Media Pranks

Blog Posts

Bin Laden and The IT Crowd: Anatomy of a Twitter hoax

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Submitted by Larry Croft:

Bin Laden and The IT Crowd: Anatomy of a Twitter hoax
BBC News
23 May 2011

Rumours circulating on Twitter that Osama Bin Laden was a fan of The IT Crowd sitcom were an elaborate new media hoax. Here comedian Graham Linehan explains how he organised the ruse.

I spread a story on Twitter that in some of the videos seized from his compound during the Navy Seals raid, Osama Bin Laden was watching my sitcom The IT Crowd. I did it to illustrate the lightning speed at which a rumour can circulate and mutate on Twitter.

Only joking! I did it because I thought it would be funny, but it did circulate and mutate really quickly so maybe there’s a good lesson for us here. I mean really, it’s scary what Twitter can do. You can’t get more offline than my mother, and even she said to my brother, the day after the story “broke”, “Did you hear about your brother and Osama?”

So! It appears that one good way of starting a rumour is to pretend that the story is already circulating. (more…)

Salem Bewitched by NYU Student Prank

posted by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks

Fake Salem Song Teaches Internet A Lesson It’ll Probably Forget Pretty Soon
by Maura Johnston
Village Voice
April 8, 2011

Yesterday the Internet lit up for a bit with news of a new track from the draggy, divisive outfit Salem. “Nite Daze,” according to the email blasting it around the Internet, was “all about the drag environment of being incredibly tired, in a dream-state, wasted or on something, and forcing something creative from the mutual confused experience,” and it sure sounded like at least one of those words. (Its “demo” form also didn’t sound all that different from finished tracks by the outfit.) But just as soon as it popped up, links to it went dead, because as it turned out the snare-heavy track wasn’t a Salem demo but… the result of an NYU project. On “culture jamming”! (more…)

Classic Car Club Quickly Reverses Over Prank

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Submitted by Erin:

A Fake Tax Rattles Classic Car Buffs
by Michael Barbaro
The New York Times
April 7, 2011

Click to see the mock New York Times article.

As April Fool’s gags go, the Shelby American Automobile Club’s 2011 spoof did not seem especially convincing. Until, that is, hundreds of classic car lovers across the country were duped, became enraged and started to organize against a nonexistent threat.

A few days ago, the Connecticut club printed a fake front page of The New York Times that included what purported to be a major scoop: to close the federal deficit, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York was proposing a federal tax on specialty automobiles. (more…)

Fox News Out-Foxed by Weekly World News?

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Fox News Duped By Report That Los Angeles Will Spend $1 Billion On Jetpacks
Huffington Post
October 6, 2010

Fox News reported that Los Angeles is going to spend $1 billion on jetpacks that can fly a person up to 63 miles per hour and soar to heights of 8,000 feet.

But this is one head-in-the-clouds idea that would never get off the ground, not even in the City of Angels.

“We certainly haven’t bought any jetpacks,” police chief Charlie Beck told the LA Times. “We haven’t bought [squad] cars for two years.”

Watch the video as captured by Mediaite:


Joaquin Phoenix & Casey Affleck Expose Themselves

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks, Pranksters

Update from, September 21, 2010: David Letterman Was In on the Joaquin Phoenix Hoax

Documentary? Better Call It Performance Art
by Michael Cieply
The New York Times
September 16, 2010

Casey Affleck wants to come clean.

South Pasadena, Calif. His new movie, “I’m Still Here,” was performance. Almost every bit of it. Including Joaquin Phoenix’s disturbing appearance on David Letterman’s late-night show in 2009, Mr. Affleck said in a candid interview at a cafe here on Thursday morning.

“It’s a terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career,” Mr. Affleck said. He was speaking of Mr. Phoenix’s two-year portrayal of himself — on screen and off — as a bearded, drug-addled aspiring rap star, who, as Mr. Affleck tells it, put his professional life on the line to star in a bit of “gonzo filmmaking” modeled on the reality-bending journalism of Hunter S. Thompson.

I’m Still Here” was released last week by Magnolia Pictures to scathing reviews by a number of critics, including Roger Ebert, who wrote that the film was “a sad and painful documentary that serves little useful purpose other than to pound another nail into the coffin.”

“The reviews were so angry,” said Mr. Affleck, who attributed much of the hostility to his own long silence about a film that left more than a few viewers wondering what was real — The drugs? The hookers? The childhood home-movie sequences in the beginning? — and what was not. (more…)

Rush-ing to Judgement

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Limbaugh Taken In: The Judge Was Not Loaded for Bear
by Kevin Sack
The New York Times
September 15, 2010

Pensacola, Fla. — Anyone listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show Tuesday could be forgiven for thinking that Judge Roger Vinson has the federal government dead in his sights.

Mr. Limbaugh spent some time profiling Judge Vinson, a senior judge on the Federal District Court in Pensacola, who had just announced he would allow a legal challenge to the new health care law to advance to a full hearing. The conservative radio host informed his listeners that the judge was an avid hunter and amateur taxidermist who once killed three brown bears and mounted their heads over his courtroom door to “instill the fear of God into the accused.”

“This,” Mr. Limbaugh said, “would not be good news” for liberal supporters of the health law.

But, in fact, Judge Vinson has never shot anything other than a water moccasin (last Saturday, at his weekend cabin), is not a taxidermist and, as president of the American Camellia Society, is far more familiar with Camellia reticulata than with Ursus arctos.

Apparently, Mr. Limbaugh had fallen prey to an Internet hoax. (more…)

Urban Foxhunting Hoax Explained

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Pranksters

Submitted by Josh Jaspers:

Urban fox hunt video was hoax aimed at the media, say film-makers
by Paul Lewis
6 August 2010

Chris Atkins explains how he hoaxed the press into printing stories about urban fox hunters.

It was the internet video that sparked a media outcry: grainy footage that seemed to show four masked men drugging a fox and later beating it to death with cricket bats in a London park that was posted on YouTube and Facebook earlier this week.

But the Guardian can reveal that the new sport of “urban foxhunting” was an elaborate hoax. The film-makers, Chris Atkins and Johnny Howorth, said no real foxes were harmed in the film, which was intended as a satirical swipe at “media hysteria” over the danger of urban foxes.

Animal rights campaigners had expressed fury over the “bloodthirsty” huntsmen, eliciting the support of MPs on Twitter and prompting an inquiry by the Metropolitan police’s wildlife crime unit.

YouTube and Facebook removed the footage and the controversy was covered in news outlets including the Guardian, the Times, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail. The BBC was also duped, sending a reporter to Victoria Park, Hackney – the supposed scene of the crime. Amid a growing furore, the animal welfare group League Against Cruel Sports launched a campaign against urban foxhunting, while the RSPCA said it was investigating. (more…)

Virginity for Sale?

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Is it a hoax or is it porn? Joey Skaggs is interviewed for AOL News:

Hoax Experts Cast Doubt on Virgin Reality Show
by David Moye
May 17, 2010

Four Australian virgins are allegedly in Las Vegas to sell off their virginity to the highest bidder, but hoax experts say the only ones getting screwed are the people who believe it’s real.

Australian documentary filmmaker Justin Sisely is getting international publicity for planning a reality show in which men and women will auction their virginity to the highest bidders — but hoax experts are casting doubt on the whole enterprise.

After a yearlong audition process in Australia, Sisely says he has found six virgins — five men and one woman — willing to broadcast their first-times on prime time for about $17,700 each, as well as 90 percent of their sale price. Two of those virgins, Ben Smith and “Veronica Peach,” are reportedly in Nevada after the Australian government threatened to hit Sisely with prostitution charges if he filmed the show in his home country.

Now Sisely is claiming the auction will take place in a Nevada brothel, which will receive the remaining 10 percent of the sale prices.

Although bids supposedly will be placed online before the final auction, experts in both hoaxes and the sex industry doubt the whole affair is real or will ever happen.

Joey Skaggs, who has a 40-year-career of playing pranks on the media, says Sisely’s purported documentary sounds like a big media hoax — and not a good one at that. (more…)

No Fun with Franco and Eva Mattes

posted by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks

From Franco & Eva Mattes, aka 0100101110101101.ORG, May 1, 2010:

Artist Commits Suicide Online as a Work of Art (well, sort of)

Thousand of people watched powerless while a person was hanging from the ceiling, slowly swinging, for hours and hours. It happened yesterday, in the popular website Chatroulette, where people from all over the world can anonymously and randomly see each other through their webcams and chat with perfect strangers.

The hanging man was in fact Brooklyn based artist Franco Mattes, and the whole scene a set up. The artist recorded all the performance and than posted it online. In the video, titled “No Fun”, one can see all possible reactions, from the most predictable to the most unthinkable: some laugh, believing it’s a joke, some seem to be completely unmoved, some insult the supposed-corpse and some, more cynical, take pictures with their phones. Apparently, out of several thousand people, only one called the police. Watching the video can be a strange experience, at times exhilarating as well as disturbing.

No Fun – Eva and Franco Mattes from Franco Mattes on Vimeo.


So, Are You Going to Kate’s Party?

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Serial prankster admits to Kate’s party hoax
April 27, 2010

The serial online prankster David Thorne is at it again, this time creating the party of the century on social networking site, Facebook.

Thorne, known for his hilarious attempt to pay a bill with a spider drawing, has created a new viral phenomenon with his hoax Facebook event, Kate’s Party.

The event, which appeared to be a birthday party on May 1st for Adelaide woman Kate Miller, attracted 60,000 attendees after Thorne posted the link on his Twitter page, 27b/6. A day later there were a further 180,000 people who had been invited waiting to be confirmed. (more…)

Remembering Silibil N’ Brains & Other Music Industry Pranks

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Hoax is where the art is: music biz scams
by Jane Graham
The Guardian
24 April 2010

With the story of how rap-scallions Silibil N’Brains fooled America hitting shelves, Jane Graham looks at some more music industry hoaxes

As international fraudsters, they had brassier balls than the Enron board and more starry-eyed optimism than Bernie Madoff. But like most myopic voyagers’ tales, Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd’s adventure ended in humiliating exposure, broken relationships and empty pockets. Not great news for their families or psychiatrists, but their brilliant scam does make for a ripping yarn, published this month in the form of Bain’s mea culpa, California Schemin’ (Simon & Schuster).

California Schemin’ documents the ridiculous but entirely true story of how two teenagers from Dundee seduced the music industry in 2003 with little more than a pair of Converse, an LA twang and a pack of lies. Scalded by a London showcase gig in which their Scottish-accented act had seen derisively dubbed “the rapping Proclaimers”, Bain and his buddy Boyd studied their Eminem and Jim Carrey DVDs, re-invented themselves as potty-mouthed American hip-hop duo Silibil N’ Brains, rubbed shoulders with the likes of Madonna and Eminem and set the controls for vengeance. (more…)

LiteratEye #48: Newspaper Nostalgia: Biped Beavers, Libidinous Man-Bats on the Moon

Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Pranks

Here’s the forty-eighth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

LiteratEye #48: Newspaper Nostalgia: Biped Beavers, Libidinous Man-Bats on the Moon
By W.J. Elvin III
January 22, 2010

beavers-200The New York Times, you may have noticed, plans to start charging for portions of its web content. One assumes the portions will be the those readers find most interesting.

So then patronage will fall off, and with fewer readers there will be fewer advertisers, and so on until we hear the death rattle of yet another newspaper. Well, in the case of the Times it probably won’t be quite that bad, but the Internet era has certainly seen the downsizing or demise of quite a few news publications.

How bad is it? MSN Money lists newspaper subscriptions among its top ten things not to buy in 2010, citing the popular alternatives.

Which is too bad, because newspapers and news magazines have been a great vehicle for the perpetuation of hoaxes. No doubt our host, Joey Skaggs, is indebted to more than a few for taking the bait. In my own forty years or so in the news business I noticed a fairly cavalier attitude toward great stories that seemed at least a little fishy: “Print first, ask questions later.”

In the good old days, before newspapers got all goody-goody ethical, editors and reporters were among the top pranksters.

The sport got up its steam back in the 1830s. That was when Richard Adams Locke, an English journalist serving as editor of The New York Sun, sprang what is regarded as the greatest newspaper hoax of all time. (more…)

Navy Needs Anti-hoax Vaccine

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks, Prank Busters

Reports of sailors dying from the H1N1 flu vaccine are a hoax, Navy says
LA Military Headlines Examiner
by Mark Nero
October 31, 2009

H1N1Vaccine-200A report popping up in emails and on blogs in recent weeks that sailors aboard a ship have died from the vaccine for the H1N1 virus is a complete hoax, according to the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

The false report, which has circulating online for several weeks, claims that the vaccine is the cause of the swine flu and not the cure and that the crew of an unnamed naval vessel was sickened by the vaccine.

“Of the 347 man crew that were vaccinated, 333 contracted the H1N1 flu FROM THE VACCINE,” reads one false e-mail that has been circulated on several blogs. “Two died … and 331 survived. Only 14 of the 347 vaccinated sailors did not show any ill effects from the vaccine.”

“PLEASE pass this email along,” the message continues. “The truth is that the swine flu epidemic will be created BY THE VACCINE. If we don’t take it, there will be no epidemic.” (more…)

Skaggs, Blags and Rags: Hoaxes and the Press

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Publicity Stunts

Submitted by Mark Borkowski from Borkowski Blog. Mark is author of The Fame Formula: How Hollywood’s Fixers, Fakers and Star Makers Shaped the Publicity Industry

Skaggs, Blags and Rags: Hoaxes and the Press
October 16th, 2009

If you want proof that stunts are an art form, your best bet is to head down to the Tate Modern’s Pop exhibition and take a long, hard look at the Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons exhibits. Here are two prime examples of early stops at one of the stations of the cross of Consumerism, part of its steady progress to becoming the prime 21st Century religion.

And proof is needed that stunts are an art form – they are making something of a comeback at the moment, but the latest examples – the Starsuckers film and Balloon Boy – are in need of a bit of spit and polish if they are to really shine.

Despite all this, there has been not one mention of the master of the hoax, Joey Skaggs, the master Culture Jammer whose hoaxes have always had a pertinent point to make. This is a pity because the Starsuckers team could learn a trick or two from him. (more…)

Michael Jackson Not Dead? [English & German]

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks

Editor’s note: Watch how this hoax was perpetrated in a behind-the-scenes video at the end of this post…

Hoax video of Michael Jackson creates online stir
by Kirsten Grieshaber
Yahoo! News / Associated Press
September 1, 2009

Berlin – A hoax video purportedly showing Michael Jackson emerging from a coroner’s van was an experiment aimed at showing how quickly misinformation and conspiracy theories can race across the Internet, German broadcaster RTL said Tuesday.

The video was posted by RTL on YouTube for a single day a week ago and received 880,000 hits. The broadcaster has since removed the video from YouTube, but it has been picked up by other Web sites around the world.

“We wanted to show how easily users can be manipulated on the Internet with hoax videos,” spokeswoman Heike Schultz of Cologne-based RTL told The Associated Press. “Therefore, we created this video of Michael Jackson being alive, even though everybody knows by now that he is dead — and the response was breathtaking.” (more…)