Blog Posts

Speaking Truth to Power in DC

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

Street theater is flourishing in the era of Trump.


DC’s many prankster activists turn anger into street theater
by Ashraf Khalil
AP
February 18, 2019

Mike Green and Adam Eidinger with Radical Matriarchy

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the nation’s capital, it can be hard for protesters to stand out. A group of 50 people — or even 500 — holding signs and shouting hardly merits a second glance in this city of protests.

That’s why Washington activists have to get creative. There’s an ethos of performative prankster-style protest wired into the District of Columbia’s history, dating back decades.

This confrontational street-theater school is flourishing with the Trump administration as its nemesis. Each month brings new acts of political theater — some confrontational, some deliberately absurdist.

“It can take a serious issue into more of a playful place,” said Robin Bell, who regularly projects disparaging messages onto the outside of the Trump International Hotel. “Oftentimes we visualize the absurdity of the situation.”

In January, a group of activists associated with political pranksters The Yes Men passed out dozens of fake Washington Posts, with detailed articles depicting President Donald Trump resigning and fleeing the White House. For about a month last fall, a Robert Mueller investigation-themed ice cream truck roamed Washington, passing out free scoops with names like IndictMint Chip and Rocky Rod Rosenstein.

While some protests are designed to get attention, others hide in plain sight like Easter eggs for the observant. Within sight of the White House, a realistic-looking street sign declares the street Khashoggi Way, after Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. About 10 of these signs have been scattered around Washington.

Read the rest of this article here.

“Actipedia” Crowdsourcing Platform Goes Public

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Filed under: Creative Activism

From the Yes Lab and the Center for Artistic Activism:


“Actipedia” Crowdsourcing Platform Goes Public

Database of creative activism case studies will inform and inspire a new generation of activists

actipediaThe Yes Lab and the Center for Artistic Activism are announcing the launch of Actipedia.org, an open-access, user-generated database of creative activism case studies designed to inspire activists.

Actipedia is built on an open-source platform and is designed for ease of use, with simple formats for viewing, searching and posting examples. The site draws case studies from original submissions, reprinted news articles, and informal snippets of action reports. Although it is only now launching, Actipedia already hosts over 400 case studies and counting, from countries from all over the world.

Contact: Stephen Duncombe, 212-998-7327, srd@artisticactivism.org

No Andy, You’re Not Paranoid. They Really ARE Watching You!

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters

WikiLeaks: “Private Spies” Stratfor Helped Dow Chemical Monitor Bhopal Activists, The Yes Men
by Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
Democracy Now
February 28, 2012



Emails leaked by WikiLeaks from the private intelligence firm Stratfor reveal the chemical industrial giant Dow Chemical closely followed the work of activists around the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster, the 1984 gas leak that killed anywhere between 3,500 and 25,000 people. Of particular interest to Dow was the group, The Yes Men, the anti-corporate pranksters who pulled off a famous 2004 hoax that led the world to believe Dow had finally taken responsibility for the Bhopal tragedy. “With us, they were carefully paying attention to every move that we were making publicly, especially anything to do with Dow and Bhopal,” says Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men. “What surprised us in those emails, though, was that we would have assumed that Dow would be really concerned with the exact issue of Bhopal and Dow”™s responsibility, stuff that could directly impact their bottom line. But what S[t]ratfor seems to be really a bit obsessed with is whether we or other organizations are going to draw this into a bigger critique of corporate power.”


Hawaiian Guitarist Makana Occupies APEC with “Aloha”

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Filed under: Creative Activism

Submitted by the Yes Men from the Yes Lab:


APEC World Leaders Dinner Gets Occupied

Within secure zone, musician sings on behalf of the many

Honolulu – A change in the programmed entertainment at last night’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gala left a few world leaders slack-jawed, though most seemed not to notice that anything was amiss.

During the gala dinner, renowned Hawaiian guitarist Makana, who performed at the White House in 2009, opened his suit jacket to reveal a home-made “Occupy with Aloha” T-shirt. Then, instead of playing the expected instrumental background music, he spent almost 45 minutes repeatedly singing his protest ballad released earlier that day. The ballad, called “We Are the Many,” includes lines such as “The lobbyists at Washington do gnaw…. And until they are purged, we won’t withdraw,” and ends with the refrain: “We’ll occupy the streets, we’ll occupy the courts, we’ll occupy the offices of you, till you do the bidding of the many, not the few.”

Those who could hear Makana”™s message included Presidents Barack Obama of the United States of America, Hu Jintao of China, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, and over a dozen other heads of state.

Watch the video:

(more…)

Alessio Rastani – Fact or Fiction, Reality Bites

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, You Decide

BBC”™s “˜Goldman Sachs Rules the World”™ Trader: Hoax or Our Worst Nightmare? [Updated]
New York Magazine
by Joe Coscarelli
September 27, 2011

A trader by the name of Alessio Rastani told a shocked BBC News reporter yesterday, “The governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world.” He warned, “The savings of millions of people are going to vanish,” and said viewers should “get prepared” because the “economic crisis is like a cancer, if you just wait and wait thinking this will go away, just like a cancer it’s going to grow and it’s going to be too late.” He added, “I have a confession: I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession, I dream of another moment like this.” Such frank (psychopathic?) language earned Rastani attention from news outlets like the Huffington Post, the Guardian, and the Daily Mail, but the chatter on Twitter is crying hoax. (Update: It appears to be legit! See below for more info.)

BBC Business Editor Robert Peston wrote this morning on Twitter, “BBC (& I) may have been hoaxed by YesMen,” referring to the culture jamming group that touts itself as, “impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.” Peston and the Internet’s doubters pointed to this Yes Men stunt, which features a fake Dow Chemical spokesman who bears some resemblance to Rastani, the trader.

Peston has since defended the BBC guest: “We spoke to the trader again this morning, & as far as we can tell he is a genuine independent trader, not a member of YesMen.” (more…)

The Yes Men Interviewed

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Meet the Yes Men, the Political Satirists Who Punked GE
The Atlantic
April 22, 2011

A conversation with the more than decade old group that delights in mocking the powerful by pretending to be them

General Electric likes their tax rate low, according to CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Very low. Despite $5 billion in profit last year the company paid no income tax and received a $3.2 billion tax benefit, according to The New York Times. Which is less than low: It’s taxpayer padded.

Then Immelt was tapped to be an outside economic adviser to the Obama administration, which has been decrying low tax rates for companies and the rich.

Very embarrassing. (more…)

GE Returns Billions to Public… NOT

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Submitted by Carl Gibson of US Uncut:


GE Returns Billions to Public… NOT
April 13, 2011

USA Today, AP fall for US Uncut ploy; GE stock loses billions

Washington, DC – US Uncut, a burgeoning grassroots movement pressuring corporate tax cheats to pay their fair share, posted today a fake GE press release announcing that they would return their illegitimate (but legal) $3.2 billion tax refund, and that they would lobby to close the sort of corporate tax loopholes that had allowed them to skip taxes in the first place. Several major media outlets, including USA Today, ran the story as true. (Here is a link to the original USA Today story; here is the first article debunking the release.)

US Uncut quickly reacted with another release pretending to praise GE for this entirely unpredictable, unlikely, and in fact impossible act.

“This action showed us how the world could work,” said US Uncut spokesperson Carl Gibson. “For a brief moment people believed that the biggest corporate tax dodger had a change of heart and actually did the right thing. But the only way anything like this is really going to happen is if we change the laws that allow corporate tax avoidance in the first place.”

In the period the hoax was believed, GE’s stock plunged by .6% (far more than the value of the supposed return), then quickly recovered as soon as it became apparent the press had been duped. “Obviously, GE can’t possibly be expected to do the right thing voluntarily; their stock would keep plunging,” noted Gibson. “That’s why we must change the law.” (more…)

French Haiti Reparations Hoax Cloaked in Mystery

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks

July 19, 2010 Updates:

  • Faux French Foreign Ministry Explains Prank by Robert Mackey, NY Times Lede blog
  • Link to the perpetrators CRIME (in English and French), as their original Web site mysteriously disappeared from their .fr domain last Friday, which the French government apparently controls.

  • Twitter Communiques From Fake French Foreign Ministry on Haiti Hoax
    by Robert Mackey
    The Lede Blog, NY Times
    July 16, 2010

    A group calling itself The Committee for the Immediate Reimbursement of Funds Taken From Haiti took credit on Friday for an elaborate hoax carried out this week in which an actor pretending to be a spokesperson for the French government announced that France would reimburse Haiti money it was forced to pay in exchange for its independence in the nineteenth century.

    As The Lede explained on Thursday, the fake announcement was posted on a near replica of the French foreign ministry”™s Web site on Wednesday in both video and text form.

    In an update posted on a Twitter feed established this week, in the guise of France”™s foreign ministry, the group, using the French form of its name, announced:

    (more…)

    The Yes Men: Dow Throws a Party, Mainly Zombies Show Up

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

    From The Yes Men, April 19, 2010:


    Dow Throws a Dismal Party, Few Attend

    On Sunday April 18th, 2010, Dow Chemical sponsored the “Dow Run For Water” in cities around the globe. The event was shut down in London and Stockholm due to protests, but not in New York, where protesters were faced by an army of Yes Men posing as Dow Chemical public relations spokespeople.

    More information and images here and here.

    The Monkey-Wrench Prank

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks

    The Monkey-Wrench Prank: An Interview With Tim DeChristopher
    by Bryan Farrell
    Mother Jones
    November 13, 2009

    How the Yes Men inspired a climate activist to impersonate an oil speculator””and derail a multimillion-dollar federal land giveaway.

    tim-dechristopher200During the final days of the Bush administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) scheduled a controversial auction of oil and gas leases on federal lands, including areas bordering national parks and monuments in Utah. While environmental organizations launched a round of protests and lawsuits, Tim DeChristopher, a 27-year-old econ major at the University of Utah, decided he had to try to stop the sale by himself. Not knowing exactly how he’d do it, DeChristopher walked into the auction in Salt Lake City on December 19, 2008, and had a sneaky idea handed to him in the form of a bidder’s paddle. Simply by raising it again and again and pretending to bid on the leases, he proceeded to drive up their prices and outbid the real speculators on 13 parcels covering more than 22,000 acres and worth $1.7 million dollars.

    When it became clear that bidder No. 70 was an impostor with no intention of paying for his purchases, federal agents removed him from the auction. But the damage was done. DeChristopher’s monkey-wrenching tainted the sale, forcing BLM to offer the other buyers the option of withdrawing their bids. That effectively postponed any final decision on the leases until February 2009, when the Obama administration would be in office. Soon after taking office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar canceled the results of the chaotic auction and criticized the previous administration for allowing it in the first place. (more…)

    Jumping the Snark

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    Filed under: Pranksters, The Future of Pranks, The Prank as Art

    Jumping the Snark
    by Dave Gilson
    Mother Jones
    November/December 2009

    In an age of Yes Men, flash mobs, birthers, and fake pundits, is the prank dead?

    Snark200What’s a good prank worth? How about $2 billion? That’s how much Dow Chemical’s stock value dipped in just 23 minutes on the morning of December 3, 2004, after its spokesman went on the BBC to announce that the company would make amends for the 1984 Bhopal toxic-gas disaster “simply because it’s the right thing to do.” (Dow had acquired Union Carbide, the original owner of the Bhopal chemical plant, in 1999.) Within the hour, the flack was exposed as one of the Yes Men, a duo that’s spent the past decade perfecting the art of anti-corporate trickery. The feat cemented their reputation as the world’s preeminent political pranksters (a reputation they recently reaffirmed by pranking the US Chamber of Commerce). It also proved that a punch line can occasionally pack a real punch.

    The Bhopal stunt kicks off the pair’s new film, The Yes Men Fix the World, the follow-up to their self-titled 2004 movie. But don’t let the puffed-up title fool you into thinking that the Yes Men believe their hijinks are actually making the world a better place. A better title would have been The Prank Is Dead. (more…)

    U.S Chamber Legal Pursuit — Bad News or Good News for Yes Men’s Business?

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    Filed under: Political Pranks, Prank News

    Submitted by Alex Case:


    US Chamber Files Suit Against ‘Yes Men’ For Fake Briefing
    By Ian Talley
    Wall Street Journal
    October 26, 2009

    us-chamber-of-commerce-200Washington (Dow Jones)–The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Monday filed a civil suit in a federal court against the group called the “Yes Men” for a fake press briefing the group held last week at the National Press Club.

    The Chamber alleges in the complaint the Yes Men used its copyrighted emblem for a fraudulent press release, conference and Web site, in violation of trademark law.

    Acting as representatives of the Chamber, the group falsely said the Chamber had switched its position on climate change policy. The group has claimed responsibility for a raft of public hoaxes on other companies in recent years. Following the stunt, the Yes Men launched for theatrical release in the U.S. a movie about their exploits.

    The chamber said the lawsuit was filed after lawyers representing the “Yes Men” refused to decommission the fraudulent Web site, “another bold attempt to increase sales of merchandise and tickets to their new movie.” (more…)

    Yes Men Feel the Heat

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

    Pranksters stage Chamber of Commerce climate change event
    by David A. Fahrenthold
    Washington Post
    October 19, 2009

    Will the real U.S. Chamber of Commerce please stand up?

    Environmental activists held a hoax press conference Monday morning, pretending to be the business group — and pretending to announce that the chamber was dropping its opposition to climate-change legislation now in Congress.

    The event, complete with fake handouts on chamber letterhead, at least a couple of fake reporters, and a podium adorned with the chamber logo, broke up when a spokesman from the real chamber burst in…

    YouTube Video:

    What followed was a spectacle not usually seen in the John Peter Zenger Room at the National Press Club: two men in business suits shouting at one another, each calling the other an impostor and demanding to see business cards. (more…)

    Yes Men: “We’re Screwed”

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

    From The Yes Men:

    “We’re Screwed”: Media Heist Blankets City with
    “Special Edition” New York Post



    PRESS RELEASE: September 21, 2009
    Tabloid Tells Truth About Climate Change and How It Will Affect City, World

    Early this morning, nearly a million New Yorkers were stunned by the appearance of a “special edition” New York Post blaring headlines that their city could face deadly heat waves, extreme flooding, and other lethal effects of global warming within the next few decades. The most alarming thing about it: the news came from an official City report. (more…)

    New York Big Event Next Monday – Participants Needed!

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    Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

    From The Yes Men:


    ymftw-promoIf you live in New York, please visit http://newyorkbigevent.com/ to sign up for some giant, extremely fun, potentially world-fixing shenanigans on Monday, September 21. (Even if you don’t, you can sign up to participate in our “digital fun squad” by clicking the option on your profile. If you know any New Yorkers or big Facebook hobbyists, please forward)!

    Everyone who shows up Monday morning will get a free gift you can shock your friends with for years. Even just a few minutes Monday morning will help. Sign up now!

    We can’t tell you much about what we’ll be doing, as the element of surprise here is crucial. But we can tell you that it’ll be huge and absurdly fun, and when a hundred world honchos meet the next morning to discuss climate change at the UN, you may have helped set the tone for progress. (more…)