a salt shortage sparked panic in at least four Indian states and caused stampedes outside grocery shops as people rushed to stock up. The government eventually debunked the rumours — but not before a woman died.

India’s misinformation problem predates the internet. In the early ‘90s, rabble-rousers in northern India trying to stir up tensions in Hindu and Muslim communities would mass-produce cassette recordings full of fake gunfire, screams, and chants of “Allah-ho-Akbar,” and then play them in car stereos at full volume in the dead of the night to incite communal violence. Read more.


An Obviously Fake Company Pretending To Pay Political Protestors is Invited to be Outted on Fox News

posted by
Filed under: Political Pranks

After fake news about this fake company’s anti-Trump activities is embraced and spread by right wing agitators, Tucker Carlson invites the head of the group, radical activist Dom Tullipso (not his real name), to appear live on Fox News. Carlson apparently thinks he’s going to dazzle (aka publicly embarrass) the guy with all the ways in which Fox TV knows he’s a fake.

Instead, the prankster, who is clearly trying to be as absurd as possible, keeping the interview going as long as he can, while switching from being anti-Trump to pro-Trump, ends up making Carlson look ridiculous for grandstanding against something so obviously silly.

BoingBoing, January 12, 2017:
Obviously fake “paid protester” site sets right wing media aflutter

VOX, , January 18, 2017:
A prankster tried to troll Fox News live on air. It’s the strangest thing you’ll see on cable news

Watch the video posted by someone who clearly has a political ax to grind:

Snopes, January 18, 2017:
Demand Protest placed several ads seeking paid protesters in January 2017, but the “company” was not a legitimate one

Thank you Lori Dorn & Josh Seftel


Has a Trump Inauguration COINTELPRO been Trumped?

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Activists sting James O’Keefe’s latest attempt at a 1960s FBI-style COINTELPRO.

COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.

This is an unfolding story that needs more verification, but…


Is Project Veritas Conducting Political Hit Jobs for Donald Trump?
Rightwing operative caught offering money to protesters to stage violent disruption of the Trump inauguration, part of a pattern of attacks orchestrated against progressives by James O’Keefe, in coordination with Breitbart News and with the support of Donald Trump.


Produced by Lauren Windsor and Peter James Callahan.

Learn more about this here: Counter-Sting Catches James O’Keefe Network Attempting To Sow Chaos At Trump’s Inauguration, by Ryan Grim, Huffington Post, January 9, 2017

and here:

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.
Project Veritas has been caught trying to pay liberal groups to break the law.

and…

A warning goes out to women attending the Women’s March on January 21, 2017

Creative Activism at the Library

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Media Literacy

Algorithms be damned! Power to the people! Library workers take the fate of automated inventory control into their own hands in a cheeky way.


Librarians Go Rogue In Devious Attempt To Save Books From Getting Tossed, Hilary Henson, Huffington Post, January 6, 2017

The scheme involves a fake patron named “Chuck,” who checked out thousands of books last year.

A Florida librarian has been fired after in connection with a scheme to create a fake patron to check out books.

Staff at the East Lake County Library say they were just trying to save books.

But one librarian has been fired in connection with a scheme involving the creation of a fake library patron who “checked out” more than 2,000 books over the last year, as first reported by the Orlando Sentinel. Read the rest of the article here.


Improv Everywhere: No Pants Subway 2017

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief

From Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:

On Sunday, January 8th, 2017 tens of thousands of people took off their pants on subways in over 60 cities in over 25 countries around the world. In New York, our 16th Annual No Pants Subway Ride took place in windy 22F degree weather and was spread out over seven meeting points and eleven subway lines. Thanks to everyone who participated all around the globe! Enjoy the video!

Getting Off to a Good Start with Hollyweed

posted by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Satire

Update January 5, 2016: Meet the Artist Behind the Cheeky Transformation of the Hollywood Sign


Hollywood sign altered to read “Hollyweed’ in apparent New Year’s Day prank
ABC7
by Leanne Suter and ABC7.com staff
January 1, 2017

HOLLYWOOD (KABC) — Hollywood residents awoke Sunday morning to find the iconic Hollywood sign had been altered to read “Hollyweed” in an apparent New Year’s Day prank.

The sign was vandalized about 3 a.m. by a male suspect who was recorded on surveillance video, said Lt. Guy Juneau of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Security Services Division.

Dressed in all black, the unidentified vandal scaled Mount Lee, made his way over a fence and then climbed onto each of the landmark’s “O” letters, the lieutenant said. He then draped those letters with black tarps so they each appeared as a lowercase “e.”

Read the whole story here.

Thanks Andrea!

Improv Everywhere: Random Parade Leader

posted by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

From Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:


Random Parade Leader Wanted

Improv Everywhere: Random Parade

For our latest mission, a woman in a marching band uniform stands on the sidewalk with a sign that reads “Parade Leader Wanted.” When a stranger agrees to help out, a huge parade led by a marching band emerges from around the corner and follows him wherever he goes. The band plays “Jingle Bells” and is followed by a cast of characters that includes two yetis, Frosty the Snowman, and two guys holding giant flags that read “Random Parade.”

This mission was made possible by Caring Crowd, a crowd-funding platform where people come together to fund global health projects.

Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our mission report and photos.

Joey Skaggs on Fake News (and he should know)

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

A master of fake news speaks. Published earlier today in Huffington Post, Joey muses on media literacy and the need for vigilant skepticism.


Fake News: The Relentless Pursuit of Mind Control
by Joey Skaggs
Huffington Post
November 29, 2016

Jojo, King of the New York Gypsies (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), protesting to rename the Gypsy Moth in 1982


Jojo, King of the New York Gypsies (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), protesting to rename the Gypsy Moth in 1982

The news media is all a-flutter with headlines about the rise and proliferation of fake news media: “Did Russia Install Donald Trump As the Next U.S. President?” “It’s About To Get Worse!” “Living in a Media Bubble” “Can American Democracy Survive?” Excuse me? Wait a minute…

Propaganda and disinformation have been an integral part of our daily dose of information forever. In essence, everywhere you look, whether it’s the allegedly trustworthy mainstream media or the not-so-trustworthy social media alt-right or left-trending news stories, someone is always peddling influence.

It wasn’t just the Russians who supposedly engaged in influencing election results by hacking emails and proliferating fake news that damaged the Democrats’ pursuit of the White House. Americans can’t play the innocent victims here. We’re all using the same propaganda techniques. Now, because of warp-speed Internet and social media delivery systems, we have a perpetual game of Propaganda Pong, and the onslaught is much more ruthless and, at the same time, highly profitable financially.

That’s what life is like these days. You’re either the provider or the recipient—or more likely both—of propaganda and disinformation.

Read the whole article here.


Cards Against Humanity Digs a Black Friday Hole

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

The team at Cards Against Humanity has a history of irreverent Black Friday stunts – we chatted with spokesman Max Temkin about the “Box of Bullshit” in 2014. 2016’s celebration involved a lot of money, a large hole, and that was pretty much it.


“Cards Against Humanity Threw $100,000 Into a Giant Hole Over Thanksgiving Weekend”
by Ed Mazza
The Huffington Post
November 28, 2016

583bdd691a00002500cc9fc0

Cards Against Humanity offered its own Black Friday special: Send them money, and they’ll use it to dig a hole.

“The holidays are here, and everything in America is going really well,” the company wrote on its Holiday Hole website. “To celebrate Black Friday, Cards Against Humanity is digging a tremendous hole in the earth.”

The website featured a live camera of the hole being dug as a ticker listed the donations as they came in, telethon-style.

The company raised just over $100,000, which was enough to keep the digging operation going until Sunday morning ― and from the videos posted online, it looks like they dug themselves quite a hole:

The FAQ on the website offers the company’s trademark humor:

Why aren’t you giving all this money to charity?
Why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.

Is the hole bad for the environment?
No, this was just a bunch of empty land. Now there’s a hole there. That’s life.

How am I supposed to feel about this?
You’re supposed to think it’s funny. You might not get it for a while, but some time next year you’ll chuckle quietly to yourself and remember all this business about the hole.

Cards Against Humanity is known for going against the flow on Black Friday.

Last year, they sold nothing at all ― for $5 a pop ― and earned more than $70,000. The year before that, they sold poop.


Did Fake News Skew the Presidential Election?

by
Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Prank News, Pranksters

Among the myriad of influences on the presidential election results, a prominent and pervasive force has been fake news, propagated by unscrupulous merchants seeking traffic via social media. Here’s a quasi-confession of one such voice.

Here also, from NYMag.com is “An Extremely Helpful List of Fake and Misleading News Sites to Watch Out For“.


Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’
by Caitlin Dewey
Washington Post
November 17, 2016

imrs-sm

What do the Amish lobby, gay wedding vans and the ban of the national anthem have in common? For starters, they’re all make-believe — and invented by the same man.

Paul Horner, the 38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire, has made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years. He has twice convinced the Internet that he’s British graffiti artist Banksy; he also published the very viral, very fake news of a Yelp vs. “South Park” lawsuit last year.

But in recent months, Horner has found the fake-news ecosystem growing more crowded, more political and vastly more influential: In March, Donald Trump’s son Eric and his then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, even tweeted links to one of Horner’s faux-articles. His stories have also appeared as news on Google.

In light of concerns that stories like Horner’s may have affected the presidential election, and in the wake of announcements that both Google and Facebook would take action against deceptive outlets, Intersect called Horner to discuss his perspective on fake news. This transcript has been edited for clarity, length and — ahem — bad language. ” target=”_blank”>Read more

Improv Everywhere: Declare Your Love

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters

From Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:


Declare Your Love

share_the_love

For our latest mission, we constructed a custom wooden lectern with a megaphone holster and an attached sign that read, “Declare Your Love.” The lectern was placed at the corner of 6th Avenue and 42nd Street at the entrance to Bryant Park and then left alone. We wanted to see what would happen if New Yorkers were given the opportunity to amplify their voices and declare their love.

Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our mission report and photos.

More from Improv Everywhere: