The Yes Men are going to party like it’s July 4th, 2009

Only a week after the November 5th New York Times cast a rare glimmer of hope on the desolate landscape of print media by selling out all across the city (I fought a frenzied crowd for a copy near Grand Central the next day) the latest high-demand edition of The Times has already hit the streets, and will most likely will be pulling in triple-digit bids on E-bay by this afternoon. It’s the audacity of hope edition, or more specifically, the July 4th, 2009 one, and it features headlines like “Iraq War Ends”, “Patriot Act Repealed”, and my personal favorite, “Thomas Friedman Resigns”. Not a bad way to begin the day. According to Gawker, the effort was organized by the infamous Yes Men, a “group of culture jamming activists who practice what they call ‘identity correction’ by pretending to be powerful people and spokespersons for prominent organizations.” Their last big stunt took place in 2004, when they appeared on BBC News as spokesmen for Dow Chemicals and pledged $12 billion to resolving the tragedy in Bhopal, a disaster that Union Carbide, one of the company’s subsidiaries, had triggered twenty years earlier. Dow, to say the least, was more than slightly displeased.

In this morning’s triumphant return to public prankery, volunteers spread out all across the city and distributed fake versions of the Times in Grand Central, Union Square, and even at my little coffee shop in Clinton Hill, saving me the trouble of heading downtown to pick up a copy. Issuing a statement on Ponyter Forums, the Yes Men have already claimed responsibility for the prank, outlining the details behind their biggest hoax in recent years:

Early this morning, commuters nationwide were delighted to find out that while they were sleeping, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had come to an end.

If, that is, they happened to read a “special edition” of today’s New York Times.

In an elaborate operation six months in the planning, 1.2 million papers were printed at six different presses and driven to prearranged pickup locations, where thousands of volunteers stood ready to pass them out on the street.

Alongside the print copies, they’ve also set up a duplicate New York Times website, complete with working links, fake ads, and a particularly entertaining “Most Popular” column. Unfortunately, unlike the normal Times site, it’s been having a bit of trouble with traffic, and keeps crashing when I try to access it. In any case, pranks seem to be the trend du jour. The New York Times (the real one, that is) just broke a story about a phony McCain adviser who has been feeding false information to the press for months under the pseudonym Martin Eisenstadt. According to the pranksters, the name was inspired by the fact that “all the neocons in the Bush administration had Jewish last names and Christian first names.” I wonder what Leo Strauss would have to say about that. Using nothing more than a fake think tank — The Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy, named after the only president capable of making George W. Bush seem eloquent — ‘Martin Eisenstadt’ passed himself off as a McCain adviser to several major news outlets, including Mother Jones, The New Republic and the LA Times. (One would think that after the whole Stephen Glass thing TNR would have learned their lesson by now, but apparently not). Eisenstadt was finally busted yesterday when MSNBC anchor David Shuster decided to investigate who in the McCain camp had been saying all those nasty things about Sarah Palin and found that it was the work of filmmakers Dan Mirvish and Eitan Gorlin. I guess that in spite of everybody’s expectations, Sarah Palin may know Africa’s a continent after all.

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~ by Jessica on November 12, 2008.

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