Blog Posts

The Artiness of Naughtiness

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Filed under: Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The Prank as Art

Update, April 3, 2011: You can now listen to this 30:00 radio show here on Joey Skaggs’ website.

This radio show, produced by Rob Alexander, hosted by Toby Amies and featuring Joey Skaggs, among others, aired on BBC Radio Friday, April 1 at 11:30 a.m. UK time. You can listen to it on the BBC Radio site until April 7, 2011.

The Artiness of Naughtiness
Friday 1 April, 2011 at 11:30am on BBC Radio 4

Toby Amies discovers how tricksters have turned the poking of fun into an art form.

What have Jonathon Swift, Orson Welles, Marcel Duchamp, Yoko Ono, Malcolm Mclaren, Jeremy Beadle, and Sacha Baron Cohen got in common? Toby Amies discovers how tricksters and pranksters have turned the poking of fun into an art form.

Pranking is such a part of society, we’ve got a specially sanctioned day of misrule in the calendar. Mark Twain described the 1st of April as “the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year”. But for some people April Fool’s day is just not enough; generally opposed to the status quo, they are determined to alter our relationship with reality by forcing us to question its veracity.

There are pranksters who have been determined to show us our folly all year round and most have philosophical, political and artistic reason to do so.

Toby investigates this reasoning behind pranking – discovering why people will risk consequences as serious as prison to make a point or get a laugh. Sometime the motivation behind a prank is not always only a good laugh at someone else’s expense. It can be a very serious business.

Toby draws a wobbly line from the court jester to the hoaxes of Swift and Welles to Yves Klein to the playful Marxism[!] of Debord and the Situationsists, through to the commercial modern pranking industry and the work of Sacha Baron Cohen, Improv Everywhere, Jeremy Beadle and America’s king of the prank, Joey Skaggs.

A Pier Production for BBC Radio 4

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 / 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…)