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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The fake New York Times: "All the news we hope to print"

On the way to work on Wall Street today, I spotted a stack of copies of The New York Times left for free.

Only it's not the Times -- it's a faithful copy in the Times's format, dated July 4, 2009. All of the stories report on news that liberals and leftists would like to have happened by then, such as our adopting a sales tax system that penalizes products with large environmental impact.

I couldn't find any publishing credit in the eight high-quality pages, only URLs for the domain . (The site was slammed by traffic today, but seems to be up now.) It seems its creators wish to appear anonymous, at least to casual readers. There is a list of worthy progressive organizations listed where reporting errors would normally be printed, but no indication that they are responsible.

Among the more clever articles is a staff editorial apologizing in clear terms for the Judith Miller stories repeating the government's claim to have evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and an op/ed piece by Tom Friedman resigning permanently. Among the more myopic is a report of a "maximum wage" bill passed, which really is the stupidest idea I've ever heard. (I used to associate with Maoists who thought it was a great idea.)

But the overall tone is not Onion-style satire or a litany of demands; instead the tone is optimistic and genuinely hopeful. It simultaneous reflects the sense that enormous injustices have mounted without answer, and that there might actually be an opportunity now to right some of them. It's hard to imagine this attitude making sense a year ago, when Barack Obama's candidacy seemed a very long shot.

I have heard that these were being passed out around the city, and the country, today. It'll be interesting to look more closely at who put together this elaborate and expensive stunt.

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Blogger Ben on Thu Nov 13, 12:12:00 AM:
The domain is registered to a clearly fake name and company -- "Harold Schwepps" of "Ginsu and Treadmill Technologies", located in "Son of Triumph, Pennsylvania."

It's hard to imagine that a major nonprofit or advocacy group would be so unofficial as to register their domains with goofy names. Is this a small group of wealthy tricksters?
Anonymous Anonymous on Thu Nov 13, 12:47:00 AM:
the yes men. big post on metafilter today with lots of links. they've done some in the past around the WTO and Dow Chemical.
Blogger Ben on Thu Nov 13, 08:07:00 AM:
Thanks, Jose. There's an AP story today:

On behalf of a collective of liberal activists, 1,000 volunteers across the country handed out 1.2 million copies of a spoof of The New York Times, dated July 4, 2009.

At first glance, the parody, which used the Times' Gothic-style font on the nameplate, could easily be mistaken for the real thing.

The 14-page paper - which also announced the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for CEOs and a recall for all gasoline-fueled cars - showed up in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The pranksters - who include a film promoter, a college teacher, journalists and others - said they wanted to encourage the administration of Democratic President-elect Barack Obama to keeps its promises.

The publication was funded by small, online contributions "to maintain the pressure on the people we've elected so they do what we've elected them to do," said a journalist who used the pseudonym Wilfred Sassoon to protect his real job at a newspaper in the New York area.

He said he helped create the paper with about 30 other people, many of whom work at New York daily newspapers.

Steven Lambert, an editor of the parody who teaches art at New York's Hunter College and Parsons The New School for Design - and gave his real name - said the project was a success.

"This really resonated with people on the street," Lambert said. "First, there was a moment of, 'How could this be true?' But then people enjoyed this feeling of, 'Ah, amazing things really could happen!' The paper provides this vision of what's possible if we all work together."

Lambert said the team included three New York Times staffers whose names will remain secret. He said the group looked into the legal issues raised by the use of The New York Times nameplate style and believes it is within the bounds of what's known as "fair use" under federal copyright law.
The group posted a small notice on Craigslist soliciting volunteer writers and others to help. The fake paper was printed at presses around the country and The Yes Men, a New York-based prankster group, provided software and Internet support.
Blogger Brette on Thu Nov 13, 09:02:00 PM:
The Times printed a story on it, interestingly in the Arts section. My favorite line were the last two lines: "The statement said that 1.2 million copies were printed, more than the weekday circulation nationwide for real issues of The Times. That number is suspect, if only because of the printing that would be involved."