Truth that’s Stranger than Fiction

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A Look at the Probable Genesis of QAnon

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Prank News, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

When media literacy and critical thinking are absent, the world becomes a much more dangerous place. Check out this very illuminating Buzzfeed link as well (in the 2nd paragraph below).


QAnon: the Italian artists who may have inspired America’s most dangerous conspiracy theory, by Eddy Frankel, The Art Newspaper, January 19, 2021

An anonymous left-wing art group known in the 1990s as Luther Blissett are wondering what they have unwittingly helped create

Q, the 1999 novel by the anonymous Italian art collective Luther Blissett, has notable similarities with the workings of QAnon

As the US Capitol was overwhelmed by Donald Trump supporters in early January, one figure stood out: with his painted face, bare chest, fur hat and American flag-draped spear, Jake Angeli became one of the most photographed rioters of the day. He is also known as the “QAnon Shaman” and has been seen waving a “Q sent me” placard in other protests.

QAnon is America’s most dangerous conspiracy theory, and if you pull hard enough on its threads, the whole tangled mess lands, somehow, at the feet of a group of Italian artists. It might sound like a conspiracy within a conspiracy, but, as Buzzfeed first reported in 2018, chances are that QAnon, at the start at least, took inspiration from an amorphous organisation of leftist artists who, for most of the mid-1990s, called themselves Luther Blissett after the 1980s English footballer.

They used the Watford and England striker’s name as a nom de plume, perpetrating countless media hoaxes, pranks and art interventions. They started raves on trams that turned into riots, they released albums, wrote books and manifestos, they mocked, questioned and undermined the mainstream, and they grew and grew until hundreds of people around the world were calling themselves Luther Blissett.

In the process, with their media-jamming hoaxes, they helped lay the groundwork for QAnon, a conspiracy theory about a secret satanic cabal of child abusers which controls the world. During the 2016 presidential elections, it famously gave rise to the rumour that Hillary Clinton ran a paedophile ring in a pizza parlour, Comet Ping Pong. More recently, QAnon has become a mainstay of far-right protests and riots, including the US Capitol insurrection. (more…)

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

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

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

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 »

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.

Banking on Banksy

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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.”

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.

Cutting the Cheese Takes on New Meaning

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Food: Bigger than the Plate at Victoria and Albert Museum, “examining various approaches to the future of food through contemporary design, art, and engineering”, opened on May 18 in London and is scheduled to run through October 20, 2019.


These Dairy Devils Are Making Cheese From Celebrities’ Bacteria
by Rohini Chaki
MAY 14, 2019

Aged, ripe, and not for consumption.


(right), trying to brie calm, with Thomas Meany, maker of cheeses from humans. COURTESY OF OPEN CELL

ON MAY 18, A TEAM of renegade cheesemakers will showcase some very outré cheese at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s forthcoming exhibition, Food: Bigger than the Plate. No samplings of this cheese, which will be showcased in climate-controlled glass, shall be on offer. Which is just as well, since they have been made with bacteria from the bodies of British celebrities.

Alex James of the rock band Blur, Michelin-star chef Heston Blumenthal, former Great British Bake Off finalist and author Ruby Tandoh, the singer-songwriter Suggs, and the rapper Professor Green all volunteered their bodily bacteria for science. More specifically, a chef, a synthetic biologist, and a biodesigner turned their body swabs into starter culture for the five cheeses that make up the exhibit, named Selfmade.

Helene Steiner and Thomas Meany are the team behind Open Cell, a biotechnology research hub housed within 45 shipping containers in Shepherd’s Bush, London. Together with chef John Quilter, who goes by Food Busker, the human-cheese artisans have been maturing a cheshire cheese (from Alex James), a comté (Heston Blumenthal), a mozzarella (Professor Green), a Stilton (Ruby Tandoh), and a Cheddar (Suggs). All five cheeses are maturing at the Open Cell lab, and will continue to age at the V&A’s Food exhibition, one of 70 exhibits examining various approaches to the future of food through contemporary design, art, and engineering.

The Selfmade team has launched a Youtube series to promote and explain the project, whose first episode aired on May 11, on Food Busker’s channel. In it, Professor Green gamely declares, “I hate cheese, but I’m here to be made into one.”

Read the rest of this article here.

Political Prank Topples the Austrian Government. Joey Skaggs Swears He Didn’t Do It! [English and German]

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Joey Skaggs visited Vienna, Austria, in June. Coincidentally, a surreptitiously filmed video had just been released showing the far-right Freedom Party’s leader and then vice chancellor of the Austrian government, Heinz-Christian Strache, scheming to overthrow the rest of the government.

In the video, Strache, thinking he’s talking to the niece of a wealthy Russian oligarch with connections in high places, offers her a controlling share in a national newspaper and sweetheart construction contracts in return for hefty (and illegal) campaign donations. Turns out she wasn’t who she said she was and the video shows him to be an ambitious, scheming fool.

The video caused a loss of confidence in the entire Austrian government and resulted in its total collapse. In essence, the Austrian government had just been toppled by a prank. What timing. Joey swears he had nothing to do with this!

Joey’s presentation at FH-Wien University in Vienna prompted interviews with FM4, Austria’s national radio network, and NJOY 91.3, the FH-Wien University radio station. It was a great opportunity for him to talk about the power of the political prank, President Trump’s fixation with “fake news”, and the unsettling potential of deepfakes, which he had predicted in a 1986 interview in Pranks! (RE/Search No. 11). Check out page 41.

The FM4 radio interview with Felix Diewald is no longer available, however its web page (in German) is terrific.

The NJOY 91.3 radio interview with Michel Mehle is fun and edifying. It starts out in German and switches to English at 2:11.

Joey Skaggs Remembers His 1994 National Enquirer Hoax

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Pranksters, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Note to Jeff Bezos: Take a page from me and screw the National Enquirer!


In 1994, after The New York Times Magazine published John Tierney’s article, Falling For It, about my Dog Meat Soup hoax, the National Enquirer called and said they were doing a profile about me. They wanted an exclusive photo shoot. Not liking or respecting this publication, I declined. They said they were going to do the story with or without any assistance from me. So, I sent an impostor to two different photo shoots.

They published this story:

Page Six of the New York Post exposed the hoax:



Full details of the National Enquirer hoax are here
.

Confessions of a Rock and Roll Poser

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Last autumn, Jered “Threatin” Eames staged the most alienating, least explicable rock tour stunt since the Sex Pistols hit the deep south. He recently broke his silence.


“The Great Heavy Metal Hoax”
by David Kushner
Rolling Stone
December 14, 2018

In November, managers of rock clubs across the United Kingdom began sharing the same weird tale. A pop-metal performer, Threatin, had rented their clubs for his 10-city European tour. Club owners had never heard of the act when a booking agent approached them promising packed houses. Threatin had fervent followers, effusive likes, rows of adoring comments under his YouTube concert videos, which showed him windmilling before a sea of fans. Websites for the record label, managers and a public-relations company who represented Threatin added to his legitimacy. Threatin’s Facebook page teemed with hundreds of fans who had RSVP’d for his European jaunt, which was supporting his album, Breaking the World.

But despite all the hype, almost no one came to the shows. It was just Threatin and his three-piece band onstage, and his wife, Kelsey, filming him from the empty floor. And yet Threatin didn’t seem to care — he just ripped through a set as if there was a full house. When confronted by confused club owners, Threatin just shrugged, blaming the lack of audience on bad promotion. “It was clear that something weird was happening,” says Jonathan “Minty” Minto, who was bartending the night Threatin played at the Exchange, a Bristol club, “but we didn’t realize how weird.” Intrigued, Minto and his friends started poking around Threatin’s Facebook page, only to find that most of the fans lived in Brazil. “The more we clicked,” says Minto, “the more apparent it became that every single attendee was bogus.”

It all turned out to be fake: The websites, the record label, the PR company, the management company, all traced back to the same GoDaddy account. The throngs of fans in Threatin’s concert videos were stock footage. The promised RSVPs never appeared. When word spread of Threatin’s apparent deception, club owners were perplexed: Why would someone go to such lengths just to play to empty rooms? Read more.

More Trump TV Time Travel

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Political Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

There are an eery number of showbiz coincidences foreshadowing the political rise of Donald Trump. This 1958 TV Western, “Trackdown: The End of the World”, anticipates some pretty specific details, including the need for a wall to save the people from annihilation. Fact or fiction?


“A 1950s TV show had a fear-mongering conman named Trump who wanted to build a wall”
by Clara Sinclair
Boing Boing
January 10, 2019

On May 8, 1958, art imitated life in 2018. In an episode of a TV show called Trackdown, there was a conman named Trump, who tried to scare the bejeezus out of a town by preaching, “at midnight tonight, without my help and knowledge, every one of you will be dead.” The only way he could save them is by building a wall.

One sane man tries to talk some sense into the sheriff, with Trump in their presence. “How long are you going to put up with this?” he asks. But the brainwashed sheriff replies with a dumb, “What do you mean?”

How long are you going to let this conman walk around town?” the man persists.

Then Trump speaks his signature line: “Be careful son, I can sue you.” Read more and watch the entire episode here.

Watch a 4 minute promo clip: