Media Pranks

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We’re Gonna Need More Enthusiasm

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Pranksters

Davy Rothbard of Found fame profiles a company that hires out fake crowds. H/t Dave Pell.


“Crowd Source: Inside the company that provides fake paparazzi, pretend campaign supporters, and counterfeit protesters”
by Davy Rothbard
The California Sunday Magazine
March 31, 2016

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When he can, Adam trains his hired crowds himself, but more often he relies on local coordinators who manage the events. In Los Angeles, Del Brown — the woman I met at the Marriott — is Adam’s point person. Del moved to California in 2012 to pursue an acting career and soon landed a Doritos commercial, but after that, she mostly found work as an extra in student films and small indie projects. She worked a gig with Crowds on Demand, and Adam was so impressed he immediately put her on staff. Del has established a wide network she can reach out to when she needs, say, 60 crowd-fillers for a party on the roof deck of the W Los Angeles hotel or a 6-foot-6-inch man in a leather kilt to act as a fan at the launch of a book about S&M culture. Many of Del’s recurring crowd members are background actors she’s met on film sets, yet she is continually trawling for fresh faces.

At the Marriott, I’d met Jackie Greig, who typifies the crowd members Del and Adam often hire. Jackie is 50 years old, a film student at Los Angeles City College. A teacher had shared a posting about what she thought was an upcoming film shoot that was looking for paid help. Jackie showed up at the Marriott only to discover that this was not a film shoot. Yes, she was being asked to aim her camera at the life coaches, but whether she hit record was immaterial. On one hand, Jackie was frustrated. She’d skipped class and driven more than an hour to be there. On the other hand, after a couple of hours, she’d made $37.50 and could now afford a Foo Fighters concert for her daughter. “I just wish they’d been more transparent about what the gig really was,” Jackie tells me.

If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know.

The tricky thing, Adam says, is how many of his clients insist on secrecy. If you’re hiring a crowd to fill a campaign event or a film premiere, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know. Adam must balance his goal of spreading awareness of his company, so he can attract more clients, with the benefits of keeping the public in the dark. If people start to doubt the veracity of crowds, his business might suffer. “Right now, we’re still kind of this secret weapon,” Adam says. “We have the element of surprise. Yeah, you might’ve heard about political candidates paying to bring some extra bodies into their campaign events, but it’s beyond the realm of most people’s imagination that crowds are being deployed in other ways. Nobody is skeptical of crowds. Of course, in five years that could change.”

Adam says he gives Del wide latitude to recruit crowd members. Most often, she presents the gigs as background acting work. This is only slightly misleading: Crowd members won’t bulk up their IMDB profile, but being part of a fake crowd is a kind of acting. In a world where everybody is constantly playing a part, staging moments to be broadcast later on social media, the line between counterfeit and authentic has become blurred. Is curating a version of yourself on Facebook any less fake than pretending to be a superfan of a life coach? Read more.


The April Fool’s Day Parade gets the NYT Treatment

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

The Annual April Fool’s Day Parade has long been among Joey Skaggs’s most highly visible projects.


“A Fool’s Parade”
by Alexandra S. Levine
The New York Times
April 1, 2016

You’ve heard of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, right?

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Of course.

But the April Fools’ Day Parade?

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The procession is expected to file from 59th Street and Fifth Avenue down to Washington Square Park, beginning at noon, rain or shine.

Organized by the New York April Fools’ Committee, the spectacle is intended to poke fun at public figures — celebrities, politicians, executives and anyone else who has proved deserving of caricature.

“Nothing is sacred. Our satire knows no bounds,” the committee said in a statement, adding, “The Parade Committee assumes no liability for damages caused by satire.”

Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, (a look-alike, of course) leads the parade, sitting atop a ballistic missile float.

The “Hypocrisy and Democracy” float features presidential candidates yelling confusing speeches at passers-by.

And Kanye West rides the “Infinity Mirror” float, because, well, organizers think he could stare at his own reflection until the end of time.

Just kidding.

To all of the above.

The nonexistent parade is solely a fixture in the imagination of the New York artist Joey Skaggs, a prankster who creates elaborate hoaxes as a form of social activism.

He’s blasted out news releases, posted videos and has managed to get his April Fools’ Day Parade website appearing near the top of search engine results.

“It’s a mystery to me how we continue to enable fools to make fools of us,” Mr. Skaggs said.

Touché.


Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Pranks GOP Supporters

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Parody

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog sends women posing as Fox News reporters to GOP political events to ask some tough questions.

Thanks Steven Beer!


April Fool’s 2015 Geeky Gags from the Tech Sphere (Roundup)

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

It’s April Fool’s Day, and TechCrunch is sending mixed signals. Yesterday, it published a rant about timely corporate PR stunts echoing the grumpy, contrarian style of the blog’s departed founder Michael Arrington.

And yet, today, it posted a fun gallery of its industry’s most clever gags, including a steam-powered gaming console, a reddit community dedicated to remixes of the Space Jam theme, and much more.

Is it attempting to drum up controversy? Who even knows anymore!


“April Fool’s 2015: The Mega-Roundup Of The Best Gags”
By Greg Kumparak
TechCrunch
April 1, 2015

Space Jam /r/listentothisIt’s that time of year again! The time when a massive chunk of the tech industry drops what it’s doing and puts all of its collective effort into getting a few laughs. As we do every year, we’re gathering up the best/worse/most cringe-tastic efforts in one place for your perusal. We’ll be updating this list as the day goes on, so check back in later! Read more.

“Measles Parties” Hoax Infects the Media

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Filed under: Media Pranks

Measles Parties, Moral Panics and Folk Devils… Oh My!
by Edward Coll
February 10, 2015

In the market for eyeballs, mass media seldom misses an opportunity to misinform the public and create controversy by ginning up a climate of fear by fabricating folk devils and a moral panic amidst a crisis.

The Disneyland measles outbreak provides the most recent example.

partyMedia outlets from Fox to NPR spread a rumor that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a bulletin advising parents not to take children to “measles parties” to intentionally infect their children. Supposedly, these parties are being thrown by anti-vaxers to give their children “natural immunity.”

No such bulletin was ever issued by the CDPH and according to the respected debunking site Snopes.com here is what really happened:

“… a California health official explained to us that before the rumor circulated, a news outlet called to inquire whether the department had received any reports about measles parties. When a representative stated no such reports had been received, the reporter asked about the agency’s position on measles parties and was (predictably) told public health officials advised against them.”

This CPDH response to these nonexistent measles parties was morphed into a “bulletin” giving credibility to a false rumor created and spread by the media outlets themselves. Time, Salon, ABC News, LA Times, and Washington Post, to name just some, are all still actively spreading the rumor. None have retracted the story yet.

Perhaps the broadcast outlets intentional spreading of this false rumor shows the scant regard they hold for their public interest obligations.

image: Salon (Yuganov Konstantin via Shutterstock)


VICE Falls for Dream Hoax

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Pranksters, Urban Legends

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If you’ve ever seen this man in your dreams, you’re not alone. Famed prankster Andrea Natella’s long-lived dreamy hoax just caught VICE sleeping.

Read VICE’s mea culpa: Ugh, We Just Got Hoaxed: The Real Story About the ‘This Man’ Dream Face, January 15, 2015

Joaquin Phoenix Pranks David Letterman Again

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, The History of Pranks

phoenixlettermanWhen he retires from television in 2015, David Letterman will wrap a remarkable career of stunts, water-cooler bombshells, and awkward celebrity interviews.

In some cases, Letterman has been seemingly ambushed by guests who were physically combative (Crispin Glover), doped out of their gourds (Farrah Fawcett, Harmony Korine), or simply engaging in the unhinged antics that are their calling cards (Courtney Love, who inspired the host to quip, “I’m glad I have a son.”)

In others, the hosts and his guests have worked in collaboration. Witness the legendary encounter between comedian Andy Kaufman and wrestler Jerry Lawler.

More recently, actor Joaquin Phoenix used a disturbing and incoherent Letterman appearance to promote his controversial documentary I’m Still Here, for which he embarked on a half-assed hip hop career. Letterman later admitted that he was in on the gag.

Earlier this month, Phoenix returned to the show to announce that, like Alec Baldwin before him, he had decided to marry his yoga instructor. Read more here.

Watch the video:

New York Teenager Confesses to Not Being a Millionaire

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

The December 15, 2014 issue of New York magazine reported that 17-year-old Mohammed Islam brought down $72 million swapping stocks between classes, but the story quickly dissolved into a mixture of journalistic credulity and outright bullshit. After a cancelled TV appearance and protests from his fellow members of the high school Leaders Investment Club, Islam comes clean in a chat with the New York Observer.


“New York Mag’s Boy Genius Investor Made It All Up”
by Ken Kurson
The New York Observer
December 15, 2014

fullsizerender4It’s been a tough month for fact-checking. After the Rolling Stone campus rape story unraveled, readers of all publications can be forgiven for questioning the process by which Americans get our news. And now it turns out that another blockbuster story is—to quote its subject in an exclusive Observer interview — ”not true.”

Monday’s edition of New York magazine includes an irresistible story about a Stuyvesant High senior named Mohammed Islam who had made a fortune investing in the stock market. Reporter Jessica Pressler wrote regarding the precise number, “Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the ‘high eight figures.’” The New York Post followed up with a story of its own, with the fat figure playing a key role in the headline: “High school student scores $72M playing the stock market.”

And now it turns out, the real number is… zero.

In an exclusive interview with Mr. Islam and his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov, who also featured heavily in the New York story, the baby-faced boys who dress in suits with tie clips came clean. Swept up in a tide of media adulation, they made the whole thing up.

Speaking at the offices of their newly hired crisis pr firm, 5WPR, and handled by a phalanx of four, including the lawyer Ed Mermelstein of RheemBell & Mermelstein, Mr. Islam told a story that will be familiar to just about any 12th grader—a fib turns into a lie turns into a rumor turns into a bunch of mainstream media stories and invitations to appear on CNBC.

Here’s how it happened. Read more.

Banksy Bust Bomb

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Media Pranks

Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist’s identity has been revealed
by Ella Alexander
20 October 2014
Independent.co.uk

Banksy has not been arrested, despite a report stating the contrary.

Banksy, AKA Paul Horner, seen here being taken into police custody.(AP Photo/Dennis System)

Banksy, AKA Paul Horner, seen here being taken into police custody.(AP Photo/Dennis System)

“The Banksy arrest is a hoax,” the street artist’s publicist, Jo Brooks, told The Independent.

However, the prank seems to have duped the internet, with his name quickly trending on Twitter.

A false story, published on US website National Report, alleged that the identity of the British street artist had finally been revealed and he had been arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police and is being held “without bail on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting”.

The story claimed that Banksy’s London art studio had been raided, where “thousands of dollars of counterfeit money along with future projects of vandalism” were found, along with ID thought to belong to the famed anonymous street artist, which allegedly identified him as Liverpool-born Paul Homer.

However, a quick Google search shows that the quotes were originally published in 2013 on hoax website on PRLog. Read the rest of the story here.

Fame on a Budget

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Instructionals, Media Pranks, Pranksters

From Mark Borkowski:


How to become internet famous for $68
by Kevin Ashton
Medium.com

The secret of online celebrity Santiago Swallow.

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Santiago Swallow may be one of the most famous people no one has heard of.

His eyes fume from his Twitter profile: he is Hollywood-handsome with high cheekbones and dirty blond, collar-length hair. Next to his name is one of social media’s most prized possessions, Twitter’s blue “verified account” checkmark. Beneath it are numbers to make many in the online world jealous: Santiago Swallow has tens of thousands of followers. The tweets Swallow sends them are cryptic nuggets of wisdom that unroll like scrolls from digital fortune cookies: “Before you lose weight, find hope,” says one. Another: “To write is to live endlessly.”

His Wikipedia biography explains why: (more…)

How to Fakebook Your Vacation

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Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Media Pranks

Dutch Girl Fakes a Trip to South East Asia
by Will Jones
GapYear.com
September 9, 2014

Fakebooking taken to a new level on this ‘gap year’ in South East Asia

Fakebooking Your Vacation

If you’ve ever spent a rainy evening thumbing through your Facebook newsfeed glaring with scarcely controllable envy at the seemingly endless torrent of pictures posted by unbearably smug friends who are backpacking through some country with scenes so vibrant you wonder if the saturation setting on your screen is faulty, relax.

It could all be a backpack of lies.

For five weeks Dutch student Zilla van den Born subjected her Facebook friends to the above, claiming to be travelling around South East Asia, when in reality she had never left her home city of Amsterdam. She went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate the illusion, which was fed to her friends and family alike. The only person who knew the truth was her boyfriend.

During her 42 day ‘break’ she did all the things you would expect of someone in her position.
(more…)

The Wabuska Mangler: A Vintage Nevada Hoax

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

As Nevada turns 150, columnist Barry Smith celebrates a tradition of Silver State media malarkey.


“Nevada Newspapers Couldn’t Resist a Good Hoax”
By Barry Smith
Reno Gazette-Journal
October 5, 2014

shapeimage_3Nevada’s upcoming 150th birthday and National Newspaper Week make for a good opportunity to remind residents of one of this state’s seldom-celebrated contributions to journalism:

The hoax. The lie. Tall tales.

Mark Twain, of course, is our best-known example of a myth maker. But he’s not alone in the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame among Silver State journalists who didn’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

The pinnacle, as far as newspapers go, would be the Wabuska Mangler.

You may have passed through Wabuska on your way from Weeks to Weed Heights without realizing this tiny hamlet once had a feisty newspaper called the Mangler.

Well, it didn’t.

The Wabuska Mangler was entirely made up by Sam Davis, who was editor of The Morning Appeal in Carson City from 1879 to 1898, as a way to get outrageous opinions into the Appeal by attributing them to somebody else. (more…)

Fake Marketing Company Announces Fake Naked Photos

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Filed under: Instructionals, Media Pranks

Hoax instructional: How to deceive, deflect and scam the scandal hungry media and the all-believing public. Why? Just because.


The Emma Watson Naked Photo Countdown Was The Work Of Serial Internet Hoaxers
by James Cook
Business Insider
September 24, 2014

A mysterious countdown website emerged on Monday that hinted at the imminent reveal of naked photographs of the actress Emma Watson, stolen using the same iCloud vulnerability that hackers used to steal photographs of stars like Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence.

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As Business Insider reported on Monday, it’s highly unlikely that anyone has naked photographs of Emma Watson (we probably would have seen them by now, because she’s a top target for iCloud hackers). Instead the site seemed like an obvious prank designed to discredit 4chan users.

Sure enough, when the countdown came to an end, the site redirected to the website of a company named Rantic Marketing, which appears to be a viral marketing agency. But here’s where this gets really interesting: Rantic Marketing doesn’t exist. This wasn’t a marketing stunt at all, but a social experiment run by the most notorious gang of pranksters on the internet.

(more…)

“Perfect” Fake

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Filed under: Instructionals, Media Pranks

Over 7M views for “29 Celebrity Impressions, 1 Original Song”, by Rob Cantor. Only .5M checked out how the other 6.5M got faked out.


The Guy Perfectly Impersonating 29 Celebrities While Singing An Original Song Is A Fake
by Liat Kornowski
The Huffington Post
July 10, 2014

Remember this incredibly impressive video that popped up all over your Facebook feed earlier this month? You know the one, where one guy does 29 celebrity impressions while singing his original song, “Perfect.” The one that amassed nearly seven million views in under two weeks.

Watch the videos:

Well, this guy, with all his mighty talent and Billie Holiday imitation, is a fake… Rob Cantor, the man behind this well-orchestrated Internet hoax, posted yet another YouTube video Wednesday, July 9, explaining the workings behind the scenes. Read more here.

Google Street View Murder?

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks

Pranking Google Is Fun, Until Cops Investigate You For Murder
by Sara Gates
The Huffington Post
June 3, 2014

Check this “murder” off as solved.

After a Google Street View user stumbled upon what looked like a murder scene last year, the user reported the sight to police, BBC News reports. Local authorities in Scotland, where the apparent axe murder was pictured, launched an investigation into the case to see if a crime had actually taken place.

As it turns out, the Google Street View “murder scene” from August 2012 was just a prank — and a pretty simple one, at that. Read more here.

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