Media Pranks

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Fake Facts for Free

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From Wil:

Fake research paper accepted into hundreds of online journals
by Lindsay Abrams
October 4, 2013

A “sting” operation found that open-access journals will accept anything — for a price


The dream of open access to scientific knowledge has come up hard against the truism that you can’t trust everything you read on the Internet.

A fabricated — and highly flawed — research paper sent to 304 online journals by John Bohannon, a science journalist at Harvard, was accepted for publication by more than half of them. The paper, about a new cancer drug, included nonsensical graphs and an utter disregard for the scientific method. In addition, it was written by fake authors, from a fake university in Africa and, as a final flourish, had been changed through Google Translate into French and back to English. Collaborators at Harvard helped him make it convincingly boring. (more…)

The Great Salt Lake Whales

Filed under: Media Pranks, The History of Pranks

From Emerson Dameron:

As seen on Futility Closet:

Here’s an imaginative newspaper hoax from the American West — James Wickham, a “scientific English gentleman,” was said to have released two 35-foot whales in the Great Salt Lake in 1873:


Mr. Wickham came from London in person to superintend the ‘planting’ of his leviathan pets. He selected a small bay near the mouth of Bear River connected with the main water by a shallow strait half a mile wide. Across this strait he built a wide fence, and inside the pen so formed he turned the whales loose. After a few minutes inactivity they disported themselves in a lively manner, spouting water as in mid-ocean, but as if taking in by instinct or intention the cramped character of their new home, they suddenly made a bee line for deep water and shot through the wire fence as if it had been made of threads. In twenty minutes they were out of sight, and the chagrined Mr. Wickham stood gazing helplessly at the big salt water. (more…)

Twerking Girl-on-Fire is a Hoax!

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Filed under: Media Pranks

Courtesy of the Jimmel Kimmel Show:

Read more at Huffington Post

Eyeball-licking Craze? Really?

Filed under: Media Literacy, Media Pranks

From W.J. Elvin III: An interesting study in mainstream media wiggling and waffling. They should have just said “We were suckered. Sorry.” But instead a lot of jabber about how they were just one of many, “maybe” dropped the ball as far as fact-checking and heeding warnings, blah, blah, blah…

The readers’ editor on… how we fell into the trap of reporting Japan’s eyeball-licking craze as fact
bu Chris Elliott
The Guardian
August 25, 2013

The story was all over the web, but it was not especially difficult to cast doubts on the claim that there was an epidemic of tongue-induced pink eye

lick2-200The web is voracious. It gobbles up stories, themes and memes like a monster from outer space. With the merest puff of wind to launch them, a bewildering slew of tales take off, powered by the perpetual motion of repetition.

The Guardian was among a crowd that made the mistake of filling the sails of one of the weirder stories to take off in this way. The article appeared on the Shortcuts blog. It aims to be a fast-paced humorous column, which is described as “trending topics and news analysis”.

[Video from Huffington Post]

The headline on the story, posted on 14 June 2013, is: “Eyeball-licking: the fetish that is making Japanese teenagers sick”. The author explains that the article will be about “oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan like, well, like a great big dirty bacteria-coated tongue sweeping across a horrific number of adolescent eyeballs … oculolinctus is being blamed for a significant rise in Japanese cases of conjunctivitis and eye-chlamydia … It’s apparently seen as a new second-base; the thing you graduate to when kissing gets boring.” (more…)

Discovery Channel’s Fishy Story: Megalaton, Serial Killer of the Seas

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Sharks, Lies, and Videotape
John Oliver on The Daily Show
August 7, 2013

The Discovery Channel almost actually discovers something during “Shark Week.” (03:29)

Fox News: Luv Yu Lon Tyme

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Local Newscast Uses DMCA to Erase Air Crash Reporting Blunder
by David Kravets
July 22, 2013

videoprivatenoticeLocal San Francisco television news station KTVU has embarked on a novel use of copyright law to cover up embarrassing footage. It has been issuing takedown notices to YouTube for videos showing its anchor literally reading fake names of pilots involved in the recent airline crash at San Francisco International Airport.

The wrong names of the pilots for Asiana flight 214 that anchor Tori Campbell read on air were “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Bang Ding Ow.”

Some of the YouTube videos, uploaded from last week’s newscast, leave behind a message: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by KTVU.”

While many of the videos of the segment were still live on Google-owned YouTube, the reason why the Fox affiliate has been demanding their removal doesn’t concern copyright. (more…)

Improv Everywhere: Talk Show Subway Car

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks

From Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere:

For our latest mission, we converted a New York City subway car into a late night talk show set. Host Pat Cassels (CollegeHumor) interviewed random commuters from his desk as bandleader Evan Gregory (The Gregory Brothers) kept the car rocking.

Created and Directed by Charlie Todd / Music by Tyler Walker

For photos and more info click here.

Related links

The Greatest Movie That Never Was

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The Greatest Movie That Never Was
by Kevin Morris
April 25, 2013


Long before the autopsy, London police could guess what killed Yuri Gadyukin. When they pulled his body from the river beneath the Hammersmith Bridge on July 26, 1960, they saw a bullet-sized hole that had ripped apart his skull.

Authorities had been searching for the Russian director for weeks. By the time they yanked him from the Thames, they’d surely heard rumors percolating down through country’s film community of catastrophic arguments on the set of his latest film, The Graven Idol, between Gadyukin and the film’s star, Harry Weathers. Others whispered that Gadyukin owed money to a local gangster—cash he’d used to finance the film.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Gadyukin? He was a star of early Soviet cinema before fleeing to England. You can read about his life on a fansite and a Facebook group. You can watch him melt down in a British television interview, storming off stage in spittle-spewing rage. For nearly four years, there were Wikipedia and Internet Movie Database articles about him, brimming with citations from authoritative Russian sources.

Those entries are now gone. Yuri Gadyukin did not owe money to a gangster. His final film was not swirling out of control. Weathers did not kill him. His body was not found beneath the Hammersmith Bridge.

Gadyukin never died, in fact, because he never existed.

Read the rest of this article here.

Egyptian Candid Camera Take 2: “You’ve Been Kidnapped”

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Submitted by Mike I: Another Egyptian magic moment… maybe a side effect of the Arab Spring?

‘You’ve been kidnapped’: Egyptian TV show ‘terror pranks’ celebrities
By Dina Al-Shibeeb
Al Arabiya
29 July 2012

An Egyptian show is taking entertainment to another level by duping celebrities into believing they have been abducted by terrorists.

The show, “Ramz, the desert’s fox” aired on Al-Hayat TV channel at the start of Ramadan, begins at Cairo’s Terminal 2 airport where a tourist bus arrives to take the celebrity who is the target of the prank.

Video from Jewish News One

The unsuspecting celebrity believes that he or she is being transported on bus to participate in a program to be filmed at the tourist center, the Red Sea city of Ghardaka, to boost the country’s dwindling tourism sector. (more…)

Fake Bill Keller Op-Ed Claimed by Wikileaks

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Political Pranks

Submitted by Emerson Dameron and Clark Stoeckley:

WikiLeaks claims responsibility for fake Bill Keller column, citing donation ban
by Ed Pilkington
29 July 2012

Hoax including fake tweets and a counterfeit Times website dismissed as ‘childish prank’ by former editor Bill Keller

Bill Keller, former New York Times executive editor and current columnist, has found himself the subject of an elaborate internet hoax. Photograph: Ruth Fremson/AP
WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing site set up by Julian Assange, has claimed that it was behind the fake opinion piece circulating on the internet under the name of Bill Keller, columnist and former executive editor of the New York Times.

In a tweet, WikiLeaks said:

The organisation implied that it – or its “great supporters”, whomsoever they might be – had carried out the stunt in a bid to embarrass the Times into covering the financial blockade of WikiLeaks by US companies: (more…)

Egyptian Candid Camera: A Look at the Dark Side

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Political Pranks

Submitted by Mike I:

Egyptian Celebs React Violently When Told They Are On Israeli TV

Published on Jul 24, 2012 by iraqisolder:

A video featuring scenes from an Egyptian candid camera series is garnering attention on the Internet. The show, created by Memri TV, includes clips of Egyptian celebrities being told they are appearing on an Israeli channel.

The video starts with an interview between a female host and actor Ayman Kandeel “Tuhami.” Kandeel is friendly at first but grows angry as a caller tells him he’s being featured on an Israeli program. The actor gets into an argument with a producer, ultimately assaulting the original woman he was speaking with.


Media Manipulator Ryan Holiday Exposes Media Manipulation

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Publicity Stunts

How This Guy Lied His Way Into MSNBC, ABC News, The New York Times and More
by Dave Thier
July 18, 2012

Ryan Holiday could be called an “expert.” As head of marketing for American Apparel, an online strategist for Tucker Max, and
self-styled “media manipulator,” he can talk social media and modern advertising with the best of them – he’s done so both online and in print on countless occasions. He is not an expert in barefoot running, investing, vinyl records, or insomnia. But he is a liar. With a little creative use of the internet, he’s been quoted in news sources from small blogs to the most reputable outlets in the country talking about all of those things.

Holiday, 25 years old and based in New Orleans, mostly wanted to see if it could be done. He had been getting blogs to write what he wanted for years, and had developed a sense of how stories were put together in the internet age. He thought he could push the envelope a bit further.

“I knew that bloggers would print anything, so I thought, what if, as an experiment, I tried to prove that they will literally print anything?” he says. “Instead of trying to get press to benefit myself, I just wanted to get any press for any reason as a joke.” (more…)

Fake Branding Courtesy of Google+

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Fake Google+ Profile Looks Bad For Bank Of America, But Worse For Google
Huffington Post
November 16, 2011

A Google+ account titled “Bank of America” posted a series of updates last week mocking homeowners who couldn’t pay their mortgages.

“Big company party in foreclosed house #2340087 tonight!” read one post.

Another warned Occupy Wall street protesters, “You will sit down and shut up, or we will foreclose on you.”

The Google+ profile featured a Bank of America logo, a link to the bank’s website, and the address and phone number of its New York headquarters. And though it boasted the same name as Bank of America’s official page — it was a fake.

Bank of America is one of several high-profile brands, including Disney, that have had their identities usurped on Google+ by users impersonating the companies. (more…)

Christopher Walken Impersonated in Natalie Wood Death Case

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From a reliable source: A sports talk radio employee, posing as Christopher Walken, fans the flames of a re-opened investigation into the 30 year old death of Natalie Wood. AP picks up the story and then kills it, claiming they were hoaxed.

First the retraction:

AP-US–Natalie Wood-Investigation, KILL,57
^BULLETIN STORY REMOVED: BC-US–Natalie Wood-Investigation
Eds: BULLETIN KILL. Do NOT use BC-US–Natalie Wood-Investigation. A kill is mandatory. The story was based on a purported interview with Christopher Walken that was a radio station hoax.

Los Angeles (AP) — The Associated Press has withdrawn the 12th and 13th Ld-Writethrus of its story about the Natalie Wood investigation. The story quoted Christopher Walken telling Washington, D.C. sports talk radio station ESPN980 about his recollections from the night that Wood died. The station now says that it was a hoax involving a station employee who was impersonating Walken.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV 11-18-11 1259PST

and here’s the story that was killed… (more…)

‘Gay Girl In Damascus’ Is Married Man in America

Filed under: Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News

Submitted by David Strom:

‘Gay Girl In Damascus’ Turns Out To Be An American Man
by Eyder Peralta and Andy Carvin
June 12, 2011

Over the last several months, Amina Arraf, a blogger who said she was Syrian-American and went by the name Gay Girl In Damascus, captured the world’s attention. Her blog caught on just as the protests against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria became widespread and the crackdowns more violent.

On June 6, it all came to a screeching halt when Amina’s cousin declared on the blog that Amina had met the fate of many bloggers in authoritarian regimes: Assad’s police had taken her into custody. Whether she was alive or dead, no one knew.

As soon as “Free Amina” groups popped up on Facebook and the State Department began looking for her, the story began to seem a lot like fiction. No one had ever talked to Amina. The Guardian published a profile of her June 7 that included a picture they soon found out wasn’t Amina but of a Londoner called Jelena Lecic. The biographical details in her blog posts did not check out. Amina Arraf couldn’t be found in any public records in Georgia or Virginia and the names of her father and mother also turned up nothing. (more…)