New York Times Proclaims End to Wars

Still from video showing the distribution of the fake New York Times.

Well… not really. Unidentified merry pranksters have published and distributed a fake “special edition” of The New York Times with a banner headline that proclaims; “IRAQ WAR ENDS: Troops to Return Immediately.” The first sentence of an accompanying article reads: “Thousands take to the streets to celebrate the announced end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” On Wednesday morning, Nov. 12, 2008, over one million copies of the forged edition were circulated for free by volunteers working with the anonymous publishers.

We Can Dream Can't We?
Front page of the fake “special edition” of The New York Times, Nov. 12, 2008.

The counterfeit edition also features full articles with titles like; “Nation Sets Its Sights on Building Sane Economy,” “Maximum Wage Law Succeeds,” “USA Patriot Act Repealed,” “Nationalized Oil To Fund Climate Change Efforts,” “Gitmo, Other Centers Closed,” “Health Insurance Act Clears House,” and “Bush to Face Charges.”

It will certainly be argued that the intricate prank qualifies more as activism than art – but the hoax displays a good deal more inspiration and relevancy than the greater part of today’s conceptual or performance art practices. The press release for the sophisticated hoax reads as follows:

“November 12, 2008 – 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.'”

One video (since taken down) showed the fake NYT being distributed on the streets of New York City, and the responses from the citizenry were remarkable. A fictitious ad for American Apparel apologizes for the company being “naughty,” while pledging, “but now we are unionizing our employees.” The Fine Print, the editorial statement published on the sham website (also taken down), fully explains the intent behind the guerilla art/activist project:

“This special edition of The New York Times comes from a future in which we are accomplishing what we know today to be possible. The dozens of volunteer citizens who produced this paper spent the last eight years dreaming of a better world for themselves, their friends, and any descendants they might end up having. Today, that better world, though still very far away, is finally possible – but only if millions of us demand it, and finally force our government to do its job.

It certainly won’t be easy. Even now, corporate representatives are swarming over Washington to get their agendas passed. The energy giants are demanding ‘clean coal,’ nuclear power and offshore drilling. Military contractors are pushing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. H.M.O.s and insurance companies are promoting bogus ‘reforms’ so they can forestall universal health care. And they’re not about to take no for an answer.

But things are different this time. This time, we can hold accountable the politicians we put into office. And because everyone can now see that the ‘free market’ has nothing to do with freedom, there is a huge opening to pass policies that can benefit all Americans, and that can make us truly free – free to pursue an education without debt, go on vacation every once in a while, keep healthy, and live without the crushing guilt of knowing what our tax dollars are doing abroad.”

The NYT special edition guerilla art project not only encourages people to imagine a better world, it urges them to struggle for it. This is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in an ad featured in both the paper and online editions. The ad features a smiling Barack Obama, along with the words:

Epoch-making, Pivotal, Squandered. The more we look at the world the more we understand that some things really matter. Not only our choice of President, but how we make sure that he, like all of our elected officials, does what we elected him to do – its not over yet.”


UPDATE: Late Wed. afternoon – 11/12/08, I received a Press Release from the organizers of the spoof, who are claiming that: “Hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists” are responsible for the action. Quoting from the communiqué: “The people behind the project are involved in a diverse range of groups, including The Yes Men, the Anti-Advertising Agency, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.”

Steve Lambert, one of the project’s organizers and an editor of the paper, said; “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.” One of the project’s organizers, Beka Economopoulos, stated that; “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.” Andy Bichlbaum, another project organizer and editor of the paper, stated; “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.”

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