tv Book Discussion on Pranksters CSPAN May 11, 2014 5:18pm-6:07pm EDT
>> you're watching book tv, nonfiction authors and books every weekend on c-span2. >> the united states long history of pranking going back to benjamin franklin. professor macleod as a prankster himself. he argues that banks are part of all long tradition of social critique in the united states. this is about 50 minutes.
>> i already bust my first appearance on c-span. i guess i would like to first think c-span book tv for featuring my reading on your program. i would like dependent machine treat festival for making me a part of the leonard -- literary lineup. thank perry lives not only for hosting this, but for giving writers like me and many other people a place to ride in public. much of this book was written at the coffee shop. american wet and wisdom began. in december 191732 edition of the pennsylvania gazette benjamin franklin been the following advertisement. just published for 1783. poor richard, an almanac. writing under the name richard saunders in not only narrow down the day of his death, date and
time october 171733 at 3 to 9:00 p.m. but also the exact moment when too worldly bodies aligned at the very instance of the convention. he was a rationalist product of the enlightenment who heaped scorn on astrologers. more crucially he was a business rival. often achieved by stepping on competitors. franklin claimed the two friends frequently debated when the cosmos schedules his appointment with the grim reaper. inclinable to agree with my judgment which is most exact and a little time will tell. when he did not die on that day phase ii of operation ridicule kids and. in the next poor richard's
almanac franklin / saunders bemoan the fact that they could not attend his best friend bury his final moments on earth. oh, he wished to of given him a farewell embrace, closes eyes, and city by one last time. this infuriated the astrologer who rented about this falls predictor and conceded scribbling. poor richard was shocked by these utterances. with a weary tone he wrote, having received much abused from the ghost of aiden needs and my almanacs in spite of my predictions i cannot help but though i take it patiently to my take it. unkindly. he added that there was absolutely no doubt that leads had died. plan to everyone who reads the last two almanacs that no man living could or would write such damn stuff. [laughter] benjamin franklin on an opera in the printing press that turned out as competitors almanac give me my crucial advantage in this
war words. is inside knowledge allowed from one to read is a tax before they even went to press and respond. he was too well bred to use an immense of indecently and seriously to read and moreover, his esteem and affection for me as extraordinary. the astrologers protests continued to pour fuel on the fire which by then had captivated much of the colony's. frank and kept this up for several years, and even after the astrologer really did die for instance, the 1740 edition of poor richard's almanac describe a late-night visit from the ghost of titan leads who entered richard saunders brain via his left nostril and pan the following message. i actually did die at that moment, he finally confessed with just a variation of five minutes and 53 seconds.
benjamin franklin, the first modern example of what i call print. in a groundbreaking -- ground-breaking book suggests that the best pranks and no imagination, poetic imagery, the unexpected, and a deep level of irony. prankster's can spark important debates and in some instances provoke social change. unfortunately the word prank is more often used today to describe stunts that make people look foolish. i'm not interested in celebrating cruelty, especially the sort of mean-spirited practical jokes amazing rituals and reality television disease that are far too common in today's pop culture. all the good price of some times to ridicule their targets, they serve a higher purpose by speaking truth to power or at least cracking jokes that exposed fishers and powers facade. a prank a day keeps the men awaken my our site. nevertheless, i should stress at the outset that this book is not
solely about pranking. many of the characters to populate these pages are not driven by noble impulses, and even those who are more pure of heart can muddy the waters with dubious tactics. so with this in mind prankster's examine everything from political pranks, silly hoaxes, and conned into the sort of self deception that you'll outlandish belief systems. of these may seem like very different examples, they are linked by the fact that all ideas engendered confusion, uncertainty, and ambiguity. spectators, weathers' camp by a swindler can experience a single event in radically different ways. one person's bank can become fodder for another person's con or, as we will soon see, conspiracy theory. pranks, hoaxes, cons, conspiracy theories share another key similarity. people buy into them when the resin and with their own deeply entrenched world views. conversely they can also bushes
and more critically about how and why we come to embrace boss believes while at the same time reminding us not to repeat past mistakes. as the old proverb goes for me once shame on you, fully to my shame on me. this book offers and on eat an overlooked account of political life in the west. reason an enlightened principles shipment in the concerted chicanery and irrationality. pranks' also provide a real live learning lab for conducting social experiment. anyone with enough pluck, like, and imagination can up and head of a culture industries engine and once a year stern. one useful example is the bin and a hoax. recirculated that one could get high by smoking banana peels,
though in reality the only way to trip on a banana insist upon one. sorry. [laughter] instigators are most likely country joe mcdonald and hirsch. in the late 1960's they started spreading the word among friends the banana peels contain psychedelic ingredients. even if it did not work a marsh said, it was great fun. not only would this be absurdly difficult to how walk, but the thought of puffing on bananas contain more than a whiff of slapstick silliness. a store initially travel via word-of-mouth during the first printed account appeared in march 1967 issue of the berkeley barb. woodman manager and also contributed to regular music column to the underground newspaper. i was fully involved in perpetrating a hoax, wrote that article, though he denied penning a letter to the editor
about a local food co-op who was looking in the fresh produce section. a writer predicted that the large amounts then. the smoking ban and and that is a bit frivolous there really can learn a lot. this print reveals much about the social and meal and sketch of the time. underground is bigger screen in a virtual community connecting weirdos, radicals, andropovs living in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. this alternative communication network ensure that few things remain local. mainstream outlets also propagated the spot on starting with the san francisco chronicle and an article titled kicks for hippies, the banana turnon. within a month time and newsweek piled around dense and was part of popular folklore. from bananas it is a short but shocking efforts said congressman frank thompson who cheekily proposed the ban and
labeling act of 1967. in a speech on the floor of the house representatives you declared today the cry is burned, banana, burned. tomorrow we may face strawberry smoking contrite apricot and halling of perm puffing. thompson claims that a high official at the fda kirsten to introduce the bill. the food and drug ministration to no action find the banana slug and refining. a design studies. the released a press release, detectable quantities of non hallucinogens and bananas. donovan's recent hit miller yellow was war and the women to be about you know what, electrical banana will be the
latest craze. the song was actually written before the print was hatched, kooky cosmic coincidence. the constant repetition amelya low on radius amplified the banana hoax as a spread through subterranean tributaries, corporate channels, and word of mouth. a famous rumor about the beatles paul mccartney followed a similar pattern. in 1969 news spread that he died in a car accident and had been replaced by a look and sound like. underground newspapers, free-form and radio and of a counter cultural efforts in every time and life ran with it and region -- legions of stoned hippies were poring over the of loans. it was all in good fun, but not everyone appreciated this. in the case of the banana of some radicals even called a counterrevolutionary. students for a democratic society insisted that it was a politically misguided stunt that
it northern united food companies and drilling practices the circumstances come to mind when bananas are flaunted with humor or symbolic meaning as a means of liberation. although he did have a legitimate point to is fighting an uphill battle. the gay and women's liberation struggles combine of the black power and anti their movements provided multiple openings. the creek -- trickster tradition russian literary critic believed that laughter is played and unrecognized role in steering history. and a clarity erupted can interrupt the status quo. he planted the old feudal order was not brought down with cannonballs and fodder but waves of on an image of laughter. many of o'connell's gave peasants the license to turn existing power relations upside down, if only for a day. these raucous rituals occurred in all countries throughout
europe creating an alternative space that ride outside of the political and religious spheres. the official political religious fears give even christmas at an early unruly incarnation. some did piously observe this holiday and shun the wild celebration associated with the, those folks were few and far between. late december festivities took place and coincided with a moment of leisure and abundance that came with the end of the harvest. during this time of year a social hierarchy was symbolically turned upside down. began the masters of misrule, children gain the status of their elders who were grouped in marked. in 17th century new england holiday troubled religious leaders some us that the band christmas entirely. attention fox news, the puritans waste the first warm christmas. [laughter]
the decision was part of what amounted to a compromise for which the church paid a very high price. despite the promise of medieval kern was the sometimes on least frustrations, pilot frustrations against jews and a minority groups. these officially sanctioned the versions functions as the instruments of social control by letting people blow off steam before tensions exploded. nevertheless, they planted seeds that occasionally overturn the rule of order. every so often fat tuesday does leak over into lean wednesday and it is the rest of the year's low. in germany this ceremonial the basement of the pope helped lay the groundwork for the reformation.
the ritual container broke, the pollution linked up, and the church is so fundamentally altered. the guffaw heard around the world, the reminder of the media fears that the modern age was laughed into being, invoking by pain, the angels and the devils, the net from answers and the priests, a barbaric and acquisitions, and flexible hierarchies, deadly serious ignorance of medieval powers were blown away not buy guns in great debates of by great gusts of bill in laughter. the modern era laws ushered in by prank. in 1614 in mysterious track appeared in castle germany announcing the existence of an invisible college.
in anguished the fame of the brother of the rose krauss told the tale of a man who found of the brotherhood in 1408 and net yearly in the mysterious house of the holy spirit. a young christian who traveled to gain new wisdom was not uncommon with in the popular culture at that time, though the story of a hero's journey and homecoming has much older britons. within that context it clearly reads like allegory. that did not stop people from taking it literally. the first tract combined with an anonymous 1615 pamphlet titled confess to fraternity of this as well as 1616 formed the core of what became known as the manifesto's these documents
claim there were engineering a coming golden age that would transform of pre-existing political and religious institutions. not only did these men bring about political utopian harmony but could make themselves disappear. readers who wanted to read about and were instructed that the concentrated really hard one would probably drop by for a visit. the manuscript initially circulated in rarefy circles simulating a thoughtful debate and contemplation, the published version was refrained as a full-blown political religious diatribe that downplays the original celtic. it blew up like a mass media bomb. as of the comical effect of sending people scrambling in search of an invisible fraternity even though it clearly made the claim, one can only realize the true nature by looking deep within oneself. the authors of the manifesto were primarily drawn to as of
chaired learning, science, technology. they also shared an irreverent are outright hostile attitude toward the fall season. the senate catalytic effect of splitting public opinion and religious lines. catholics blasted heretics' while others sought to join our plan there were already members or knew someone who ones. the reports from the time spoke of american and excitement, both pro and con but -- looked at the the catholic church concluded that they were double worshipers his promise of enlightenment was clear evidence of the diabolical agenda. furthermore the brother of self-proclaimed shape shifting abilities. finally, their interests in national philosophy which is a precursor to modern science was sent to be wicked paid used to twist the minds of questions. the lines between occultism, esoteric knowledge, natural philosophy requite blurry.
even sir isaac newton spent more time on out to me and gravitational science. the rumored to be our was a christian, but nevertheless the mathematician of excited enough to write in his notes about the distinguished brothers of the rows across germany. decker sought out to them in 1619, but it was through the crust. as the manifesto's instructed, one could only find a brother by entering a world of imagination or a new consciousness. turn off your mind, relax, float downstream. despite the manifest as shuttle we origen's some consensus has formed about who often. a radical german theologian later confessed to writing the chemical winning and was also the problem will offer of the first manifested at kicked things off.
a relatively new technology of the printing press was key to the pranks success, especially because they invited all the scholars and rumors of europe to clear their minds and print. in a stroke of marketing genius no return address was given. european intellectuals try their best to attract attention. within a dozen years and the traders and two out imitators and attractors produced several hundred, an astounding amount for that time. characterized what he did as a useful bill brio, or a joke with a serious objective. in his where griffey he expressed shock that people took his perry seriously comic timing of the chemical wedding was intended to trap the credulous. he explicitly used the gaming metaphors to talk about his prank describing and i wrote the script, set the scene, and watched the drama unfold.
he pulled a curious public further into the web of intrigue al pennant the theatrical and encourage people to be more accepting of new ideas about science, philosophy, and spiritual on the. he grew exasperated. listen, you wait for the coming of the brotherhood. this comedy is an and recall that the parent of all follies and the hard scandal of occultism. the pranksters in this case lost control of the narrative. and the resulting in the of securing the intended message, the first along one of pranks that took on a life of our own. this dialed up -- all of this -- the resulting principal back exploded into a social force
that impacted for centuries of western culture regardless of whether this invisible college was a genuine secret society of provocative print the manifesto left a deep footprint in the material world. after trying to get the attention of the brotherhood and print to no avail many interested parties started their own orders. they continue to solve replicate and went on to influence the religious pluralism of freemasonry and others to challenge tradition. the brother had also created the template for virtually every vehicle to conspiracy theory that followed. an elite body of initiatives, satanic sicker society with domestic society sometimes known as the alumni and a loss to overthrow all established religious political authority increase in new world order. so that was from my introduction so on going to read from chapter seven, political pranksters.
a 1968 demonstration against the ms. america pageant was a turning point for the women's liberation movement. they designed their action to provoke a debate about beauty pageants in the patriarchal society that props,. there are about 35 of us women's international terrorist conspiracy from hell. we got on the bus and travel down from the york to an atlantic city and had a little fun. to dramatize womens' enslavement to be the standards some of them chained themselves to a gigantic ms. america puppet. it took a cue from the yippies pay for president campaign by using a sheep to parity the way of the contestants are priest and judged like animals of a county fair. so ross paine tells me, we crown the sheep ms. america.
some give us the palms down. i remember one guy saying, like the ladies. a few got arrested when an inside squad of 20 women disrupted the live broadcast screening freedom for women. the television audience could tell something was wrong. ms. america trouble than stuttered. it was unclear exactly what was going on. another woman was arrested for spraying the mayor's seating area with air-conditioner. the police arrest report referred to it as a noxious odor which was not injured in the best product placement for the company. the women refused to speak with male reporters, although this was bound by critics, it was a calculated gesture to fund gesture meant to highlight women's marginal last-place finisher in and general distrust of media. and they have good reasons to distrust, especially because the protests most memorable event
never took place. i never saw bra burner in my entire life. it was probably a man who started the story. as it turns out the urban legend can be traced back to a young female reporter with the new york post. wrote an article that drew parallels between the ms. ms. america protest and another contemporary form of mass resistance, draft card burning. her article backfired when it's ironic tone was lost in translation. the mental image quickly took root in public memory even though there was absolutely no photographic evidence to verify that happened. people just filled in the blanks with their imagination. robin morgan noted at the time that the pause that they tossed into the freedom trash can was translated by nl controlled media into robber in.
or she did not say was that the event organizers, herself included, actually did plan to set fire to the trash can, but atlantic city officials denied a permit on the grounds that it was a fire hazard. feminist historian alistair eccles notes that at least one of the organizers need word of the plant bra burning to the press before hand. those feminists who sanctimoniously disemboweled were either misinformed or disingenuous. once the bra burning name was unleashed the women's movement lost control of the narrative and it was used as a bludgeon to caricature him and his. i've gone to give you one last sample from the book and then i'll open it up to kim in.
popular culture is an inviting space. entertainer's generally have more leeway than your average person because they tend to be entertaining. bitter truths can be swallowed more easily. the eccentric otherness greeted by early television star was made more palatable by a spectacle that featured hypnotic music and striking costumes and sets. one can get away with almost anything by making people tap their toes or laugh or shake their heads in disbelief. this is also true. come with us to the four corners , the ktla station announcers said as an attractive and enigmatic gays in the camera. hear music, exotic and familiar, and spring from the amazing hands on a musical adventure.
an androgynous figure massage to the organ with his fingers bucking a bit like purple rain arab prince. the debentures in music, the first on music show on television and it was an instant hit in 1948 airing five days a week for over 900 episodes. tv guide in with the best show in los angeles. one of the top male personality honors and released more than two dozen records. even appended was silent on camera the jurors that he would never show up in person. he left talk about his privileged childhood in new delhi response was a government bureaucrat and friend of ghandi and claimed that his mother was a french opera singer, of the trip was more mundane. a black man from the midwest, lights and a wreath to you the truth, i think he invented
himself. the st. louis native was born in 1921 and began his radio career and a cbs affiliate in iowa. in the late 1936, several of the sisters to california real work as a staff musician on network radio shows. he performed everything from country and western to big band jazz. he dropped his mexican and indian changed his name. that year he recorded stampede with rogers. it was surely the first and quite possibly last, black man passing as a turban, indian ever played on the kutcher record. his beautiful blonde wife, former disney studios airbrush artists was unstoppable and crafting the spurs,. she designed the sets, worked with technicians and costing her husband. a program with no talking and
all the organ music show you would not fly to date. the rules of this indian were still up for grabs. people did not what tv was supposed to be. ktla was an independent broadcaster, which give it more flexibility and its network competitors. shows were alive, rough round the edges, and offered a dizzying variety of musical entertainment. there were cooking programs, puppet theater, and weird, the in which a flustered man tried to explain the mechanisms of a television studio to viewers. hottest of all was ktla decision to broadcast an atomic test explosion live. all this was done without any advance publicity. thirty seconds before the blast because the food show off the air and just went on. [laughter] which must have made for some jarring viewing.
early television created an open for pop culture trickster figures to slip through the door in shape this new media in their image. [applause] so, yes. i can take questions, and i guess i will direct questions. is there a floating mike? also, i have free trading cards. you don't have to buy my book. here is one. thank you so much. i really enjoyed your reading. i just want to make sure you got one. everyone else, pier and get one. it is are required at you while
ibook, and there are available at the desk. tonight these are free, but usually if you buy any book and not just my book you get a free set of 20 printers trading cards. benjamin franklin, women's international terrorist conspiracy from hell and lots of others. okay. questions. >> i have been a fan of the prints that you are the purveyor of for many years. would you mind telling everyone about the mascot at gm you? >> appeared. ya. one thing i did not mention is, there is a little bit of
autobiography in a more in the air, but only just briefly, and only when it's relevant. the book is chronological. i don't appear until the end one of the very end, but near the end. and so the mascot changing print was the first thing that changed when i think about media. was a class project. i have long hated sports. as many of you know why me know. james madison university mascot from a bull dog, i gray steel, steely gray block. basically we thought it would be just kind of fun to mess with people's heads but did not
realize how far out of control it will snowball. it started with me passing around a petition to change the mascot. somehow i got 400 signatures which seemed to threaten the fans. they passed around a counter petition. and then i got my friend to submit a bill to change the mascot even though there was no chance of passing. completely free to of the campus homecoming at year, the marching band, dog bones around an ax as a sign of solidarity. we love the duke talk. first reported to me that someone threw, created an effigy of a the react a and threw it into the stands, just devoured and stomped. and when -- yakima when asked what was going on someone said,
some walking faggots are an attractive chickens the mask of. that was to five early 90's rural virginia college. so then i did not know anything about writing press releases. i recently found this really ridiculous heat poorly written press release. sunny stations showed up. nbc and abc local affiliates and then it rippled out to most of those affiliates throughout virginia and made its way on to cnn's story about we are still living the story about controversial sports teams like the redskins and the braves. and they used -- they sandwiched of the three at big with antlers story somehow into that. my grandmother called me in from wichita and thought of was on drugs. asked if i was on track and
anyway, it just got me thinking about calling in know, if i, a clue is 20 year-old college student, had no idea how to write a press release and at a budget for about eight stamps, if i could do this imagine what the big companies and doing all the time along with them and you know, lobbying firms and publicity firms that they hire to shape what we read. so it fundamentally change the way and think about media. also kicked off a sort of colossi carrier and pranks. things. >> tell us about the robot prank . >> professor. i should just read from the bug.
in 2008 during the primaries built one was dumping for hillary at the high in new. i had been managed in for years for many reasons, but one reason was what he did to sister soldier who is a large and forgotten figure, but the name is actually entering the lexicon of politics. basically a politician publicly tries to distance him or herself in the more brown coal base. he called allowances to a soldier for something this is said to a reporter. she was asked -- this was right after the l.a. riots in 92 in which a white truck driver was dragged of his truck and brutally beaten. asked by the reporter was going on in the minds of the people it did that. the very thoughtful response included this sentence black people are killing black people
in the streets every day. the government does not care. why not have a day and let you kill white people. one and have it and kill white people is what bill clinton called her out on. the political organization. first of all, it was kind of like a prank but it was like a mean-spirited prink. he was shading the truth in ways that bothered. i finally had the chance to confront him about it. i'm not trying to -- you can't get anywhere by screaming and shrieking. shouting and dress like a robot. does look a robot and talked my way into the press stands along
with the blockers and cnn and stuff. the cameras were all around me. it was a reversible about constant. i brought everything in a gym bag, so the bicycle helmet, silver shoes that security did not notice. and i had this reversible black and silver jacket that sort of formed the basis of mike austin. i stood up and interrupted a speech. bill clinton apologized to sister soldier. robots of the world what it apologized. by the time i finished saying that secret service and hillary staffers have surrounded me and pulled my high-school musical amplified microphone of my hands and ushered me out, but not before i had thrown up a bunch of the cards the website. i knew and i would be shut down correctly. anyway, it ended up looping --
this was a monday, and it ended at the been the cable news network echo chamber for all week. it became a huge story. and i got the name robo professor from the bottom line register which had the headline rubble professor confronts. however, it was in many ways of failed bank because it took me so long just now to sort of set up the story, explaining to sister soldier was and what happened in some one. and so instead, for instance, cnn anchor and explain what was going on and why did it. i still remember this ." sister soldier was a black rapper called for a kill white people they which bill clinton called racist. it would have taken an intern with access to the internet seconds to figure out that statement is completely wrong. unfortunately for those people
who did not remember an ancestor soldier moment in the first place, basically for everyone now the thing that they remembered was the news stories that friend it that way. so it was a failed bank. when four years later sarah palin game, had been upgraded roebuck cost and. and i stood outside the hamburg we were waiting for a bus to arrive. the reason i went to thailand from the build one mistake. it needs to have a simpler message. ..
to hd video like cheap consumer quality video camera just so we could document it because i also knew that you know blogs or possibly news outlets would be more likely to publish a story if it was embeddable. so basically max films me as michele bachmann as she got off the bus and michele bachmann not only are you a robo folk or a
homophobe but you are a robo folk. i will not leave until you support equal rights for human and robots so i follow her in and i only last about a minute. i start yeah people start chanting go back in the closet. go back in the closet. and i responded i cannot help myself. i was programmed to do this. and then the manager working at the time said could you please leave? i felt bad for her especially in i said of course and so i left. i was spoken to by the iowa city to lease officer who told me there would be consequences if i returned and i set affirmative. [laughter] and that was that. i came out to prairie lights coffee shop and quickly edited the video that matt shot and
shot it down to one minute uploaded to it to youtube and then within three hours the full minute of footage was used like an "msnbc" program. so anyway the last thing i wanted to say about it is trying to learn from my mistakes my mistakes might cranking mistakes yeah even for people who disagreed with my message because i targeted something that was a key part of michele bachmann's political identity her even they understood in ways with the bill clinton prank that did not work. the mic is coming around. sorry. it's being taped. >> thank you. you talked a few times about failed pranks are or when people lose control of the narrative that they initially created. are there times were losing control of that narrative actually doesn't detract from the political message but in fact enhances it and can you
talk a little bit about it maybe started out failing but somehow when the pranks lost control of it rebounded. >> that's a really interesting question and know i have never actually found a case. what i have found is when the narrative starts spinning out of control the key is the big reveal so for instance with the bill clinton or the robo professor versus bill clinton knight immediately crafted an op-ed to the "washington post" explaining what i did and explaining the context. i explained what bill clinton did to sista souljah who even the reporter when asked the reporter who originally interviewed her when i said yes bill clinton told me to put the words into context. so i found and the spirals widely out of control and something good or positive or productive or whatever comes out
of it but maybe i just wasn't looking when i was doing the research. but that's really important. >> you have a section about this in the book but maybe you could talk about the best men and how they didn't to the whole tradition. >> the s. men have been around for about 15 years now and one of their most famous pranks was when they sent out a press release stating that dow chemical was on the 20th anniversary of the horrible chemical spill in nepal india which killed a lot of people and had lots of long-term health effects for the population. that company union carbide that purchased -- that was responsible for the spill it was purchased by dow also the yes men he fact that golf -- dow purchased union carbide to
remind the world about what is still going on in nepal. they set up a fake web site and initially said dow chemical is going to sell and use the proceeds to compensate the community and the victims and so while the bbc news world invited dow chemical official on which turned out to be yes maam and dow zero stocks crashed like $3 billion within an hour or two. they rebounded after dow chemical was forced to say no we are actually and we are not going to compensate the victims the victims of the company we know own. that was huge because it wasn't just the fact that he got on the air and it was he the first time by a few million people probably let that story had reverberation
effects and echoed throughout the medium became a big story. they succeeded i think because they reminded the world of what union carbide and dow chemical did. i guess we have time for one more question. >> you mentioned something about the big reveal and the s. man prank was the apology basically apologizing for dow and that was when the prank emerged. that is what made that such a powerful statement. >> i was trying to simplify the story but yeah cassette was actually kicking things off. they got things rolling in terms of spreading the word about that prank and reminded the world that yeah. one last question anyone? going once. okay.