Emerson Dameron

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Bulgarian Superhero Shenanigans

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

Bulgarian vandals are disrespecting Soviet military monuments, and the Russian government wants them to cut it out right now. H/t Naomi.

“Russia Wants Bulgarians to Stop Painting Soviet Monuments To Look Like American Superheroes”
By Staff
Earthly Mission
October 20, 2017

According to a report by the Moscow Times, pranksters in Bulgaria are repainting Soviet-era monuments so that Soviet military heroes look like American Superheroes. Needless to say, the Russians are not too happy about it.

Watch the video and then read more:

Noted Twitter Conservatives Exposed as Russian Ops

Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Spin

It’s been a year since the 2016 US presidential election. As part of the larger story of Russian interference on behalf of President Donald Trump, the fever swamp of conservative digital media is starting to look a lot more mysterious. The story of “Jenna Abrams,” exposed in The Daily Beast, is fascinating by itself, and it appears to be the rim of the rabbit hole.

“Two popular conservative Twitter personalities were just outed as Russian trolls”
By Rob Tornoe
November 3, 2017

Jenna Abrams was a popular figure in right-wing social media circles. Boasting nearly 70,000 followers, Abrams was featured in numerous news articles during the 2016 election, spotlighted by outlets as varied as USA Today, the Washington Post, the BBC, and Yahoo! Sports. Her tweet about CNN airing porn during Anthony Bourdain’s show (it didn’t) was reported by numerous outlets.

According to information released by House Democrats earlier this week, Abrams was one of more than 2,750 fake Twitter accounts created by employees at the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” funded by the Russian government based in St. Petersburg. In addition to the Abrams account, several other popular conservative social media personalities — @LauraBaeley, SouthLoneStar, Ten_GOP — were all revealed to be troll accounts. All have been deactivated on Twitter.

According to the Daily Beast, the agency developed a following around the Abrams account by offering humorous, seemingly non-political takes on pop culture figures like Kim Kardashian. The agency also furnished the fake account, which dates back to 2014, with a personal website, a Gmail account and even a GoFundMe page.

Once the Abrams account began to develop a following, the tone of its tweets shifted from pokes and prods at celebrities to divisive views on hot topics like immigration and segregation. Read more.

Sim Cities

Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Illusion and Magic, Prank News, Pranksters

Photographer Gregor Sailer’s new book focuses on incredibly detailed, entirely uninhabited, completely fake urban landscapes.

“These Cities Might Look Real But They’re 100% Fake”
By Laura Mallonee
October 25, 2017

Junction City has all the trappings of an Iraqi town: a brightly painted mosque; shops adorned with Arabic script; the occasional humvee or tank rumbling by. But you won’t find it anywhere near Mosul. It’s a stage set at Fort Irwin, in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert, where US troops simulate fighting insurgents.

“It’s a lonely place, full of buildings no one will ever live in,” says photographer Gregor Sailer. “It’s like a ghost city—the wind smashing the doors, blowing through the streets.”

Sailer captured Junction City and 21 other fake urban landscapes for his fascinating new book The Potemkin Village. They include a New York-themed town in Sweden built to test cars for road safety; a Russian city with elaborate facades disguising forlorn buildings; and a Dutch hamlet in China that tourists visit for a taste of Europe. “Sometimes they’re more real and other times they’re more an illusion,” Sailer says. “I’m jumping between these two worlds, and that’s what makes it exciting for me.” Read more.

Artists Stage a Spectacle for Passing Trains

Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters

How to get the attention of an audience on the go…

“German artists stage a quirky performance for passing trains”
by Rusty Blazenhoff
September 21, 2017

Over 500 volunteers and residents in the “Bewegtes Land” art project entertained passengers with a super fun and quirky art performance, all happening along the train’s nearly 19-mile route.

Watch the video to see how they surprised their moving audience along the way.

The route went from Jena to Naumburg, a quiet area in the Saale valley’s countryside not known for tourists. Read more.

Confessions of a Social Engineer

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Pranksters, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

Working at the dangerous intersection of technology and security, social engineers help organizations stay safe(r) by exposing their vulnerabilities. Often, this relies less on advanced coding skills than it does on old-fashioned behavioral psychology and the reflexes of a trickster. In this humorous account, an infosec con artist spills her secrets.

“How I Socially Engineer Myself Into High-Security Facilities”
By Sophie Daniel
October 20, 2017

Hello! My name is Sophie and I break into buildings. I get paid to think like a criminal.

Organizations hire me to evaluate their security, which I do by seeing if I can bypass it. During tests I get to do some lockpicking, climb over walls or hop barbed wire fences. I get to go dumpster diving and play with all sorts of cool gadgets that Q would be proud of.

But usually, I use what is called social engineering to convince the employees to let me in. Sometimes I use email or phone calls to pretend to be someone I am not. Most often I get to approach people in-person and give them the confidence to let me in.

My frequently asked questions include:
What break-in are you most proud of?
What have you done for a test that you were the most ashamed of?

What follows is the answer to both of these questions. Read more.

Carl Sagan’s Crash Course in Critical Thinking

Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin, The History of Pranks

This could hardly be more timely, so we’re revisiting Maria Popova’s Brainpickings review of “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” a chapter from Carl Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, in which the legendary scientist distills his years of professional skepticism into a primer for recognizing and calling BS in everyday life. H/t Dino.

“The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking”
By Maria Popova
January 3, 2014

Sagan reflects on the many types of deception to which we’re susceptible — from psychics to religious zealotry to paid product endorsements by scientists, which he held in especially low regard, noting that they “betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers” and “introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity.” (Cue in PBS’s Joe Hanson on how to read science news.) But rather than preaching from the ivory tower of self-righteousness, Sagan approaches the subject from the most vulnerable of places — having just lost both of his parents, he reflects on the all too human allure of promises of supernatural reunions in the afterlife, reminding us that falling for such fictions doesn’t make us stupid or bad people, but simply means that we need to equip ourselves with the right tools against them.

Through their training, scientists are equipped with what Sagan calls a “baloney detection kit” — a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods:

The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method.

But the kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science — rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. Sagan shares nine of these tools. Read more.

The Spooky History of a Time-Travel Hoax

Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Media Pranks, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, You Decide

For some retro Halloween fun, this fascinating oral history dives into a carefully constructed paranormal e-drama from the early ’00s.

“The Oral History of John Titor, the Man Who Traveled Back In Time to Save the Internet”
by K. Thor Jensen
October 19, 2017

Anyone can be anybody from the other side of a screen: a Nigerian prince pleading for money; a lonely housewife “catfishing” a romantic interest; or a 14-year-old girl posing as just about anyone. From the “bonsai kitten” scandal of 2000 to the Lonelygirl15 “vlogs,” the internet has proved itself to be fertile ground for hoax-makers, scam artists, and digital charlatans.

One legendary hoax captivated fans of the supernatural and the paranormal like few others. November 2, 2000 saw the first online post by the individual who would come to be known as “John Titor.” Titor claimed to be a man from the future, sent to the past to retrieve… a portable computer. Though shrouded by forum avatars, his specific instructions on what he was here to accomplish, and what society would look like in his version of the future, kicked off a frenzy of investigation, speculation, and deception that has lasted for nearly two decades.

Some people believed “John Titor” completely. Others became obsessed with errors and inconsistencies, digital detectives trying to uncover the truth behind the story. Before it was over, Titor would make his way to an animation studio in Japan, a wrestling ring in Pennsylvania, and a prison cell in Oregon.

This is his story, as told by the people who fell deep into it.

Read the whole story here.

Russian Punk Legend Pussy Riot Gives Trump a Special Performance

Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, First Amendment Issues, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

Donald Trump’s real estate holdings have provided excellent venues for pranksters, performance artists, and activists of all stripes. The Russian activist punk band Pussy Riot is using Trump’s Russia controversies to draw attention to the plight of political prisoners – and they know of what they protest.

“Pussy Riot storms Trump Tower”
by Gabrielle Fonrouge
The New York Post
October 24, 2017

Pussy Riot is at it again.

The infamous Russian feminist punk rock group, clad in bright dresses and wool masks that covered their faces, stormed Trump Tower on Monday night to protest the incarceration of political prisoners.

Hidden behind their usual makeshift balaclavas, this time in green, pink and purple, the women unfurled a massive sign from an upper floor of the 58-story skyscraper that said “Free Sentsov” and dropped what appears to be a series of photographs, [the] video shows.

Frantic security guards rushed up the stairs to stop the girls, who were not arrested for their actions as portions of Trump Tower are open to the public.

“We’re calling on you today to raise attention to two guys from Ukraine: film director Oleg Sentsov and anarchist Olexandr Kolchenko, who are in Russian prison right now. Sentsov got 20 years in prison, Kolchenko got 10 years. Because they, like you, did not sit by — they were fighting for their freedom in Crimea, which was annexed by Putin,” the bad-girl group posted on Facebook.

“We decided to do an action right now, while we are in New York, with activists here because we believe there are no borders to our solidarity.” Read more.

Fake News Is the New Real News

Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Fake news (aka propaganda) has always been with us, just not in the hands of so many little people. Now it appears the genie’s out of the bottle and all the King’s horses and all the King’s men might not be able to put it back in…

“Fake news is here forever, study says”
by Fox News Staff
The New York Post
October 6, 2017

Fake information will pervade mature economies in the next few years, a new study has noted.

By 2022, most people in mature economies will consume more false information than true information, according to the study from research firm Gartner.

This trend will be fueled, in part, by “confirmation bias,” that “leads all people to seek out, select and value information that parallels what they believe and expect to be proven true,” the study’s authors, Magnus Revang and Whit Andrews, found.

And even improved artificial intelligence (AI), which companies like Facebook and Google are working on, won’t be able to stop it, a separate study by Gartner found. “Counterfeit reality” or fake content, will “outpace AI’s ability to detect it.”

Generating false information will always cost less than the cost of detecting it. “False information will consequently outpace true information where there is economic or political interest to purvey it,” Revang and Andrews wrote. Read more.

Jared Kushner’s Attorney Exposed in Lego Fetish Porn Email Prank

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

Because at this point, “high-level Trump White House insider fooled by really obvious fake email, from the same person who did it last time” is a Dog Bites Man headline.

“Prankster tricks Jared Kushner’s lawyer into believing he had Lego fetish porn on his private server”
by Mark Frauenfelder
Boing Boing
September 27, 2017

Jared “Go Daddy” Kushner is in the news for using his private server to conduct White House business. It’s only a crime if you are a Democrat, so he has nothing to worry about, but that didn’t stop prankster @sinon_reborn from convincing Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, that he was Kushner and had been emailing porn through the server.

Read more.

The Story of Snopes

Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Prank News, Propaganda and Disinformation

Turbulent times have brought increased attention for Snopes, the long-running, cred-heavy fact-checking website. This longform feature weaves a compelling tapestry of research, analysis, and narrative, including a raw and revealing interview with the site’s embattled cofounder David Mikkelson.

“Snopes and the Search for Facts in a Post-fact World”
by Michelle Dean
September 20, 2017

“It was early March, not yet two months into the Trump administration, and the new Not-Normal was setting in: It continued to be the administration’s position, as enunciated by Sean Spicer, that the inauguration had attracted the “largest audience ever”; barely a month had passed since Kellyanne Conway brought the fictitious “Bowling Green massacre” to national attention; and just for kicks, on March 4, the president alerted the nation by tweet, “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.”

If the administration had tossed the customs and niceties of American politics to the wind, there was one clearly identifiable constant: mendacity. “Fake news” accusations flew back and forth every day, like so many spitballs in a third-grade classroom.

Feeling depressed about the conflation of fiction and fact in the first few months of 2017, I steered a car into the hills of Calabasas to meet with one person whom many rely on to set things straight. This is an area near Los Angeles best known for its production of Kardashians, but there were no McMansions on the street where I was headed, only old, gnarled trees and a few modest houses. I spotted the one I was looking for—a ramshackle bungalow—because the car in the driveway gave it away. Its license plate read SNOPES.” Read more.

White People Take On Facebook Racists

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

As most celebrities know, there are advantages to letting other people handle your social media. Significantly, you don’t have to spend hours of your day engaging with strangers who hate you for no good reason. Now, a volunteer Facebook group gives non-famous people of color the same advantage.

“These White People Will Respond To Your Racist Trolls So You Don’t Have To”
by Sara Ruiz-Grossman
The Huffington Post
September 19, 2017

“If a white person is filling your social media with white nonsense ― anything from overt racism to well-intentioned problematic statements, tag us and a white person will come roundup our own,” the group’s Facebook post reads.

The volunteer-run Facebook group, founded last year by friends Layla Tromble and Terri Kompton in Washington state, has white people respond to racist trolls online at the request of people of color.

At a time of deep political divides and tensions around racism and white supremacy, the group exists to support people of color, who are all too often the targets of online hate but are also often asked by white people to explain everyday race-related issues, from why NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to why you can’t just touch a black woman’s hair.

“It’s the responsibility of us white folks to do the emotional labor that’s required to educate other white folks ― and it shouldn’t be required of people of color again and again,” Tromble told HuffPost. “One of the goals of the service is to do some of that labor for people. Let them go have a drink and not worry about nonsense going on on their Facebook.” Read more.

The Library Pranksters Who Paid a Heavy Fine

Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Literary Hoaxes, Political Challenges, Pranksters, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The History of Pranks

These men pranked their local library. Homophobic outrage ensued. A bitter look back at a time of high stakes for creative pranksters.

“The Strange, Sad Story of Joe Orton, His Lover, and 72 Stolen Library Books”
by Natasha Frost
Atlas Obscura
August 9, 2017

A search warrant might seem excessive for library book hoarding—but Halliwell and Orton were no ordinary library pilferers. For over two years, Orton and Halliwell had been smuggling books out of their local libraries, the magnificent Art Nouveau Islington Central Library on London’s Holloway Road and nearby red-brick Essex Road Library—and then returning them.

Orton hid books in a satchel; Halliwell, six-and-a-half years older, used a gas mask case. They would take them home, redo their covers and dust-jackets, and then slip them back onto the shelves.

Sometimes, these alterations were obscene: a reader scanning a relatively tame Dorothy Sayers whodunit would find themselves confronted with a mystery even before they opened the book. The blurb now described some missing knickers and a seven-inch phallus, and concluded: “READ THIS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS! And have a good s*** while you are reading!” Meanwhile, the collected plays of Emlyn Williams, a Welsh dramatist, suddenly included “Knickers Must Fall,” “Olivia Prude,” “Up The Front,” and “Up The Back.” Read more.

Trump Brand Thrives on the Dark Markets

Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

Of all the business initiatives pumped by the Trump brand, this may be the darkest.

“Dark Web Drug Dealers are Using the Donald Trump Brand”
by Joseph Cox
The Daily Beast
August 22, 2017

Cybercriminals selling drugs and stolen credit cards have adopted an unlikely new branding trend on the so-called dark web. A host of black-market dealers are using the brand, name and likeness of the 45th president to upsell their shipments of ecstasy, cocaine, and ketamine.

“Let’s make the darknet great again,” pledges one of these illicit online businesses that literally calls itself “Donald Trump.”

Several of the vendor’s listings refer to their store as “Trump Towers,” where they sell “presidential” quality shipments of illicit substances.

“Donald Trump” sells its wares on Dream, an established dark web marketplace. After the FBI closed the largest market called AlphaBay last month, and European cops shuttered a second popular online bazaar, Dream is now likely the busiest underground drug site. Some vendors on Dream also offer your usual array of counterfeit currency and fake identity documents.

According to the ‘Donald Trump’ listings, the dealer posts drugs from Belgium, but they do not ship to the U.S. Photos of the large blocks of cocaine include a Donald Trump bobble-head.

‘Donald Trump’ appears to have plenty of satisfied customers. Whenever someone buys an item on the dark web, the market typically prompts them to leave a rating and short review. That way, potential customers can get a better idea of who sells the real product, and who may be a scammer. Read more.

Studio KCA Turns Pollution into Provocation

Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

The Brooklyn artists once again sculpt an environmental statement.

“Kauai plastic going into Belgian sculpture”
by Jessica Else
The Garden Island
August 23, 2017

Plastic from Kauai’s beaches is going to Belgium where it will become part of a 30-foot tall blue whale sculpture.

It’s all part of Brooklyn-based Studio KCA’s project to create larger than life reminders of human impacts to the environment, and most of the materials for the sculpture are coming from Kauai.

“A lot of our plastic waste is collecting in Hawaii — the northern part of Kauai and the southern part of Hawaii Island,” said Jason Klimoski, co-owner of Studio KCA.

Klimoski and his partner Lesley Chang are also gathering plastic from the United States’ west coast and east coast for the project.

Klimoski and Chang are architects and artists who got their start in gigantic sculptures with eco-friendly messages in 2013 with a sculpture on Governor’s Island, New York. Read more.