November 12, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE [Ah… er… um…] RELEASE
SPECIAL TIMES EDITION BLANKETS U.S. CITIES, PROCLAIMS END TO WAR
* PDF: http://www.nytimes-se.com/pdf
* For video updates: http://www.nytimes-se.com/video
* Contact: mailto:[email protected]
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.
Articles in the paper announce dozens of new initiatives including the establishment of national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for C.E.O.s, and, of course, the end of the war.
The paper, an exact replica of The New York Times, includes International, National, New York, and Business sections, as well as editorials, corrections, and a number of advertisements, including a recall notice for all cars that run on gasoline. There is also a timeline describing the gains brought about by eight months of progressive support and pressure, culminating in President Obama’s “Yes we REALLY can” speech. (The paper is post-dated July 4, 2009.)
“It’s all about how at this point, we need to push harder than ever,” said Bertha Suttner, one of the newspaper’s writers. “We’ve got to make sure Obama and all the other Democrats do what we elected them to do. After eight, or maybe twenty-eight years of hell, we need to start imagining heaven.”
Not all readers reacted favorably. “The thing I disagree with is how they did it,” said Stuart Carlyle, who received a paper in Grand Central Station while commuting to his Wall Street brokerage. “I’m all for freedom of speech, but they should have started their own paper.”
November 12, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE [Ah… er… um] RELEASE
“SPECIAL” NEW YORK TIMES BLANKETS CITIES WITH MESSAGE OF HOPE AND CHANGE
Thousands of volunteers behind elaborate operation
* PDF: http://www.nytimes-se.com/pdf
* Ongoing video releases: http://www.nytimes-se.com/video
* The New York Times responds: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/pranksters-spoof-the-times/
Hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists are claiming credit for an elaborate project, 6 months in the making, in which 1.2 million copies of a “special edition” of the New York Times were distributed in cities across the U.S. by thousands of volunteers.
The papers, dated July 4th of next year, were headlined with long-awaited news: “IRAQ WAR ENDS”. The edition, which bears the same look and feel as the real deal, includes stories describing what the future could hold: national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for CEOs, etc. There was also a spoof site, at http://www.nytimes-se.com/.
“Is this true? I wish it were true!” said one reader. “It can be true, if we demand it.”
“We wanted to experience what it would look like, and feel like, to read headlines we really want to read. It’s about what’s possible, if we think big and act collectively,” said Steve Lambert, one of the project’s organizers and an editor of the paper.
“This election was a massive referendum on change. There’s a lot of hope in the air, but there’s a lot of uncertainty too. It’s up to all of us now to make these headlines come true,” said Beka Economopoulos, one of the project’s organizers.
“It doesn’t stop here. We gave Obama a mandate, but he’ll need mandate after mandate after mandate to do what we elected him to do. He’ll need a lot of support, and yes, a lot of pressure,” said Andy Bichlbaum, another project organizer and editor of the paper.
The people behind the project are involved in a diverse range of groups, including The Yes Men, the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.
In response to the spoof, the New York Times said only, “We are looking into it.” Alex S. Jones, former Times reporter who is an authority on the history of the paper, says: “I would say if you’ve got one, hold on to it. It will probably be a collector’s item.
[Ken Knabb komments:]
Regardless of critiques that might be made of the ideas in some of the imagined stories, the perpetrators of this scandal have pulled off a remarkable coup, a coup that may help to spread some salutary memes regarding social change.
The social changes envisioned in some of the articles could be accomplished even within the current social setup (in which case people will be contrasting these possible changes with the probably very different results of the new Democratic administration). In other cases, notably those involving economic matters, it will be evident that the imagined changes could not be effected under current conditions, but would require a fundamental transformation of the whole socio-economic system (in which case people might start considering what sort of transformation would be sufficient, and how such a transformation could be brought about).
But in both types of cases, an important first step is clearing away the existing clouds of habit and resignation, so that people are able to get some sense that things could be different. This “Special Edition” coup may help to do just that. As limited as the particular “solutions” suggested may be, they are presented with a freshness and good humor that may provoke people to start questioning supposed inevitabilities and encourage them to take the initiative rather than to remain in panic-stricken, passive-defensive positions.
Many of you will have recognized that this Times “Special Edition” is an example of the situationist tactic of detournement. For information on this tactic, see these two articles:
Then compare and contrast the New York Times scandal with the situationists’ notorious “Strasbourg scandal”, which helped prepare the way for the May 1968 revolt in France: