Blog Posts

Tabloid Performance Art

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Filed under: Hype

10 Celebrities Branded “Performance Artists”
Huffington Post
June 24, 2011

“Performance artist” has become a common slur against celebrities who thrive on tastelessness. There’s no way these people could be for real, the argument goes, so it must all be an elaborate ruse. But whether it’s from James Franco, who openly admits this act, or Joaquin Phoenix, who kept it going long enough to make a documentary about it, performance art is becoming a viable career option for established entertainers.

It’s not just that these celebrities’ personas have infiltrated their lives. That’s gone on for decades, from The Beatles and Bob Dylan, who liked to manipulate and mock their interviewers, to Samuel L. Jackson, who became typecast for his enthusiastic use of profanity. But recently, with the likes of Snooki, Soulja Boy and, lest we forget, Sarah Palin, tabloid performance art has thrived. With the entertainment media’s hyper-short attention span, famous people who can continually make a spectacle of themselves can also usually make headlines. [Here’s a] slideshow… of ten celebrities who have been accused of performance art, with varying degrees of truth behind the allegations.

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How to Unmask Shadowy Grassroots Groups

Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Hype, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Editor’s Note: The manipulative, deceitful and very effective tactics I have used over the past 40+ years as an artist, activist and culture jammer to shed light on institutional, corporate and media efforts to mislead the general public have now been fully co-opted by the organizations victimized by them. It’s interesting to see the pendulum swing. Kudos to Ann Landman for this insightful and very useful article aimed at unmasking corporate and political tricksterism that blatantly utilizes disinformation to sway public opinion. One hopes the general public becomes more aware and is willing to fight against this insidious hype, hypocrisy, propaganda, and disinformation. JS

Attack of the Living Front Groups: PR Watch Offers Help to Unmask Corporate Tricksters
by Anne Landman
PRWatch.org / Center for Media and Democracy
August 28, 2009

zombies2-200Fake “grassroots” groups have started springing up like toadstools after a rain, and this time they’re coming at us from every angle: they’re on TV, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube: “Americans for Prosperity,” “FACES of Coal, “The “Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights,” “Americans Against Food Taxes,” the “60 Plus Association,” “Citizens for Better Medicare,” “Patients First” … It’s making our heads spin! Issues affecting some of the country’s biggest industries, like health insurance reform, a proposal to tax sodas and sugary drinks, and the FDA’s possible reconsideration of the plastic additive Bisphenol A, have boosted corporate astroturfing up to a dizzying pace. With all these corporate fronts coming out of the woodwork, how can citizens tell true grassroots organizations from corporate fronts operated by highly-paid PR and lobbying firms? Here are some tips to help readers spot this kind of big-business hanky-panky.

What is a “front group,” really? (more…)

When Advertising Bites

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Filed under: Hype, Spin

‘Nightmarish’ Ad Created for WWF Shows Planes Converging on NYC
September 2, 2009

New York — It’s enough to make New Yorkers who lived through the Sept. 11th terror attacks sick.


A print ad (above) purportedly for the World Wildlife Fund in Brazil featuring dozens of airplanes converging on lower Manhattan with the line “The 2004 Tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11.” The final line in the ad is “The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.” (more…)

Astroturfing at the Supermarché

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Supercherie au Supermarché
August 24, 2009

“Hoax at the supermarket” – A French newspaper headline describing an “astroturfed” photo opportunity involving two government ministers.

supermarche1-200The Times”™s Steven Erlanger reported recently on a photo opportunity gone awry for France”™s education minister, Luc Chatel, and commerce secretary, Hervé Novelli:

Journalists accompanying Mr. Chatel and Hervé Novelli, the secretary of state for commerce, on a trip to an Intermarché supermarket in Villeneuve-le-Roi, southeast of Paris, became suspicious when the aisles were suddenly filled with well-dressed, articulate women eager to praise a government freeze on the price of some school supplies before the new school year began. “¦

The radio station France Inter raised questions, and the newspaper Libération had a detailed article on Wednesday headlined, “Supercherie au Supermarché,” or “Hoax at the Supermarket.” It described how some of the women left the store together in a car after the minister left, without buying anything and leaving their school supplies in shopping baskets.

According to Erlanger, the supermarket, Intermarché, released an apology following the visit, explaining that the supermarket”™s management “took the initiative to invite a certain number of workers for the ministers”™ visit,” and stating that the ministers were not involved in the astroturfing.

photo: La-croix.com

Old Delivery System for Nicotine

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Filed under: Hype, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Tobacco Smoke Enemas (1750s – 1810s)


The tobacco enema was used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient”™s rectum for various medical purposes, primarily thte resuscitation of drowning victims. A rectal tube inserted into the anus was connected to a fumigator and bellows that forced the smoke towards the rectum. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration, but doubts about the credibility of tobacco enemas led to the popular phrase “blow smoke up one”™s ass.” To learn more, click here.

via tophattobacco.com, thanks Don

Hypercommercialism and the Web

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Filed under: Hype, Spin

From Center for Media and Democracy / PRWatch.org:

An Inescapable Web of Advertisements
Source: New York Times, July 12, 2009:

13blog.xlarge1-200The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “may soon require online media to comply with disclosure rules under its truth-in-advertising guidelines.” FTC assistant director Richard Cleland said, “Consumers have a right to know when they’re being pitched a product.” But the “hypercommercialism of the Web” may be “changing too quickly for consumers and regulators to keep up,” reports the New York Times.

“Product placements are landing on so-called status updates on Facebook, companies are sponsoring messages on Twitter and bloggers are defining their own parameters of what constitutes independent work versus advertising.” Izea, the “online marketing company” that created PayPerPost in 2006 to match marketers with bloggers willing to promote products, is branching out. Not only does it have “25,000 active advertisers ranging from Sea World to small online retailers” and 265,000 bloggers, but it’s readying “a ‘Sponsored Tweets’ platform for Twitter users to blast promotional messages to their followers.” Giveaways to popular bloggers are often a part of such campaigns. Last year, Izea carried out a campaign for Kmart that gave “six popular bloggers known to be influencers” $500 gift cards “to shop at the discount chain.” The bloggers were “asked to write about their experiences,” and the campaign “generated 800 blog posts and 3,200 Twitter messages that reached 2.5 million people over 30 days,” according to Izea.

George Harrison and His Autograph(s)

Filed under: Hype

Submitted by W.J. Elvin III:

How George Harrison forged the Beatles’ signatures for a dying fan

Daily Mail Online
May 2, 2009

George Harrison is believed to have forged all the signatures of the Beatles to make a dying fan”™s wish come true.

The report emerged after an autographed picture of the band was sold at Keys auctioneers in Aylsham, Norfolk on Friday.

It was donated by Harry Bartlett, of Rickinghall, Suffolk, whose daughter Ann received the photograph shortly before her death in the late 1960s at the age of 16. Read the rest of the story here.


Barbie Turns 50

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Hype, Publicity Stunts

Barbie’s real-life Dream House created in Malibu
by Derrik J. Lang
March 6, 2009

Malibu, Calif. (AP) — Barbie’s Malibu Dream House is coming true.

On the eve of her 50th birthday, interior decorator Jonathan Adler has decked out a real-life 3,500-square-foot pad overlooking the Pacific Ocean to look like the blond doll’s outrageous home.

Barbie Dream House

Adler, who was commissioned by toy maker Mattel Inc. to decorate the house for Monday’s party, said outfitting the sleek mansion (a property that’s frequently rented for film and photography shoots) took six months of planning and a few weeks to install.

“Barbie was a dream client because she doesn’t exist as a person,” Adler said. “She exists as fantasy and is the perfect client because she’s always happy and fun and loves everything. I thought to myself, ‘How would Barbie live?’ What I thought was Barbie would have a house that is glamorous, kittenish, chic, colorful and happy – as well as functional.”

Adler lined Barbie’s bedroom with wall-to-wall pink carpeting emblazoned with her initial. The closet is filled with 50 pairs of pink peep-toe heels while her kitchen is stocked with cupcake-making ingredients. An in-house museum features 25 vintage Barbie dolls on display. In the garage? A pink Volkswagen New Beetle with a motorized pop-up vanity in the trunk. Read the rest of this article here.


  • You Always Hurt The Ones You Love: Why do girls mutilate their Barbie dolls? by Neil Steinberg, Forbes.com, March 5, 2009

  • Art Publicity Stunt Stung by Fraud

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    Filed under: Hype, Publicity Stunts

    Fraud Case Stymies Art Show
    March 6, 2009

    chrisburden200Artist Chris Burden – who had himself shot in the arm with a 22-caliber rifle in 1971 and then had himself crucified with his hands nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen – had to postpone tomorrow’s opening of his show at the Gagosian Gallery in LA. Dealer Larry Gagosian bought $3 million worth of gold – 100 1-kilo (2.2 pounds) gold ingots – for a piece Burden titled “One Ton, One Kilo.” But the gold bricks never arrived. Gagosian made the purchase from Stanford Coins & Bullion, a company owned by Allen Stanford, the Texas billionaire recently charged by the SEC with a “massive, ongoing fraud.” The gold bars have been frozen with Stanford’s other assets. Gagosian went to court to unfreeze his gold, arguing that his transaction “represents a straightforward spot purchase of a tangible commodity.” But the dealer still has no bullion, and Burden has gone back to the drawing board.

    photo: photogrowth.com

    Grassroots Anti-Obama Fear Campaign Launches

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    Filed under: Hype, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

    Grassfire’s Blitzkrieg of Fear Aimed at President-Elect Obama
    Center for Media and Democracy / PRWatch.org
    November 19, 2008

    Source: Buzzflash website, November 19, 2008

    Analyst Meg White examines the “blitzkrieg of fear mongering and misinformation” being whipped up against President-elect Barack Obama. “One phalanx in the fight belongs to Grassfire.org. … Grassfire sent out an e-mail designed to scare people into joining its ‘army that is ready to take on Obama’s agenda.’

    …The e-mail lists nine ‘threats to our liberties’ presented by the incoming administration. The common thread through all of these threats is alarmism. … Grassfire is anything but grassroots. The 501(c)4 is listed as a front group on the (SourceWatch) site, and SourceWatch notes that public relations for Grassfire are handled by Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, whose president, Craig Shirley, was part of the team that created the infamous Willie Horton ad. Shirley and Banister represent like-minded clients such as Ann Coulter, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, and the National Rifle Association. Grassfire is one of many groups amassing armies to fight everything Obama tries to do, no matter where it falls on the political spectrum.”

    Keith Olbermann on the Anniversary of 9/11

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    Filed under: Hype, Spin

    Special Commentary from Countdown with Keith Olbermann about the politicization of 9/11 by the Republican Party, MSNBC, September 10, 2008:

    Fact Checking McCain

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    Filed under: Hype, Spin

    FactChecking McCain
    FactCheck.org, Annenberg Political Fact Check
    September 5, 2008

    He made some flubs in accepting the nomination.

    Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) arrives to accept the nomination Minnesota September 4, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon StapletonSummary: We checked the accuracy of McCain’s speech accepting the Republican nomination and noted the following:

    McCain claimed that Obama’s health care plan would “force small businesses to cut jobs” and would put “a bureaucrat … between you and your doctor.” In fact, the plan exempts small businesses, and those who have insurance now could keep the coverage they have.

    McCain attacked Obama for voting for “corporate welfare” for oil companies. In fact, the bill Obama voted for raised taxes on oil companies by $300 million over 11 years while providing $5.8 billion in subsidies for renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels.

    McCain said oil imports send “$700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much.” But the U.S. is on track to import a total of only $536 billion worth of oil at current prices, and close to a third of that comes from Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

    He promised to increase use of “wind, tide [and] solar” energy, though his actual energy plan contains no new money for renewable energy. He has said elsewhere that renewable sources won’t produce as much as people think. (more…)

    In Search of the Indelible Metaphor

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    Filed under: Hype, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

    I”™m Rubber, You”™re Glue …
    by Jonathan Alter
    September 1, 2008

    It’s hard to predict what will stick. ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ was a hand-scrawled sign hung in Little Rock.

    When NEWSWEEK reported earlier this summer that the McCain family owns at least seven houses, few outside the hothouse of politics noticed. Voters assume that all politicians are rich and didn’t seem to care that John McCain’s wife, Cindy, is worth $100 million and owed back taxes on one of the properties. But when Politico asked McCain last week in New Mexico how many residences he and his wife owned and he answered, “I think””I’ll have my staff get [back] to you,” the story suddenly took off, fueled by the impression that McCain is old and out of touch with Americans struggling to pay their mortgages. Will it do his campaign real damage? Depends on the “stickiness.”

    The same goes for Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver. The buzz of 70,000 people screaming for him at Invesco Field will wear off if he doesn’t frame his economic message in a way that otherwise inattentive Americans can recall. Without an indelible metaphor, all of his policy speeches are written in invisible ink.

    Modern campaigns are about flinging 10 things against the wall every day and hoping something sticks. Everything else, from fund-raising to advertising (paid for by the fund-raising) to speechmaking to Web strategy, is in the service of applying that adhesive, either to cement the candidate’s message or muck up the opponent’s engine with sludge.

    That’s because memorable lines, images, gaffes and monikers act like a piece of gum on the bottom of your shoe. (more…)

    The Real McCain 2

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    Filed under: Hype, Spin

    From Robert Greenfield and Brave New Films:

    There’s no question John McCain is getting a free ride from the mainstream press. But with the power of YouTube and the blogosphere, we can provide an accurate portrayal of the so-called Maverick. We can put the brakes on his free ride!

    John McCain’s YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare

    Since we first released The Real McCain a year ago, our REAL McCain series has garnered over 6 million views, with over 50,000 comments and tens of thousands more in petition signatures! Clearly, John McCain’s record is something the public wants to discuss, and yet the corporate media is doing NOTHING to present the truth. (more…)

    “Investor Literacy” is a Hoax

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    Filed under: Hype, Spin

    11 reasons ‘investor literacy’ is a big hoax
    by Paul B. Farrell
    April 15, 2008

    Commentary: Wall Street prefers clueless, irrational investors

    mp_burning_money-300px-200.jpgArroyo Grande, Calif. (MarketWatch) — So Congress made April “Investor Literacy Month.” What a hoax, a cruel joke, yes, an insult to America’s 95 million investors.

    What’s really happening? Here’s the short version: In the past five years Wall Street’s out-of-control greed (with the backing of Greenspan’s cheap-money Fed, an “anything-goes, free-market” White House and a banking industry that loves piling up debt in order to charge excessive fees) created a massive housing-credit bubble to rapidly replace their earlier busted dot-com bubble.

    Then last summer the new bubble failed, exploding in our faces, nearly destroying the global monetary system. Result? These two bubbles triggered a diversionary, knee-jerk reaction: A wave of so-called “investor education” programs across the U.S. and world.

    That’s the joke, the hoax, the insult. Get it? Wall Street’s greed nearly destroys the world’s economy twice in less than a decade. Solution? Bail out Wall Street, then blame it on the little guy, the Main Street investor, for not being “educated enough!” That’s a hoax. (more…)