Media Pranks

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Remembering Silibil N’ Brains & Other Music Industry Pranks

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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

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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]

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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…)

Microsoft Viral Stunt

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Submitted by Paul C. from Yahoo! Finance, by Chris Nichols, August 13, 2009:

Microsoft’s Marketing Stunt Goes Viral

Turns out the official recipe for fun and the way to create an Internet sensation are the same: Start with a megacorporation, add in a group of Germans on a hillside, liberally take advantage of slick editing software and let the power of the Web do its thing.

If you spend any time online, have a TV or know anyone who does, you’ve probably heard about the latest craze blasting its way through cyberspace. In case you haven’t, a recap: A guy in a neoprene suit goes barreling down a waterslide, flies off the end and through the air, traveling a great distance, and splashes down in a tiny pool. It’s the MegaWoosh. See?

Please understand. This is a hoax. (more…)

Oops. 4Chan Not Really Blocked by AT&T; AT&T CEO Not Really Dead

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AT&T said to block 4chan; pranksters fight back
by Caroline McCarthy
July 27, 2009


Reports began to surface Sunday charging that AT&T had blocked broadband access to parts of the notorious (and powerful) Internet forum site 4chan, which the telecom company confirmed on Monday. Late in the evening, a fake story surfaced on CNN’s iReport citizen journalism site alleging that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had been “found dead in his multimillion dollar beachfront mansion” after a cocaine overdose.

Suffice it to say that the two events are likely connected. Access to 4chan has since been restored for AT&T broadband customers.

For those who stepped in late: 4chan is sort of like the Internet’s equivalent of a league of pirates, den of thieves, or whatever other sort of anarchic analogy you prefer. Decentralized and relying on anonymity, the participants issue large-scale pranks both online and offline, from teaming up with video site eBaumsWorld to launch the “Porn Day” campaign on YouTube to spamming Twitter’s trending topics. (more…)

Dark Side of the Moon

Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Media Pranks, The History of Pranks

Update, July 16, 2009 — An interesting twist for conspiracy theorists — NASA lost moon footage, but Hollywood restores it

Submitted by Jorge Luis Marzo:

From Wikipedia:

“Dark Side of the Moon” is a French mockumentary by director William Karel which originally aired on Arte in 2002 with the title Opération Lune. The basic premise for the film is the theory that the television footage from the Apollo 11 Moon landing was faked and actually recorded in a studio by the CIA with help from director Stanley Kubrick. It features some surprising guest appearances, most notably by Donald Rumsfeld, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Buzz Aldrin and Stanley Kubrick’s widow, Christiane Kubrick…

Here, as a tease, are three clips about 25 minutes long, cut from the hour and a half documentary.


Baba Wa Simba Hits the Internet

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks

In 1995, Baba Wa Simba (aka Joey Skaggs), a new-age therapist, whose mission was to work with disenfranchised and troubled youth and heal the wounded animal within, visited his lion pride in London. The Word, a television show on the UK’s Channel 4, documented the visit and aired it March 3, 1995. The video of this visit has just been released online:

Read more about Baba Wa Simba here.

LiteratEye #18: Fakers Find Flaws in Open-Access Free-for-All

Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Pranks

Here’s the eighteenth 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 #18: Fakers Find Flaws in Open-Access Free-for-All
By W.J. Elvin III
June 19, 2009

In this section, we discuss existing research into red-black trees, vacuum tubes, and courseware [10]. On a similar note, recent work by Takahashi suggests a methodology for providing robust modalities, but does not offer an implementation [9].

– Excerpted from a heap of gibberish accepted for publication by a well-known science journal. As this column explains, the promise of the “open access” movement in scientific and scholarly journals is not without problems.

russiatodayWho owns knowledge? One way to get a clue is to try to access research papers published in expensive, exclusive scientific and scholarly journals. Can’t do it with a simple Google search. To pick that lock, you’ll need a credit card.

However, the open access movement is changing that.

The open access movement strives to make scientific and scholarly studies available to all, free. That’s the bottom line. Naturally there’s a more complicated explanation, so, if you want to explore the finer points, check out the Open Access Overview.

Anyway, what a great idea, specialized knowledge accessible to all, minus the usual sky-high price tag.

And you figure these big-hearted publishers of elite and prestigious journals that have been raking in astronomical subscription prices and hefty pay-per-view fees are just opening the gates to the rabble?

Sort of. (more…)

Civil Disobedients Sought via Fake Newspaper

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks

Press release submitted by The Yes Men, June 18, 2009:

World Leaders Sign Pact to Avert Climate Disaster

Newspaper Ignites Hope, Announces “Civil Disobedience Database”
[Watch video here]

IHT-specialedition_Pagina_1-200In a front-page ad in today’s International Herald Tribune, the leaders of the European Union thank the European public for having engaged in months of civil disobedience leading up to the Copenhagen climate conference that will be held this December. “It was only thanks to your massive pressure over the past six months that we could so dramatically shift our climate-change policies…. To those who were arrested, we
thank you.”

There was only one catch: the paper was fake.

Looking exactly like the real thing, but dated December 19th, 2009, a million copies of the fake paper were distributed worldwide by thousands of volunteers in order to show what could be achieved at the Copenhagen climate conference that is scheduled for Dec. 7-18, 2009. (At the moment, the conference is aiming for much more modest cuts, dismissed by leading climate scientists as too little, too late to stave off runaway processes that will lead to millions or even billions of casualties.)

The paper describes in detail a powerful (and entirely possible) new treaty to bring carbon levels down below 350 parts per million – the level climate scientists say we need to achieve to avoid climate catastrophe. One article describes how a website,, mobilized thousands of people to put their bodies on the line to confront climate change policies – ever since way back in June, 2009.

Although the newspaper is a fake (its production and launch were coordinated by Greenpeace), the website is real. (more…)

Beyonce Hoaxed by Accident

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Beyonce Hoaxer Apologises
Daily Star Sunday
25th April 2009

The internet prankster who made Beyonce Knowles sound out-of-tune has apologised for the hoax that “got out of hand”.

beyonceMatthew Zeghibe tampered with a recording of the superstar performing on live TV last November (08) to make it sound like she is tone deaf.

The audio was leaked online and quickly grabbed the attention of fans, internet bloggers and shock jock Howard Stern, who aired the recording on his U.S. radio show.

The controversy prompted Knowles’ father Mathew to dismiss the tape as a fake, and finally Zeghibe came forward to confess his scam.

The art student is stunned his creation attracted so much attention, telling Rolling Stone magazine, “It was just for a good laugh. It was a goof, just for fun. I do a lot of parodies on my YouTube channel, and it just so happens this one got a little out of hand.”

But Zeghibe insists there’s a serious side to his musical tampering – he claims it shows how easy it is to manipulate singers’ voices to make them sound better and worse.

He adds, “I was just trying to make a point. I wanted to show people how easy it is to manipulate someone’s voice. If I can do it with a clip I pulled off of TV, imagine what they are doing on records and during live performances. The entire industry has been so manipulated, because there’s such an emphasis on perfection, so when something like this happens, it causes such a stir.”

The Hotelicopter

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From YouTube:

Check out the world’s first flying hotel!

thanks Don

Extreme Sheep Herding

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Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Media Pranks

From BaaStuds:

We took to the hills of Wales armed to the teeth with sheep, LEDs and a camera, to create a huge amazing LED display. Of sorts…

thanks Erin

iMac Shuffle: Simplicity Defined

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From, created by @rfelix and @chriscoyier, the guys behind LyricSift, its companion iPhone app, and AreMySitesUp:


Introducing the new iMac shuffle. It’s the desktop that had everything. Now, there’s less. We’ve taken out that pesky glass screen and carved the entire computer out of aluminum, for extra sturdiness. Why no screen? Well, we wanted to make the iMac shuffle even more lightweight than its predecessors, and make sure that there was nothing to distract you from the Apple logo. For inspiration, we looked to our newest, most brillant product… the new iPod shuffle.

sideviewAmazingly Uncomplicated
Taking out the screen allowed us to make the iMac even thinner. Seriously, if we turned it to the side, you nearly wouldn’t be able to see it. We’ve also built in our latest technology – VoiceOver. We liked moving the iPod controls out of the iPod shuffle so much that we decided to replace the keyboard and mouse with the same elegant input device…our inline remote. With the combination of VoiceOver and the remote, you’ll never miss your old screen. Who needs all those colors anyway? We’ve enclosed a complete 72,000 page manual that will tell you everything you need to know about navigating using the remote. Using just those 3 buttons, remote, you can easily jump to any window, launch any program…edit multi-layered Photoshop documents, anything your heart desires, you can imagine doing.

Ports? Who needs those? (more…)