All About Pranks

This blog has submissions from many known and not so known pranksters, artists, performers, activists and writers. It provides a continuing and growing exploration into the art of the prank; the role of the prankster as artist, activist and social observer; and the contribution of the prank to society.

Blog Posts

Homo Velamine Interviews Joey Skaggs “Maestro of the Farce” [Spanish and English]

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Hoax Etiquette, Instructionals, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Pranksters, The Future of Pranks, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, What Makes a Good Prank?

Spanish Art and Activism Collective Homo Velamine Interviews Joey Skaggs [Spanish and English]


Joey Skaggs: “A fool is a fool, no matter what their political leaning is”
by Demófila Martínez and Luis Platypus
Homo Velamine
October 31, 2019

Joey Skaggs. PHOTO: Sam Ortiz for Observer

Homo Velamine: The increase of fake news in the media in recent years makes us feel that the limits between fact and fiction are more unclear than ever. In the documentary Art of the Prank (2015), you let the viewer peek into the creative process behind one of your hoaxes. The trickiest part seems to be deciding how far you can take it, without crossing the limits of plausibility and creating something that is impossible to believe. After all these years, does it still surprise you how far this limit can actually be pushed? Which of your performances would you say has pushed this limit the farthest and still has been successful?

Joey Skaggs: Pushing the limits of plausibility is the fun part for me. I create the problem and I create the solution. I take a gamble that what I’m doing is so ridiculous that no one’s going to believe it. I want it to be totally absurd because if the news media does fall for it, it will be even funnier and more effective in revealing their gullibility and/or hypocrisy. (more…)

AI in the Courtroom: Joey Skaggs’ Solomon Project Revisited

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

In 1995, Joey Skaggs launched his Solomon Project hoax. Solomon (so he said) was a distributed program running on a set of super computers that would deliberate on the facts and evidence of a case and deliver a definitive verdict, eliminating the need for juries and radically reducing the role of judges. CNN fell for the Solomon Project hook, line and sinker. Reality may finally be catching up with Skaggs. h/t Felipe


Robot judges ‘will pass sentence with no human bias’ in AI courts
by Michael Moran
Daily Star
October 19, 2019

Increasing use of AI in legal system points the way to an all-robot courtroom

It’s likely that most people locked in our jails believe that with a better lawyer, a more lenient judge or a more understanding jury things might have been very different for them.

Human error, they will say, is to blame for them being banged up.

But can the human element be removed? Law firms are already using computer algorithms to perform background research other tasks traditionally performed by human staff. And that’s just the beginning.

As computer researchers get closer to creating true Artificial Intelligence, it’s predicted to eliminate most paralegal and legal research positions within the next decade.

The next step inevitably involves artificial intelligences aiding, or even completely replacing lawyers. And if we have robot lawyers, why not automated judges and juries too? Why not a fully solid-state legal system?

Read the rest of this article here »

No Surprise, But U.S. Foreign Policy’s Gone Rogue

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Senator Lindsey Graham was caught by Russian pranksters a few months ago saying the exact opposite of what he just said publicly against Turkey’s aggressions in Syria yesterday. How much more convoluted can our foreign policy get?


Lindsey Graham dishes on Trump in hoax calls with Russians
By Natasha Bertrand
Politico
10/10/2019

Graham thought he was speaking with Turkey’s minister of defense. Instead, it was a pair of Russian pranksters.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has in the last year become something of a congressional point man for President Donald Trump’s negotiations with Turkey, leading discussions on everything from Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile system over the summer to their more recent incursion into northern Syria.

So when he received a call from a man he thought was Turkey’s minister of defense earlier in August, it didn’t strike him as unusual. “Thank you so much for calling me, Mr. Minister,” Graham said. “I want to make this a win-win, if we can.”

But it wasn’t the Turkish defense minister at all. Instead, it was Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, Russian pranksters with suspected ties to the country’s intelligence services who go by “Lexus and Vovan.” The duo have become notorious in recent years for their cold calls to unwitting, high-profile Western politicians, including Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, leading some to suspect that they’ve had help from the Kremlin, according to The Guardian. (A Schiff spokesman said at the time that the House Intelligence Committee “informed appropriate law enforcement and security personnel of the conversation.”)

Hear a snippet of the call:

Read the whole story here.

To Trump You’re a Moving Target

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

Want to be “micro-targeted” by the Trump campaign? Just make a donation and they’ll handle the rest.


Trump campaign says it can track your phone
by Matt Binder
Mashable
September 26, 2019

President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign website recently added language that gives it permission to use “beacons” to track the location of mobile devices.

And if you don’t like it? It’s now harder to sue the Trump campaign for privacy violations.

The location tracking addendum was added to the campaign’s privacy policy under the “Information You Choose to Provide to Us” section. The change was first noticed in July by Campaign Monitor, an online tool that tracks significant changes made to 2020 presidential campaign websites.

“We may also collect other information based on your location and your Device’s proximity to ‘beacons’ and other similar proximity systems, including, for example, the strength of the signal between the beacon and your Device and the duration that your Device is near the beacon,” reads the portion added to the Trump campaign’s website privacy policy.

Rest the whole article here.

New York Subway Poster Promotes the Real Rudy Giuliani

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

How the mighty have fallen. h/t Nancy


NYC subway riders greeted by ad hyping ‘crazy’ Rudy Giuliani’s law offices: ‘Will work when drunk!’
by Michael Elsen-Roonet and Chris Sommerfeldt
New York Daily News
October 1, 2019

Rudy Giuliani is off the rails, according to a cheeky ad that popped up in the New York City subway Tuesday.

The satirical ad, which was spotted on at least one A train Tuesday afternoon, touts the ex-New York mayor-turned-Trump attorney’s “crazy” legal services, including “back-channel deals” and “cable news appearances.”

The blue-banner ad also features a mug of Giuliani with his tongue partially out of his mouth, along with a phone number and a link to “CrazyRudyLaw.com.”

“At least I’m assuming its fake! lol,” a straphanger who discovered the “Crazy Rudy” ad told the Daily News. Read the whole article here.

BP or Not BP: Be Wary of Petroleum Based Companies Bearing Gifts

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Hype, Parody, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation

The art activism group BP or not BP is planning a “Trojan Horse” action for November 23 at the British Museum to protest arts organizations that take oil funding. The public is invited.


Anti-Oil Protesters Will Storm the British Museum with a Trojan Horse
by Sarah Rose Sharp
Hyperallergic.com
October 3, 2019

BP or not BP? launched a crowdfunding campaign to build a giant Trojan Horse for its largest protest yet, which will coincide with the museum’s Troy: Myth and Reality exhibition.

photo by Jorge Láscar

A press release dropped today, announcing the next slated action by activist group BP or Not BP? in its ongoing protest campaign against the British Museum’s involvement with British Petroleum (BP). The theater group is inviting public participation in its forthcoming campaign, which takes specific aim at the opening weekend of the new BP-sponsored exhibition about the ancient city of Troy. BP or not BP? intends to replicate the mythic “Siege of Troy” by staging an action at the British Museum. The group has framed this as a “mass creative takeover” and “reimagining” of the British Museum which will take place on Saturday, November 23. They invite public participation in both the protest action and a public crowdfunding campaign to raise money to build a giant Trojan Horse.

In its press release about the project, timed to coincide with the national Museums Association conference in Brighton, which starts today, Sarah Horne of BP or not BP? said: “It’s deeply ironic that BP is sponsoring an exhibition called Troy: Myth and Reality, because this sponsorship deal is essentially a Trojan Horse for BP’s real activities. Just like in the myth, BP pretends that it’s giving us a gift, when in reality it’s trying to smuggle its deadly climate-wrecking business plans past our defences.” Read the whole story here.

Fake News, Fake Fans: We’re All Faked Out

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

David Strom reports on his Web Informant blog about two interesting studies: one from researchers at Oxford about how ubiquitous global disinformation and social media manipulation has become, and the other about how many of politicians’ Twitter followers are totally fake. Donald Trump wins with 61%!


The worldwide spread of government-sponsored social media misinformation
by David Strom
Web Informant
September 27, 2019

For the past three years, researchers at Oxford University have been tracking the rise of government and political party operatives who have been using various social media tools as propaganda devices. Their goal is to shape and undermine trust with public opinion and automate dissent suppression. This year’s report is chilling and I urge you to read it yourself and see what you think. It shows how social media has infected the world’s democracies on an unprecedented scale.

One thing the Oxford researchers didn’t examine is how the practice of using fake followers of major political figures has spread. This analysis was done by SparkToro. As you can see in the above graphic, Donald Trump and Jerry Brown have half or more of their Twitter followers by bots and other automated programs. There are other political figures elsewhere that have high fake proportions too. Read the full blog post here.

Be Aware: The Age of DeepFakes is Upon Us

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin, The Future of Pranks, The History of Pranks

This must-see “DeepFake” video transforms Bill Hader, when he was on Late Night with David Letterman, into Tom Cruise before your very eyes.

Watch the video: Bill Hader channels Tom Cruise [DeepFake], YouTube

A little bit of history: In 1987, an interview with Joey Skaggs was published in a book by RE/Search Pubs called Pranks! in which he predicts and discusses the implications of this exact technology.

AJ: “What is reality?”
JS: “Right. What is reality, and how can you know what is history?
“I’d also like to talk about technology and where we’re going. With the ability to comptuer-enerate photo images and do montage, collage and eventually holograms, we’ll have Hitler alive in South America totally fabricated. We’ll have a home movie of JFK actually screwing Marilyn Monroe, or whatever twisted historical thing we want to create. And it will be virtually impossible to detect that it’s a creation, because of the advancements in technology. We are coming to the forefront tehcnologically of a really frightening media reality. If we don’t sharpen our tools now, our integrity, we’re in for even bigger trouble.”

Read the entire RE/Search Pranks! interview here.

Excerpt:

Right-Wing Website Dosed With Own Medicine

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

The op-ed site Quillette has risen to prominence in the Trump-era conservative firmament by condemning progressive orthodoxies around race and gender, providing a platform for accused sexual predators, defending “Google Memo” author James “Fired4Truth” Damore, and promoting the “Sokal Squared” hoax, an effort to discredit academic disciplines by categorizing them as “grievance studies.”

This week, the site took a blow to its own credibility when left-aligned mischief-maker “Archie Carter” submitted a critique of the Democratic Socialists of America littered with lies, cliches, and errata. The piece was promptly published and promptly retracted by Quillette, leaving leftist publications Alternet and Jacobin (along with broad swaths of Twitter) to gloat over the fallout.

Will Sommer, a journalist/provocateur focused on far-right movements, scored an interview with the hoaxer.


Quillette Duped by Left-Wing Hoaxer Posing as Communist Construction Worker
by Will Sommer
The Daily Beast
August 9, 2019

Construction worker and avowed Leninist Archie Carter has plenty of gripes with the Democratic Socialists of America, the left-wing group that’s enjoyed a new wave of popularity during the Trump era.

In an essay published Thursday on the conservative op-ed website Quillette, Carter declared that DSA had been overrun with overeducated, oversensitive college graduates, blinding itself to the true needs of the working class.

“DSA is doomed,” Carter wrote.

Carter’s piece seemed like exactly the kind of argument that’s turned Quillette, a self-described “platform for free thought,” into a hotbed for the right-wing online “Intellectual Dark Web” movement. Carter had impeccable blue-collar bona fides, with his Quillette bio describing him as a committed union member who’s always “watching the Mets blow a lead.”

But there’s one problem with Carter’s story: He doesn’t exist.

DSA members started picking holes in Carter’s story almost as soon it went live on Quillette. New York City’s DSA local couldn’t find any record of a member, current or former, named Archie Carter. And while Carter claimed to have participated in sit-in protests as part of his DSA work, the group hadn’t organized sit-ins in New York in years.

By Thursday evening, Quillette had retracted Carter’s essay, saying Carter had failed to “supply answers to our follow-up questions in timely fashion.” Read more.


Stephen Barnwell’s Outrageous and Exquisite Moneyart on Exhibit Through September 8

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

Congratulations to artist, activist Stephen Barnwell whose “Capital Offenses” moneyart will be on display at Monmouth Museum, 765 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ, as part of the NJ Emerging Artists Series, now through September 8, 2019.

Citroën’s WWII Subterfuge Remembered

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction, Urban Legends, You Decide

True or not, this is an inspiring bit of sabotage.


Citroën Sabotaged Wartime Nazi Truck Production in a Simple and Brilliant Way
by Jason Torchinsky
Jalopnik.com
July 24, 2019

Citroen

In case you forgot to change the batteries in your calendar, you may not be aware that this year is the 100th anniversary of Citroën. We’ve been shooting a Jason Drives special mini-series for this centenary, and while doing some research I happened to stumble upon a fascinating bit of wartime Citroën lore. It involves screwing with Nazis in a genuinely clever and subtle way that nevertheless had big repercussions. I’ll explain.

So, when France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, major French factories like Citroën were forced to produce equipment for the Nazis. Citroën president Pierre-Jules Boulanger knew he couldn’t just refuse to produce anything, but he also knew there’s no way in hell he’s going to just roll over and build trucks for a bunch of filthy Nazis. Pierre had a plan.

John Reynolds’ book Citroën 2CV describes Boulanger’s sabotage efforts. Of course, he instructed workers to set a nice, leisurely pace when building trucks (likely Citroën T45 trucks) for the Wermacht, but that’s fairly obvious. What was brilliant was Boulanger’s idea to move the little notch on the trucks’ oil dipsticks that indicated the proper level of oil down just a bit lower.

By moving the notch down, the trucks would not have enough oil, but German mechanics would have no idea, because, hey, the little notch on the dipstick says its just fine. Then, after the truck has been used for a while and is out deployed somewhere crucial, whammo, the engine seizes up, and you’ve got a lot of angry, stranded, vulnerable Nazis, balling up their little fists and redly barking curses in German.

It’s such a fantastic act of sabotage: it’s extremely cheap to implement, it’s subtle, there’s no way to see something amiss is happening as the trucks are being built, and it delivers its blow away from the site of the sabotage and when it will cause the most inconvenience and trouble.

I suppose it could be apocryphal, but this is one of those cases where I’m going to choose to believe.

That’s some mighty good sabotaging, Pierre.

While We’re Talking About Solutions for Gun Violence…

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Filed under: Parody, Political Challenges

An anonymous quote, incorrectly attributed to Gloria Steinem in 2015 because she praised and posted it on Facebook, is still inspiring today:

“I want any young men who buy a gun to be treated like young women who seek an abortion,” the quote reads. “Think about it: a mandatory 48-hours waiting period, written permission from a parent or a judge, a note from a doctor proving that he understands what he is about to do, time spent watching a video on individual and mass murders, traveling hundreds of miles at his own expense to the nearest gun shop, and walking through protestors holding photos of loved ones killed by guns, protestor who call him a murderer. After all, it makes more sense to do this for young men seeking guns than for young women seeking an abortion. No young woman needing reproductive freedom has ever murdered a roomful of strangers.”

Paul Krassner, RIP

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire, The History of Pranks

Sadly, my friend Paul Krassner, satirist, activist, comedian, author, and publisher of The Realist, has passed away. Since the 1960s, he was always there for me, as I was for him.

Paul was with me on my Hippie Bus Tour To Queens and was part of my Vietnamese Christmas Nativity Burning in Central Park, both in 1968.

In 1969, he published a photo of himself standing with my Grotesque Statues of Liberty on the back cover of his book How a satirical editor became a Yippie conspirator in ten easy years.

Paul used his voice to draw attention to social injustice, inequality and challenges to our freedom. I’ll miss his satirical wit.

Here’s his full obit in The New York Times (for people who can’t access it).

[Editor’s note: The New York Times covered my Hippie Bus Tour to Queens in 1968 when it happened. Years later, in 1992, they misattributed it to Abbie Hoffman and had to print a retraction. They’ve now done it a second time in Paul’s obit. Paul was one of 60 hippies who accompanied me on the tour (Hippie Bus Tour to Queens Remembered 50 years later! by Joey Skaggs, Artsy.net). I know he’d want to set this record straight.]


Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87
by Joseph Berger
The New York Times
July 21, 2019

Paul Krassner, right, in 1969 with, from left, Ed Sanders of the rock group the Fugs and Abbie Hoffman. Mr. Krassner helped start the Yippie movement and was the founder of The Realist magazine. Credit The New York Times

He was a prankster, a master of the put-on that thumbed its nose at what he saw as a stuffy and blundering political establishment. (more…)

Lawless John Law Revealed

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

John Law, co-editor of Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, is a pioneering adventurer who defies gravity and the status quo. From the Suicide Club to Burning Man to the Billboard Liberation Front to the Cacophony Society and beyond, John is a true inspiration to artists and activists. He’s also a helluva driver. I’m glad to call him a friend. His one-man show “SIGNMAN: John Law” is at the Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland until August 24.


John Law, iconic Bay Area prankster, now has his own ‘art’ show
by Angela Hill
Mercury News
July 5, 2019

A famed Bay Area prankster and underground artist just got his first exhibit

Here’s the way one of John Law’s longtime cohorts describes an early encounter with the neon artist/prankster/culture jammer/urban adventurer/enigma:

It was 1982 and Mark Pauline got a phone call from Law saying he had a bunch of body parts in the refrigerator at his house and they had to get them out of there before the cops came. “Sure enough, he had a big plastic bag full of human body parts, preserved in formaldehyde,” says Pauline, director of performance art group Survival Research Labs (known for building things that spew fire and blow stuff up).

“John was in the Cacophony Society and those guys would go in abandoned buildings and do adventures,” Pauline says. “They’d gone into an abandoned mortuary college and found all these body parts left in these tubs there, so they took ‘em.”

Frankenstein-style, for another pal to tattoo and display in a big Lexan case which hung around for a while and eventually cracked and rats got in and ate all the skin. But that’s a story for another day.

“That is one of my hundreds of John Law tales,” Pauline says. “At least one we can talk about in public.”

Indeed, if you add up all the pranks and adventures and happenings Law’s been part of over the decades, it becomes a cacophonous calculus, an astronomical amalgamation of mischief in the Bay Area’s underground arts scene.

Now, Law has gone above ground for his first art show, “SIGNMAN: John Law,” a retrospective of his four-plus decades of devilish deeds, on view at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland through Aug. 24. All this despite the fact that he doesn’t really consider himself an artist and uses air quotes whenever he talks about his “work.”

So who is this man? Culture jammer? Gentleman joker? Prankster with a purpose?

“I’m an unindicted co-conspirator,” he says, a sly smile curling above his silver goatee. “But I guess I’m an artist now, since I have an art show.”

Read more…

r/Place: Recollections of a Pop-up Online Subculture

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, The World of the Prank

r/Place, an incredible 2017 reddit experiment with a simple premise and strict parameters, stands out for the spirit of challenge and community it ignited. It brought the best of collaborative street art into the heart of the digital realm, it earned its place in the annals of internet culture, and it’s worth revisiting and remembering. Here’s how it went down, through the eyes of one very engaged participant.

(If you’re unfamiliar with reddit, here’s a pretty good primer.)


“The story of r/Place. As told by a foot soldier for r/Mexico.”
By Arturo Gutierrez
ART + Marketing
April 3, 2017

I’m sure other historians can tell you who was the first. Others much more knowledgeable than me who can pinpoint where exactly in the vast Canvas did the cursors of hundreds aimed themselves into a singular area, and willed order out of the chaos. But I’m not the one to tell.

Instead, what I saw as a bystander that April 1st was the emergence of life, color, and memes of all sizes and kinds growing almost by magic. And as the hours passed, as I laid a pixel here, waited, and laid another pixel there, the whole Canvas evolved and grew between each of my visits. It was an amazing sight to behold. An inspiring feat of human ingenuity, humor, and improvised politics in slow motion.

Yes, that’s right. For even in these early hours, even before the dedicated subreddits, the forums, Discord channels and massive bot armies of the later days, a silent, wordless body of politics was being established right before our eyes. Read more.