Political Pranks

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James O’Keefe’s Phone Prank Fail (and the Rise of the Professional Political Pranksters)

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation

Starting with an astounding botched sting operation from James “ACORN Pimp” O’Keefe and his team Project Veritas, The New Yorker goes in depth exploring the status of American political dirty tricks in a particularly nasty and absurd election year.


“Sting of Myself”
by Jane Meyer
The New Yorker
May 30, 2016

As Dana Geraghty recalls it, March 16th was a “rather quiet Wednesday.” That afternoon, she was in her cubicle at the Open Society Foundations, on West Fifty-seventh Street, where she helps oversee the nonprofit group’s pro-democracy programs in Eurasia. The Foundations are the philanthropic creation of George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire, who is a prominent donor to liberal causes, including Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid. Soros, who has spent nineteen million dollars on the 2016 Presidential campaign, is regarded with suspicion by many conservatives. National Review has suggested that he may be fomenting protests against Donald Trump by secretly funding what it called a “rent-a-mob.”

Geraghty, who is twenty-eight, had programmed her office phone to forward messages from unfamiliar callers to her e-mail inbox. She was about to review several messages when she noticed that one of them was extraordinarily long. “Who leaves a seven-minute voice mail?” Geraghty asked herself. She clicked on it.

AOTP_OKeefe“Hey, Dana,” a voice began. The caller sounded to her like an older American male. “My name is, uh, Victor Kesh. I’m a Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation . . . that would like to get involved with you and aid what you do in fighting for, um, European values.” He asked Geraghty for the name of someone he could talk to “about supporting you guys and coördinating with you on some of your efforts.” Requesting a callback, he left a phone number with a 914 area code—Westchester County.

She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything . . . before I hang up the phone.”

“That piqued my interest,” Geraghty recalls. Other aspects of the message puzzled her: “Who says they’re with a foundation without saying which one? He sounded scattered. And usually people call to get funding, not to offer it.” Victor Kesh, she suspected, was “someone passing as someone else.”

She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities. Soros, he assured the others, has “thousands of organizations” on the left in league with him. Kesh said that the name of his project was Discover the Networks. Read more.


Don’t Look in the Bag!

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

PETA isn’t known to shy away from aggressive and theatrical tactics. Its recent campaigns include a fake pop-up shop worthy of Edgar Allan Poe, created in partnership with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather.



“PETA Gives Leather Shoppers A Grisly Surprise”

by Landress Kearns
The Huffington Post
May 16, 2016

The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn’t appear to consider subtlety a virtue in its fight against animal products.

In the graphic PETA Asia video below, unsuspecting shoppers are shown browsing leather goods. But within every purse, glove and jacket is a grisly surprise.

PETA produced the video by setting up a fake storefront called “The Leather Work” in a mall in Bangkok. The animal rights activists then affixed artificial skin and fake organs — including beating hearts — inside wallets, jackets, purses, belts and other leather goods. They also put fake blood inside gloves and shoes, allowing unsuspecting shoppers to try them on.

Everything looks scarily real, and the shoppers were understandably horrified. The video is hard to watch, but PETA says drastic times in Southeast Asia call for drastic measures. Read more.

Dan Savage Is Back and He’s Pissed

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

Seattle author Dan Savage is once again taking the piss out of America’s social conservative right.

Savage is best known a sex columnist, podcaster, and political activist. But perhaps more fundamentally he is a masterful media manipulator. Stunts such as his notorious SEO-based public humiliation of then-Senator Rick Santorum rank with the classic pranks of Abbie Hoffman or The Magic Christian.

In response to North Carolina’s wildly controversial “transgender bathroom bill,” Savage, the prankster, has reappeared with another disgusting, gut-busting idea. And this one is not confined to the internet.


“Dan Savage Has A Brilliantly Gross Idea To Protest NC’s Anti-LGBT Law”
by Noah Michelson
Huffington Post
May 9, 2016

DanSavage

If Dan Savage gets his way, Pat McCrory’s office will soon be filled with urine.

On Monday, the writer and activist tweeted his suggestion for how the North Carolina governor and his staff could ensure the “safe disposal” of transgender people’s bodily waste:

Savage’s tweet came just hours after Governor McCrory announced the state of North Carolina would sue the U.S. Justice Department over House Bill 2, which was signed into law in March and forces transgender people to use public restrooms that don’t correspond with their gender identity. The Justice Department had given the state until Monday to stop enforcing HB2 or risk a federal lawsuit.

Rather than agree to follow the Justice Department’s order, McCrory and the state’s secretary of public safety instead filed the lawsuit today against the Justice Department for its “radical reinterpretation” of federal civil rights law. (more…)

What’s the Deal With Donald Trump’s Central Park Headstone?

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

The NYT reveals the back story behind a morbid and mysterious piece of public art targeting the media’s favorite real-estate developer.


“Trump Headstone in Central Park: Mystery Solved”
by Michael Wilson
The New York Times
May 9, 2016

TrumpHeadstoneIt was a headstone — a full-size, 420-pound hunk of Vermont granite that would blend in nicely in any of New York City’s cemeteries. But it stood out here, in Sheep Meadow, with a name etched on its face of a man very much among the living.

“TRUMP,” read the headstone, and below that, “Donald J.” The date of birth read 1946. The date of death was blank. Below that was carved an epitaph: “Made America Hate Again.”

It was March 27. Passers-by took pictures that made the viral rounds.

“This is morbid but hilarious,” one commenter posted on Instagram.

“This made my day lol,” another wrote.

Frank Cassara, 70, a third-generation monument dealer in South Slope, Brooklyn, saw the headstone on the evening news, and said five words. Four of them were printable: “I don’t believe it.”

His son, Michael, the fourth generation, said four words, three of which were, “What a moron.”

They knew that headstone well. They had made it. Full story here.


Meet the Street Artists Who Pranked Showtime

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

After planting a special Arabic message on the set of Showtime’s hit show Homeland, Heba Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl became internationally notorious. They explain themselves in Homeland Is Not a Series, a short film from The Intercept’s wonderful Field of Vision video series. Check out the video and the accompanying interview.

homeland-filmmakers-feature-hero

“Interview With Hebia Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl of Homeland Is Not a Series”
by Eric Hynes
The Intercept
December 20, 2015

Commissioned to apply realistic graffiti to sets for the popular Showtime series Homeland, three artists and activists took the opportunity to critique their employer by painting satirical and damning phrases in Arabic — such as “Homeland is NOT a series” and “Homeland is racist” — that nobody on the Homeland team seemed to notice. That is, until an episode that aired worldwide in October was watched by viewers who could read Arabic. Within days, the political prank became an international media sensation.

The conspirators behind the Homeland hack, Heba Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl, come from a diverse array of disciplines and backgrounds. Amin is a visual artist and professor born and based in Cairo; Kapp is a Cairo-born, Berlin-based graphic designer and multimedia artist; and Karl is a Berlin-based graffiti writer and author. When the following interview was conducted, kaleidoscopically via Google Hangout, the trio was collaborating on the edit for Homeland Is Not a Series from three separate cities.

In anticipation of bringing this latest iteration of their project to Field of Vision, the “Arabian Street Artists,” as they cheekily refer to themselves, talked about the effectiveness of humor as a weapon against intolerance, the challenges of making a movie when they don’t consider themselves filmmakers by trade, and how they’re trying to foster further discussion around Western representations of Middle Eastern culture.

Read the full interview here.

Winter is Trumping

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Political Pranks

Armed with a Valyrian steel sword named Deal-Maker, Donald Trump embarks on a quest through Westeros to take care its border policies.

From Huw Parkinson, February 20, 2016


Two Guys Build a Wall Around Trump Tower

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

Some artists build bridges and others are intrigued by the walls that divide humankind. In response to Donald Trump’s plan for a wall along the Mexican border, The Good Liars propose a wall around Trump’s own property… you know, to keep in the “assholes.”

h/t HuffPo.

Banksy Casts his Lot with Steve Jobs in Support of Syrian Refugees in France

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

Banksy, the loved, hated, famous, infamous, politically ambiguous, and seemingly invulnerable Jay-Z of street art, has apparently posted some new work in Calais, France, home of a Syrian refugee camp.


banksystevejobs
“Syrian Refugees Apparently Have A New Ally: Banksy”

By Ryan Grenoble
Huffington Post
December 11, 2015

He’s no terrorist. He’s Steve Jobs.

And he stars in a piece of street art that appeared recently at an informal refugee camp in Calais, France, and has been attributed to the British artist known as Banksy.

The encampment, nicknamed “the Jungle” for its chaotic, squalid living conditions, is home to some 7,000 predominantly Middle Eastern refugees hoping to migrate to Britain.

As the Paris attacks have led to fear-mongering that terrorists may hide among the streams of refugees, Banksy’s work is a reminder not to let fear steer policy. Steve Jobs was himself the son of a Syrian refugee who immigrated to the U.S. from Homs. (more…)

RT News Report: What If We Make a Video and Show ‘Em How Everything Really Works Around Here?

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Filed under: Political Pranks, Prank News, Propaganda and Disinformation, Satire, Spin

The highly controversial Russian news network RT (f/k/a and a/k/a Russia Today) pokes a little fun on its own ruble. Clever, but all propaganda none-the-less… as always.

RT exposed in leaked video:
Watch how evil ‘Kremlin propaganda bullhorn’ REALLY works

Iranian Street Art Gets the Doc Treatment

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks

Mutiny of Colours is a documentary in progress focusing on some of the higher-profile graffiti artists of Iran. Priscilla Frank at HuffPo profiles 12 of the artists showcased, with plenty of visuals and access to the trailer. Some of the work is satirical. Some is political. All of it arose in a climate uniquely hostile to this sort of expression.

streetartiran

iranianstreetart3 iranianstreetart5 iranianstreetart4 iranianstreetart2

Let’s Bomb Agrabah!

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Creative Activism, Media Literacy, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

A significant portion of the American voting public, particularly from the Republican ranks and particularly among Donald Trump fans, are at least somewhat in favor of bombing Agrabah.


“People Want to Bomb the Fictional Kingdom in Aladdin, But Don’t Panic Yet”
By Ariel Edwards-Levy and Natasha Jackson
Huffington Post
December 18, 2015

jafarvsaladdin“Americans are deeply divided over whether to bomb the kingdom of Agrabah, according to a new poll, with Republicans more likely to be in favor and Democrats tending to be opposed.

But here’s the problem: “Agrabah” happens to be the fictional home of Aladdin.

Public Policy Polling, a prominent Democratic-leaning polling firm, included the question in its most recent national poll. (Let’s not forget that this is the same firm that listed “Deez Nuts” as a candidate on a North Carolina poll.)

Over half of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans answered the Agrabah question. Thirty percent of Republican primary voters were in favor of bombing the fictional location, while 13 percent were opposed. Among Democrats, 19 percent were in favor and 36 percent were opposed. (more…)

Fear, Loathing, and Farts in Austin

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

Texas is at the center of the national controversy over mass shootings and gun control. And few cities have the same flair for the theatrical as does Austin.

The warring sides of the gun debate recently staged their own equally ridiculous public events in the state capital.

Fake Mass ShootingThe Huffington Post reports that “Pro-gun advocates doused fake victims with fake blood outside the University of Texas on Saturday in what they called a theatrical event to show the need for firearms on campus.

“Their ‘mock mass shooting’ was met with a much larger counter-protest and derision by many onlookers in the left-leaning city of Austin who saw the group pushing a position that could increase the danger brought by firearms at the university that saw one of the worst mass school shootings in U.S. history.

“One of the mock mass shooting organizers, the group Come and Take It Texas, said allowing gun-free zones on campuses eliminated a human right to personal protection.

“‘Our goal is to instill the importance of everyone to be able to defend themselves in any way they choose,’ the group said in a statement posted on its website.” Whole thing here.

mass farting counter-protestMeanwhile, as reported in the Austin Chronicle, “Pro-gun demonstrators staging a mock mass shooting near the University of Texas at Austin on Saturday were overwhelmed in number and ferocity by a large group of counter-protesters wielding dildos and machines that generated fart sounds.

“‘This isn’t about guns necessarily. This is about scaring our community. This is about a choice between fear and a little bit of good humor,’ Andrew Dobbs, a UT alumnus who organized the ‘mass farting’ counter-protest, told the crowd. ‘We are in a scary time right now and lots of scary things are happening, and some people want us to be more afraid.’ Whole thing here.

Arabic Graffiti on TV’s Homeland: The Writing’s on the Wall

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks

Street Artists Infiltrate ‘Homeland’ With Subversive Graffiti
by Dan Bilefsky and Mona Boshnaq
The New York Times
October 15, 2015

On TV's "Homeland," artists hired to add authenticity to a Syrian refugee-camp set scrawled Arabic graffiti messages declaring the show "racist."

On TV’s “Homeland,” artists hired to add authenticity to a Syrian refugee-camp set scrawled Arabic graffiti messages declaring the show “racist.”


LONDON — In a recent episode of Showtime’s hit series “Homeland,” the former C.I.A. officer Carrie Mathison is escorted by a Hezbollah militant past a wall in a fictional Syrian refugee camp covered with Arabic graffiti.

Attentive viewers who read Arabic, however, might have noticed something awry. Among the messages spray-painted on the walls: “ ‘Homeland’ is racist,” “There is no ‘Homeland’ ” and “ ‘Homeland’ is not a show.”

The subversive messages seemingly escaped the notice of the producers of the television series.

On Wednesday, an Egyptian artist, Heba Y. Amin, and two other artists, Caram Kapp and Stone, took credit for the graffiti, saying it was a subtle protest of false and misleading stereotypes in the series, which has been heavily criticized for its portrayals of Muslims. (more…)

The Squicky Side of International Development

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Satire

JadedAid, a new party game derived in style and spirit from Cards Against Humanity, satirizes the international development industry in brutal and hilarious fashion.


Cards Against Humanitarians
by Iyla Lozofsky
Foreign Policy
September 28, 2015

Needless to say, this very serious industry has its very serious critics. But few are as creative (or as hilarious) as three young development professionals who, in the last few weeks, have chosen to express their discontent by self-publishing a satirical card game. JadedAid is modeled on the popular millennial game, Cards Against Humanity, in which players compete to select the funniest (or most vulgar) answers to a set of “fill-in-the-blank” questions. Just a week since its opening, the JadedAid KickStarter campaign has collected nearly twenty thousand dollars — far ahead of its creators’ targets — and the game is well on its way to completion. As an example of the kind of decidedly un-pc satire the game provides, here is one possible combination of cards:

Some of the card ideas were developed by the game’s inventors, who, all in their thirties, have extensive experience in the technology and communication side of the development industry. But the vast majority of the suggestions (nearly 800 at last count) were submitted by friends, colleagues, and anonymous development workers. One of the game’s co-founders, Jessica Heinzelman, 36, attributes the game’s immediate appeal to the need for development workers to “let off some steam” by subjecting their experiences in the field to mockery. (more…)

Elton John ‘happy to be pranked’

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Filed under: Political Pranks

Elton John ‘happy to be pranked’ if it sheds light on gay rights
By Faith Karimi
CNN
September 18, 2015

Pranks may be for giggles. But gay rights — not so much, Elton John says.

The pop star responded to a prank by a Russian TV celebrity who called him this week pretending to be President Vladimir Putin.

Elton John Instagram

“Pranks are funny. Homophobia, however is never funny,” he said in a post Thursday. “I love Russia and my offer to talk to President Putin about LGBT rights still stands.”

Read the whole story here.


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