Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pranksters hack the New York Times

The YES Men have done it again -- only this time with a new level of smarts and pizazz.

Last week, they printed over a million copies of a spoof issue of The New York Times and distributed them around the country. What made the prank remarkable is that the content is truly visionary. The great news from July 4, 2009, is that the Iraq War is over. The U.S. Congress has adopted universal health care. Thomas Friedman has admitted how wrong he has consistently been on the war, and other matters, and thrown in the pen, and there is a new S.A.N.E. economic policy.

The YES men started out as two small-time pranksters. One was involved in the "Barbie Liberation Front," which swapped out the voice boxes of GI Joes and Barbie dolls (so GI Joe was talking about shopping while Barbie was looking to blow people up). The other inserted into an action video game avatars of guys in swim suits blowing kisses.

They joined forces and graduated to a website that mimicked the WTO site, but with their own special slant. The website resulted, to their surprise, in speaking invitations from around the world. So, dressed in thrift store suits and ties, they showed up at conferences and conventions as WTO representatives, where they proclaimed the organization -- having contributed to global poverty and environmental decline -- would be closing down. Among other pranks. You can read their story in their own words here.

They pulled the same scam on Dow Chemical, when they announced to global fanfare that the company would take full responsibility for the casualties resulting from the Bhopal chemical spill -- a claim the real Dow Chemical than would find itself vigorously denying.

These pranks, while showing increasing sophistication and pointed commentary, focused on the deep flaws of major global players. This latest prank, which clearly was produced by a larger team, shows instead what could go very right in the world. How about a Safeguards for a New Economy (S.A.N.E.) economic policy that caps CEO pay and places a tax on stock transactions? Or a bike path running the length of Manhatten? Or free tuition at public universities.

Here's the pranksters' video release. As one of the women interviewed says, "What if? What if?"


New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

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