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

Always Check Your Sources Before You Get Outraged

posted by
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

posted by
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

posted by
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

posted by
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

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

Controversy Rages Over “New” Book

posted by
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

posted by
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

posted by
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

by
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

posted by
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

posted by
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.

To Trump You’re a Moving Target

posted by
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.

Banking on Banksy

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Banksy conquers retail with a storefront selling satire.


Banksy Opens London Art Shop Same Week He Sets $12M Auction Record
by Naomi Polonsky
Hyperallergic
October 4, 2019

The anonymous artist has opened a shop in the south London borough of Croydon to showcase some of his characteristically humorous items.

photos by Naomi Polonsky

LONDON — Banksy has always had a complicated relationship with the art market. His unsanctioned street works deliberately challenge the idea of art as a tradeable commodity, but often still end up at auction, commanding astronomical prices. A stunt last year during which his “Girl with a Balloon” (2006) self-destructed at a Sotheby’s sale seemed like a rebuke to the art market, but in fact simply doubled the piece’s value.

But as of this week, Banksy has officially gone into business. A new installation of his work, unveiled on Tuesday, features a storefront filled with branded merchandise. Although Banksy has exhibited his works in storefront installations before, this is the first time that the items are for sale. All of the products will go on sale online in a couple of weeks with prices starting at £10. Gross Domestic Product, which is located in a disused carpet shop in the south London borough of Croydon, includes old and new works by the artist including the iconic stab vest worn by the grime artist Stormzy at Glastonbury last year…

Playing on the double meaning of “gross,” Banksy’s store stocks various disturbing and unsavoury items, such as a rug made from the skin of Tony the Tiger, who has died of diabetes after eating too much Frosted Flakes cereal. A label, written in Banksy’s characteristically irreverent tone, explains that “the floor covering makes quite the conversation piece — especially if the conversation centres around the UK spending over £7.8 million a year on tooth extractions for the under 5s.”

New York Subway Poster Promotes the Real Rudy Giuliani

posted by
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.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall–Who is the Fakest of Them All?

posted by
Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Media Pranks, Parody, Publicity Stunts, Spin

Is that social media influencer you’re following real?


These Influencers Aren’t Flesh and Blood, Yet Millions Follow Them
by Tiffany Hsu
The New York Times
June 17, 2019

Balmain commissioned the former fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson to create a “virtual army” of digital models, including, from left, Margot, Shudu and Zhi. Credit Balmain.

The kiss between Bella Hadid and Miquela Sousa, part of a Calvin Klein commercial last month, struck many viewers as unrealistic, even offensive.

Ms. Hadid, a supermodel, identifies as heterosexual, and the ad sparked complaints that Calvin Klein was deceiving customers with a sham lesbian encounter. The fashion company apologized for “queerbaiting” after the 30-second spot appeared online.

But Ms. Hadid, at least, is human. Everything about Ms. Sousa, better known as Lil Miquela, is manufactured: the straight-cut bangs, the Brazilian-Spanish heritage, the bevy of beautiful friends.

Lil Miquela, who has 1.6 million Instagram followers, is a computer-generated character. Introduced in 2016 by a Los Angeles company backed by Silicon Valley money, she belongs to a growing cadre of social media marketers known as virtual influencers.

Each month, more than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela’s songs on Spotify. She has worked with the Italian fashion label Prada, given interviews from Coachella and flaunted a tattoo designed by an artist who inked Miley Cyrus.

Until last year, when her creators orchestrated a publicity stunt to reveal her provenance, many of her fans assumed she was a flesh-and-blood 19-year-old. But Lil Miquela is made of pixels, and she was designed to attract follows and likes. (more…)