Pranksters Distribute Fake New York Times Declaring 'Iraq War Over'

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Pranksters Distribute Fake New York Times Declaring 'Iraq War Over'

The Yes Men identified as the team behind the joke pages

by
Ed Pilkington

Fake New York Times: the work of pranksters The Yes Men

The US defence department yesterday declared the end of the Iraq war
and the immediate withdrawal of all troops, prompting an admission from
Condoleezza Rice that the Bush administration knew all along that
Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, according to the New
York Times.

On second thought, that introductory paragraph needs
a little clarification. The New York Times proper didn't report the end
of the Iraq war. But a spoof 14-page "special edition" of the
newspaper, circulating free on the streets of Manhattan today, did
carry those items. It was printed in a form that was so high quality
and technically accurate that many New Yorkers were nonplussed, backed
up by an entire "New York Times" website that equally faithfully
mimicked the original.

Dated July 4 2009, and boasting the
front-page motto: "All the news we hope to print" in a twist on the
daily's famous phrase "All the news that's fit to print", the fake
paper looks forward to the day the war ends, and envisages a chain of
events that would be manna from heaven for American liberals.

In
one story, ExxonMobil is taken into public ownership. In another,
evangelical churches, the backbone of the Bush-supporting Christian
right, open the doors of their mega-churches to Iraqi refugees.

The
organisers of the high-quality and evidently expensive satire have
cloaked themselves deliberately in a layer of mystery. They are
connected at least to some degree to a group of activists calling
themselves the Yes Men, a left-wing group that seeks to expose what it
claims to be the "nastiness of powerful evildoers" through
sophisticated pranks.

When the Guardian contacted the Yes Men, it
received a swift response from a spokesman for the New York Times spoof
going by the name of Wilfred Sassoon. He said that the Yes Men had
helped with distribution, but that the paper itself had been produced
by a number of anonymous writers from various New York dailies,
including a couple from the New York Times itself.

"The idea
behind it was to get people to exercise their imaginations," "Sassoon"
said. "We have just elected a new president, and we have for the first
time in eight years a chance to see real change happen. But it won't
happen unless we keep the pressure up on politicians to do what they
were elected to do."

The project, he said, had taken about six months and had been funded by a large number of small donors.

A
main target of the prank is clearly the New York Times itself. The
spoof contains an editorial apologising for the paper's "botched
reporting" of the run-up to the Iraq invasion, and a column from Thomas
Friedman in which he declares that he has repented of his earlier
backing of the war and decided never again to write for this or any
other paper.

The New York Times said it was "in the process of
finding out more" about its imitation. That, at least, could be taken
at face value.

 

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

 

To visit the site, click here.

For the full pdf version of the Edition, click here.

 

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