Fact or Fiction?

A look at conspiracy theories, “official truths”, political spin, propaganda, tall tales, urban legends, magic, and illusion, all as they relate to the Art of the Prank. When truth intersects with a personal agenda, established facts are challenged, or human gullibility is preyed upon for ulterior motives, we hope that skepticism, logic, reason, and facts have a balancing effect.

Blog Posts

Re-framing Russian Farming

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

Russian technology has come a long way…


RUSSIAN CYBERPUNK FARM

“They say that Russia is a technically backward country, there are no roads, robotics do not develop, rockets do not fly, and mail goes too long. It’s a bullshit.”

Rudy Giuliani Gets Caught with his Hand in the Cookie Jar

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Spin, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

A scene in Sacha Baron Cohen’s news movie “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” exposes Rudy Giuliani, ex-Mayor of New York and Donald Trump’s personal attorney, in a compromising position. He makes a play for a sexy young journalist who is interviewing him and gets caught on film appearing to put his hand down his pants. Rudy says he was just tucking in his shirt.

You decide. Watch the footage of the scene here:

And here’s Sacha Baron Cohen’s response in character as Borat defending Rudy.

Read more at The Guardian: Rudy Giuliani faces questions after compromising scene in new Borat film

James “The Amazing” Randi, RIP

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Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction, Urban Legends

The world of social activism has lost another warrior.

I had the pleasure of meeting James Randi, a magician and great debunker of fake psychics and other charlatans, in 1986 when we both appeared on The Afternoon Show, a San Francisco TV talk show on KPIX. We both performed magic tricks. He removed the male host’s watch from his wrist. I removed the female host’s panties. (Having prepared ahead of time to appear on the show along with him, I had hidden a pair of female panties in my pocket and pulled them out to top Randi’s magic trick.) Riotous laughter ensued.

He later was the narrator of an Arts & Entertainment documentary called Scams, Schemes and Scoundrels which covered numerous dead scoundrels and me. You can watch the clip here.

Read his Obit in The New York Times

The Writing’s on the Wall

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Read a Trump lie on air at Radio Free Brooklyn and help promote voter registration.


Wall of Lies

A public art project displaying more than 20,000 Trump lies with voter registration drive

October 3rd – October 4th noon to 7pm
at Pine Box Rock Shop, 12 Grattan Street, Bushwick

Independent community radio station Radio Free Brooklyn (RFB) announces “Wall of Lies,” a groundbreaking visual art project one month before the presidential election of 2020. The project demonstrates the unprecedented lack of honesty from our current Commander-in-Chief.

Wall of Lies is a 50-foot by 10-foot outdoor mural with the 20,000+ lies told by Donald Trump (so far) while in office, documented and fact-checked by The Washington Post. Wall of Lies will be on public view on Grattan St from noon Saturday Oct 3rd until 7p Sunday October 4th.

“The countdown to Election Day is underway and Americans are already beginning to vote across the nation, in this time where misinformation is rampant, we feel it’s vital to use our voice to call out these untruths in a visually-provoking way,” says RFB Executive Director Tom Tenney.

The socially-distanced live event accompanying the mural includes a voter registration drive, and a live Radio Free Brooklyn broadcast on Sunday from 3-6 pm, Radio Free Brooklyn will be inviting members of the public to read some of Trump’s most egregious lies on the air.

“The original idea of the project was for a radio marathon, 24/7 on-air reading of all of Trumps’ lies on Radio Free Brooklyn for a full week before the election,” said Tenney, who has been in touch with The Washington Post and granted access to its database of Trump’s false and misleading statements. “However, once the pandemic hit and our operations moved to remote locations, the project was shelved. It was artist Phil Buehler who suggested reviving it as a visual art project.”

“It was just too good an idea not to happen somehow,” Buehler added, “since I’ve been making large-scale panoramic photographs of political events, a gigantic mural of all the lies seemed the perfect match to Tom’s original idea. Seen from a distance, it looks like chaos – perhaps an apt metaphor for this presidency, but when you step closer, you can read the individual lies, which are in chronological order color-coded by categories like coronavirus, Russia, immigration, the environment and jobs. Then when you step back, you can recognize patterns in Trump’s lying.”

The final piece of the project came together when Heather Rush, the owner of Pine Box Rock Shop, coordinated with grassroots voting activists Rep Your Block to set up voter registration next to the mural.

Read more in the Bushwick Daily: “Wall of Lies” Mural in Bushwick Will Display Over 20,000 Donald Trump Lies.

Always Check Your Sources Before You Get Outraged

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

“Ghostwriter” global disinformation campaign takes aim at NATO


Hackers post fake stories on real news sites ‘to discredit Nato’, BBC News, July 30, 2020

Hackers have broken into real news websites and posted fake stories stirring up anti-Nato sentiment, a cyber-security firm has warned.

The disinformation campaign, nicknamed “ghostwriter”, has been ongoing since 2017, according to FireEye researchers.

It is designed to “chip away” at support for Nato in Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, they said.

While the false stories are “aligned with Russian security interests”, it is not known who is behind the attack.

The disinformation campaign uses “falsified news articles, quotes, correspondence and other documents designed to appear as coming from military officials and political figures in the target countries,” FireEye said.

In some cases, false news stories were posted on real news websites without permission.

The attackers apparently gained access to the CMS of the target website and replaced old articles with their own content, or posted entirely new false articles.

They would try to spread the fake stories on social media before they were taken down.

In one example from last year, a Lithuanian news site published a fake article claiming that German soldiers had desecrated a Jewish cemetery.

In another, a fake message was posted to the Polish War Studies Academy website, claiming to be from the organisation’s commander. It called for troops to fight against “the American occupation”. Read the rest of the story here.

Even Reality Requires Scrutiny

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Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Paris’s Fake Buildings (And The Story Behind Them), by The Tim Traveller

Throwing Money Around Can Lead to Jail Time

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

Bank Robber Prank yields fun for some and felony charge for others. Pretending to rob a bank is a YouTube prank “genre”. These guys had fun…

Bank Robber Prank, September 20, 2019 (Over 10M views on YouTube)

These guys, not so much. Stokes twins BANK ROBBER PRANK (gone wrong), March 30, 2020

And, then…

Twin YouTube Stars Alan and Alex Stokes Charged with Felonies After Staging Bank Robbery Pranks, by Ashley Boucher, People, August 5, 2020

Twin YouTubers have been charged with felony counts after they pretended to be bank robbers for prank videos filmed in California last year.

Alan and Alex Stokes, 23, are each facing a felony count of false imprisonment effected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit and one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced in a press release Wednesday.

The twins are accused of dressing in all black and wearing ski masks while carrying around duffel bags of cash last October.

According to the DA’s office, Alan and Alex ordered an Uber driver while posing as bank robbers on October 15, beginning the caper around 2:30 p.m. The driver refused to drive them, and a bystander believed they were trying to carjack the Uber driver.

When police arrived, they ordered the Uber driver out of the car at gunpoint, releasing him when they realized he was not involved. Read the whole story here.

Essential TikTok: Dead Fish Dating Photo Ratings

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Filed under: Parody, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Would there be life without TikTok?


The Men of Fish Tinder Are Still the Internet’s Favorite Punching Bag, by Logan Mahan, InsideHook, July 22, 2020

If there’s a photo of you proudly hoisting up a dead fish on the internet, beware

The TikToks utilize the video-sharing app’s green-screen effect that allows users to upload screenshots and photos as a background, along with a distorted voice filter (a popular format used for “rating” anything on TikTok).

While the fish Tinder TikToks are becoming more popular now, the trend initially started back in May, when 29-year-old Cala Murry posted the first fish ranking video to the app. She has since spawned an entire subgenre of imitators. Watch Cala Murry’s Tinder Fish Rating here.

Read the whole article here.

Darwinism at Work

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Filed under: Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Controversy Rages Over “New” Book

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Filed under: Urban Legends

Guest Post By John Leonard

In the year 1882, famed naturalist and cryptozoologist Angus Willoughby created the definitive guide to the unusual in nature. Willoughby’s World of Wonder, A Field Guide to Strange Beasts & Curious Creatures became a classic text in the fields of cryptozoology and xenomorphology, studied in universities worldwide for almost half a century.

At least, that’s what it says on the back cover.

The truth behind this unusual book, however, is a matter of some debate. (more…)

Sacha Baron Cohen Brilliantly Calls Out Social Media For Spreading Hate

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Filed under: Political Challenges, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation

On November 21, 2019, in accepting the Anti Defamation League’s (ADL) International Leadership Award, Sacha Baron Cohen shamed social media networks that, under the guise of freedom of speech, allow hate and lies to propagate world wide with dire consequences. Highly worth watching.


Sacha Baron Cohen gave the greatest speech on why social networks need to be kept in check
by Catalin Cimpanu
ZDNet
November 22, 2019

Actor says six US billionaires more focused on their share prices shouldn’t be allowed to dictate what is acceptable online.

Watch the video:

For an actor who made a career by playing silly characters, actor Sacha Baron Cohen gave yesterday one of the most eloquent and convincing speeches ever given in support of cracking down on large social media networks to prevent the spread of lies and hate speech that these platforms allow.

While accepting his award, Cohen touched on the role companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have played in spreading lies and hate speech online, calling the sites “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”

Read the full transcript here.

Dead Man Speaks From the Far Side

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Nothing like a good laugh when you’re grieving!


Funeral cracks up as dead man screams ‘Let me out!’ of coffin
By Hannah Sparks
New York Post
October 14, 2019

He got the last laugh.

Loved ones at an Irish funeral for Defense Forces veteran Shay Bradley were shocked — then delighted — when they heard the voice of their late friend calling out from his coffin.

“Hello, hello — let me out!,” they heard on Saturday at Bradley’s funeral in Kilmanagh, Leinster, as his casket was lowered into the ground.

The pre-recorded message continued, “Where the f?-?-?k am I? Let me out, let me out. It’s f?-?-?king dark in here. Is that the priest I can hear? This is Shay, I’m in the box. No, in f?-?-?king front of you. I’m dead.”

A video of the posthumous prank, posted to Twitter Sunday, shows mourners laughing and crying as Bradley’s voice began to sing, “Hello again, hello. Hello, I just called to say goodbye.”

Watch the video:

Read the rest of the story here »

RIP Robert Forster

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Filed under: The Big One

Sadly, my dear friend Robert Forster is no longer with us. Much loved, he’ll be greatly missed.

Robert Forster in Art of the Prank. Courtesy Relight Films.

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.

Here’s Why New York City Parks Close at Dusk

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, Urban Legends

Reminding us about the good old days, artist Joseph Reginella just placed statues around New York commemorating Mayor Ed Koch’s (1978-1989) strategy for ridding the city of taggers by releasing wild wolves in the subway yards. According to Joseph, they’ve since multiplied and are roaming the city’s nether regions. H/T Felipe.


Sculptures of wolves mauling tourist appear in New York City parks
by Rusty Blazenhoff
BoingBoing
October 10, 2019

This is weird.

A series of identical monuments depicting a tourist being mauled by a pack of wolves have surreptitiously been installed in different New York City parks with plaques that read:

Dedicated to the many tourists that go missing every year in New York City.

And a reminder as to why the parks close at dusk.

Erected by the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation and the NYC Fellowship.

A brilliant prankster with mad sculpting skills is taking credit.

Watch the video:

Here’s Mayor Koch pontificating on his brilliant idea:

Read the full story here.