Creative Activism

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White House Email Prankster In His Own Words

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, How to Pull Off a Prank, Instructionals, Political Pranks, Pranksters

Here’s a playful and illuminating interview with the anonymous prankster who humiliated Donald Trump’s powerful son-in-law Jared Kushner and ex-Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci with duplicitous emails. It touches on the literary merits of email pranks, the repercussions of sending them, and pointers for engaging recipients in high places.


“How to Prank the Rich and Powerful Without Really Trying”
by Adrianne Jeffries
The Outline
August 4, 2017

On Tuesday, a bright spot appeared in this dark, cruel world when CNN first reported that an anonymous mischief maker had tricked multiple White House officials into responding to prank emails.

The Email Prankster, as he’s branded himself, isn’t worried about getting in legal trouble, he told The Outline in an interview Thursday. He duped several high profile targets earlier this year, including Barclay’s CEO Jes Staley, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat, and was not contacted by law enforcement.

He was, however, suspended from his job this morning. His company, which knew about the banker pranks, suspected he was involved in this latest round of hoaxes and opened an investigation. “I think they’ll get me on misuse of IT,” the prankster said. “I did send an email to the White House from my work email address because I forgot to switch the email account over in the drop down.”

It’s unclear if the prankster did anything illegal. He did no spoofing or hacking, and lawyers we spoke to in the U.S. and U.K. said it would be difficult to make a criminal case against him. The prankster merely registered addresses that looked semi-legitimate, such as reince.priebus@mail.com and jonhunstmanjr45@gmail.com, made sure his character’s name would show up in the “From” field, and thought up an intriguing subject line. He registered email addresses in the names of senior advisor Jared Kushner, Ambassador-to-Russia designate Jon Huntsman, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump, and had them email various White House staff.

The highlight of these pranks was an exchange between the fake Reince Priebus, whose real counterpart had just been ousted, and then-White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The exchange, a testy back-and-forth that played on the real rivalry between the two men, ended with Scaramucci telling the person he thought was Priebus to, “Read Shakespeare. Particularly Othello.” Scaramucci was ousted the next day, and The Washington Post called the prank “a final indignity.” Read more.

Belgian Performance Artists, Captain Boomer, Beach a Whale in Paris

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Pranksters

Nobody expected to see a whale beached along the Seine last Friday…


“Elaborate ‘Dead Whale’ Stunt Takes Parisians By Surprise”
by Nina Golgowski
Huffington Post
July 23, 2017

It wasn’t a sight for the fainthearted.

On Friday, Parisians woke to find a massive sperm whale beached along the river Seine, drawing some shock and concern from some passersby.

Fortunately for animal lovers, the giant carcass, which was seen being tended to by people in white jumpsuits, was a fake ― though the object of a very real concern.

Belgian artist collective Captain Boomer, which took responsibility for the stirring display, said they carried out the performance art to raise awareness about the beaching of whales and dolphins and how humans play a role.

To assist in delivering this message, artists dressed up like forensic scientists and pretended to perform tests on the animal while others interacted with the public. (more…)

Unsanctioned Street Signs Caution Minneapolis Citizens

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters

Fake street signs warn of ‘easily startled’ police in Twin Cities
by Erin Adler
Star Tribune
July 24, 2017

At least two orange street signs reading “Warning: Twin Cities police easily startled” were seen in the Twin Cities Sunday.

A fake street sign mounted on the same pole as two legitimate ones at the intersection of Cedar and Riverside Aves. Sunday evening in Minneapolis. Erin Adler, Star Tribune

Joe Morino brought an incredulous friend to see the orange street sign he just spotted in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The official-looking metal sign read: “WARNING: TWIN CITIES POLICE EASILY STARTLED.” It featured a graphic silhouette of a police officer, a gun in each raised hand, shooting in both directions.

“There’s a side of truth to the sign,” Morino said after snapping a picture of it. “That tells you there is something wrong with the system.” (more…)

Portofess: The Church Must Go Where the Sinners Are!

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, The Big One, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

The Story of the ‘Portofess,’ the Prank Confessional Booth at the 1992 Democratic Convention
by Sarah Laskow
Atlas Obscura
July 14, 2017

Artist Joey Skaggs fooled everyone and pedaled off.

Father Anthony Joseph (aka Joey Skaggs) pedals his Portofess to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, courtesy Joey Skaggs Archive

At 1992’s Democratic National Convention, a Dominican priest showed up on a tricycle. Attached to the back was a confessional booth, with a sign that read “Portofess.” The priest said he biked to New York, where the convention was held, all the way from California. The church, according to the priest, needed to take a “more aggressive stance and go where the sinners are.” He was ready to take confession from any politician who wanted or needed it.

The Portofess made papers all over the country. But soon enough Reuters revealed that the Archdiocese in California had never heard of this priest, who called himself Father Anthony Joseph or, sometimes, Father William. All other efforts to find him after the convention failed, as well, because he wasn’t a priest at all, but a character conceived by artist and activist Joey Skaggs, who has perfected the art of pranking the media.

Skaggs’s works include “Fish Condos” for upwardly mobile guppies, “Santa’s Missile Tow,” which featured Santa and his elves bringing a missile to the United Nations, and many other sculptures and performances. He talked to Atlas Obscura about what it took to create the Portofess and what reactions he got from the police, protestors, and the public. Read the full interview here.


Gender Studies Hoaxers Kick an Academic Hornet’s Nest

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Parody, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

Skeptic magazine reveals an Alan Sokal-style hoax on the journal Cogent Social Sciences–an attempt to mock both what the authors perceive to be the excesses of feminist academia and open-access or pay-to-publish journals. So far, they have at least succeeded in getting a lot of attention, pro and con.


“The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies”
by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsey
Skeptic
May 19, 2017

The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

That’s how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.
This paper should never have been published. Titled, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” our paper “argues” that “The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” As if to prove philosopher David Hume’s claim that there is a deep gap between what is and what ought to be, our should-never-have-been-published paper was published in the open-access (meaning that articles are freely accessible and not behind a paywall), peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences. (In case the PDF is removed, we’ve archived it.)

Assuming the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group,” we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal. Read more.

Emoluments Welcome

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The Prank as Art, The World of the Prank

Update: A new work from artist Robin Bell–Artist Projects Image Of Jeff Sessions In KKK Hood Across DOJ Building


The Trump Administration is so riddled with scandal, pranksters can hardly keep up with desecrating Trump’s properties. Thanks Naomi.


“Artist Projects ‘Pay Trump Bribes Here’ Message on President’s DC Hotel”
by Nick Visser
The Huffington Post
May 16, 2017

A multimedia artist caused a commotion in Washington, D.C., late Monday when he projected a series of images on Trump International Hotel that skewered the president over accusations about his business ties with foreign governments.

Robin Bell, a Washington-based artist known for his political projections, said the work was meant to highlight benefits Donald Trump continues to reap since his ascension to the presidency, including revenue generated at his D.C. hotel. The artwork, which went up around 10 p.m. local time, quickly spread on Twitter before it was shut down by hotel security.

“It seems like a very clear case of his impropriety,” Bell said. “It’s a great visualization of a clear-cut example of the laws that he’s breaking.”

Staff reached at Trump International Hotel declined to comment about the messages. Read more.

Recall Recoil

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

As The Onion has demonstrated, laughter is one of America’s last lines of defense against the firearms industry.

A complex stunt by some anonymous pranksters manages to goose gun culture, the Trump administration, public relations, and business ethics, all with a dark and funny spirit. Thanks to Naomi for the tip.


“Anonymous art collective trolls hundreds of Heckler & Koch’s US gun vendors with bogus recall prank”
by Anthony Smith
Mic
May 4, 2017

Earlier this week, 200 U.S. vendors of guns made by Heckler & Koch, a massive multimillion dollar international arms manufacturer, received letters purporting to come from someone named Martin Obermann, whom the official-seeming letterhead identified as Heckler & Koch’s Head of Transatlantic Sales.

Recipients were notified that, as of May 1, the international arms giant had “ceased the supply of firearms to the domestic market in the United States of America” and had begun “voluntary recalling all firearms from the sporting and commercial markets in the USA.”

The reason the letter gave? Donald Trump.

“Owing to the rise of firearm-related deaths in your country in conjunction with the threat of ongoing civil unrest and a highly volatile foreign policy under the administration of President Donald Trump, the German headquarters [of Heckler & Koch] no longer deem the USA a safe destination country for weapons export,” the letter — which claimed to come from an arms manufacturer whose guns have reportedly been used by the thousands in the Syrian conflict — said. Read more.


Art Gets Scary Again

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Legal Issues, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

Artists from Assistant Professor Thomas Chung to rapper Snoop Dogg are depicting political violence in their work. Should Trump be concerned? Hat tip to Naomi.


“Can Art Legally Threaten the President?”
by Scott Indrisek
Artsy
May 3, 2017

The right-wing blogosphere wasn’t exactly tickled when an Alaskan assistant professor decided to decapitate President Trump last month. To be fair, the violence was only virtual—the teacher, artist Thomas Chung, had painted an image of the Captain America actor Chris Evans, naked, holding Trump’s severed, bloody bust by a lock of his infamous hair.

Trump didn’t respond to Chung but he has previously taken to Twitter to slam others who have subjected him to artistic abuse. In March, the rapper Snoop Dogg released a video for the song “Lavender,” which includes an orange-faced Presidential doppelgänger pleading for his life while Snoop points a gun at him. The trigger gets pulled, but the weapon turns out to be a novelty toy.

Regardless, Trump was not amused. “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired a gun at President Obama?” he tweeted. “Jail time!” The dust-up between Snoop and the famously litigious Trump did have people wondering what the consequences could be for even coyly hinting at such violence in an artistic way. (Debunked viral stories circulated online falsely claiming that Snoop had been arrested.)

Turns out that both Snoop and Chung can rest easy, at least until the new administration attempts to erode or dismantle the protections provided by the First Amendment. (Keep in mind that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus recently stated in an ABC News interview that criminalizing flag burning is something that is “probably going to get looked at” by the administration.) Read more.

In the Future, Will Farting Get You 5 to 10?

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Hoax Etiquette, Legal Issues, Political Challenges

A new article by Joey Skaggs published in Huffington Post:


Jurors on the case against Desiree Fairooz—a protestor who laughed out loud during a Senate hearing on Jeff Sessions’ Attorney General appointment, when Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Sessions had an “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law,” and then demanded to know why she was being physically removed and arrested—apparently felt forced to find her guilty. Some of them said it was not the laughter, although Justice Department attorneys believed that the laughter was enough to justify a criminal charge, but the disruption after the laughter that forced their hands.

protestor arrested for laughing

It’s a slippery slope away from our civil rights when jurors are forced to deliberate on laws that should be challenged rather than enforced. What’s next? If you fart out loud, you get 5 to 10?

And, it looks like laws about public conduct are being used in a discriminatory way. Not everyone is being held to the same standard. Remember South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, Sr. who yelled, “You lie!” at President Obama in a joint session of Congress? His outburst was considered “disrespectful” and he got off with an apology.

In fact, these days, everyone should be laughing and challenging the obvious hypocrisy and alternative facts presented to us daily by the Trump Administration and members of Congress. Laughter is a great way to help people realize how absurd the situation is when officials lie with impunity. We have short memories. We should think back to the Chicago 7 and how satire and mockery were powerful tools used to sway public opinion in 1968.

We the people should not tolerate this kind of abuse of power. So, let’s, at every opportunity, scoff, mock, satirize and laugh, so that unthinking people might start thinking. The First Amendment does not give you the right to slander someone, and sometimes it’s not effective to disregard civility, but challenges must be made and people have to find ways to speak out. Let’s do it in a more creative way so as not to be sucked up into the legal loop and drained of time and resources.

I’ve been using satire as a weapon of choice since the 60s. And I marvel with wonder at how lucky I’ve been to not be locked up for some of the things I’ve done. There have certainly been enough people rooting for my incarceration.

I suspect this protestor was unaware of the potential legal ramifications of her actions. Not that being aware would (or should) have stopped her. I think she was brave to do what she did. However, had she been aware, or perhaps more thoughtful about her plans, she might have come up with a more creative way to protest given the circumstances. It’s always necessary to ask, “Do my actions have a chance of being effective or will they be alienating and dismissed?” Had she stopped at the laughter, she might have made a greater case in the court of public opinion.

We can’t let false truths become the official record. Lies should be revealed and challenged at every opportunity. It’s the system allowing them to continue unfettered that must be changed.

And… Capitol security should not be run by the airline industry.


Subway Sexual Assault Prevention Gets Physical

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Political Pranks, Publicity Stunts, Satire

An aggressive awareness campaign hits handsy men where it hurts.


“Mexico City Subway Installs Plastic Penis on Seats to Fight Sexual Harassment”
by Kieran Corcoran
Heat Street
March 14, 2017

Subway bosses in Mexico City have fitted plastic penises onto seats in a bizarre campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault.

The smooth shape of some plastic seats on the billion-passenger network has been replaced with the sculpted shape of a male body.

The upper half of the seat is fitted with a chest, nipples and a belly – while the lower half is given legs, and a prominent, flaccid penis. Watch the video here:

Text placed on the floor next to the modified seats makes the point that sitting there is uncomfortable – but not as uncomfortable as getting sexually assaulted. Read more.

Yahoo News covers NYC’s 32nd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

New York City’s 32nd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade
Yahoo News
April 1, 2017

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesThe theme for this years parade is MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN! The Grand Marshall will be a Donald Trump look-alike. The full parade was actually a April Fools’ prank. During the event, masked activists marched with a hand-pulled “float” featuring a likeness of Donald Trump sitting in an outhouse. (Getty)

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Click here for more photos

NYC’s 32nd Annual April Fools Day Parade in Photos

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

It was huge. Tremendous turnout. Thousands of people. Bigger than the Obama Inauguration! These images speak for themselves…


(more…)

Joey Skaggs Promises Satirical Provocation for Donald Trump

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

As our founder prepares for his April Fools’ Day Parade Trumpathon, he gives us a look behind the scenes.


“Prankster Behind NYC April Fools’ Day Parade Says This Year’s Event Will Mock Donald Trump”
by Jillian Kay Melchior
Heat Street
March 28, 2017

For more than three decades, prankster Joey Skaggs has rejoiced in ensnaring the national media into covering fake news of his own invention. But this April Fools’ Day, he insists he’s absolutely serious about mocking Donald Trump.

“You can certainly accuse me of being the Boy Who Cried Wolf, given my past track record with this parade,” Skaggs told Heat Street. Indeed, for the past 31 years, Skaggs has sent out elaborate news releases announcing not only the April Fools’ Day Parade schedule and route but also describing floats—all fake, all for a parade that doesn’t actually happen.

“But the reality of this April Fools’ Day makes it absolutely essential that I finally show up along with, hopefully, hoards of Donald Trump look-alikes,” Skaggs said, adding that he’s hoping to earn a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest gathering of Donald Trump look-alikes.

For what it’s worth, we called the Guinness Book of World records, which confirmed there is an open application under Skaggs’ name. “But the category that he’s applying for is a new category, so the category would have to be accepted by the records team first, before he could attempt a record,” said spokeswoman Sofia Rocher. She said it’s not yet clear whether they’ll have an answer for Skaggs by April 1.

New York City requires a permit from the Police Commissioner for any parade. Skaggs says he has not gotten one, adding, “We’ve gone 32 years without a permit.” Read more.

Not #FakeNews, But an Incredible Simulation

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, The World of the Prank

A new video game brings your republic-wrecking fantasies to life.


If you were for some reason dying to play a video game about fake news, it’s here now
by Marissa Wenzke
Mashable
March 27, 2017

This fake news simulator is the depressing video game America deserves

It’s something that’s come to be reviled, the very thing that may have cost America a presidential election — fake news.

And the horrible phenomenon that’s been called out by everyone from former President Barack Obama to Apple CEO Tim Cook now has a video game all about it.

Yes, you can actually climb inside the minds of real-life humans who distribute lies for money. Fake It to Make It describes itself as “a social impact game about fake news.”

By that definition, it’s less a celebration of fake news and more a socially conscious dissection of it. Well, that’s at least what it’s intended to be, as its creator Amanda Warner explains.

“I think that better understanding how and why we are manipulated by others, for profit or power, is worthwhile knowledge to have,” she told The Verge.

The game takes you through a journey that mirrors the stories of real-life fake news creators. For instance, it starts by asking you to choose a purchase you want to make, like a $1,000 used car or $400 for a deposit on an apartment (deals we think questionably exist IRL). Read more.


In a Troubled Country, a Novelty Candidate Gains a Following

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

In the run-up to Serbia’s April 2nd presidential election, flamboyant joke candidate Luka Maksimovic has piqued the interest of disillusioned voters eager to shake up the system. On the international stage, Maksimovic is unique in that a) he displays some self-awareness, and b) he probably won’t win.


“Parody politician is new star in Serbia’s presidential race”
by Jovana Gec
AP
March 27. 2017

Ahead of Serbia’s presidential election on Sunday, a political parody has emerged as a true star.

His real name is Luka Maksimovic, but the 25-year-old student bidding to become the Balkan country’s next leader has won fame — and public support — appearing as a grossly exaggerated politician, complete with a white suit, oversized jewelry and a man bun.

Campaigning as a sleazy, loud character who makes wild promises and whose triumph is foretold by fortune tellers, Maksimovic has won over many in crisis-stricken Serbia, which has been plagued by political corruption and is eager for new faces and ideas.

Opinion polls have predicted that Maksimovic could win around 11 percent of the vote Sunday, trailing the powerful populist Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic but surpassing several other established candidates.

This, analysts say, already is a huge success for a newcomer with scarce political experience, no infrastructure and slim funds.

“It’s just my charisma!” the communications student joked in an interview with The Associated Press. “Citizens are so anxious to see me that I must sneak in unannounced to avoid huge crowds descending on me!” Read more.