Wednesday, May 31, 2006

All's Fair in Love and War

The story of the Yes Men is a case study in political subversion via digital media that has crossed over into the film market. Today I watched their prank-oriented movie, which has been released on DVD, in which apologists for multinational corporations (along with overly earnest activists who can't see parody even in front of their faces) get punk'd by ertsatz WTO spokespersons. The film shows Yes Men going to conferences and lectures bearing giant phalluses and other examples of political theater.

Measured in Internet time, the Yes Men have been on the web for ages, beginning with a bogus George W. Bush site that garnered media attention during the first W campaign. In 1999 these anti-globalization activists set up a parody website that lampooned the World Trade Organization, which included a fake Coca Cola website and a "most wanted" card deck for regime change in the U.S. Unsuspecting visitors who weren't attuned to relatively obvious clues of an Internet hoax or spoof invited representatives from the website to appear at public events.

Since then, they've done send-ups in several common corporate digital genres, such as 3-D animation and PowerPoint slides. This month their Halliburton parody site was featured on this blog. (Although they make fun of academics, Mike Bonnano has taught "tactical media" in the MFA program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.)

As impersonators, the Yes Men describe themselves as specialists in "identity correction" (as opposed to "identity theft") . In deploying this language they seem to be tapping into the Zeitgeist. Yesterday there were identity theft stories in both the Los Angeles Times ("College Door Ajar for Online Criminals") and the New York Times ("Technology and Easy Credit Give Identity Thieves an Edge"). The latter article emphasizes how public disclosure using the Internet as a means of information dissemination by government agencies could actually enable identity thieves on the prowl.

Ironically, most lavishly produced "fake news" is used strategically by corporate manipulators of the media. For example, since it is Spring and the mating season is in full swing, check out this recent fake study on the chemistry of love from an online dating service. Like many official-sounding VNRs (video news releases), this item exploits anxieties about interactions via technology or with strangers on the Internet. Of course, sponsor faces a lawsuit for sending faux romantic e-mails to spur patrons to renew their memberships. Given today's LA Times story about the lawsuit involving matchmaker Orly and claims made on her website, it seems like face-to-face operations aren't safe from litigation from the lovelorn either.



Post a Comment

<< Home