11.16.2009

Is culture-jamming dead?

From Borat to Punk'd to The Yes Men, pranks have really taken off since the early days of adbusted billboards and "subvertisements." But with a surplus of flash mobs, fake newscasts and gag YouTube videos, it's worth asking: have political pranks jumped the, uh, snark?

Dave Gilson ponders the question at Mother Jones, noting that while The Yes Men's 2004 spoof, in which they posed as Dow Chemicals execs to take belated responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, cost that company $2 billion in stock losses, today we're saturated with pranks. He writes:
After [The Yes Men's] unveiling the Halliburton SurvivaBall—a "gated community for one" that turns the wearer into a giant beige gumball—to a roomful of insurance managers, Yes Man No. 2 Mike Bonanno laments, "Instead of freaking out, they just took our business cards. Our effort had been a failure. And come to think of it, all of our efforts had been failures...Maybe making fun of stupid ideas was a stupid idea." After playing the fool for so long, the Yes Men have come to suspect that they've become fools themselves.
Gilson says that pranksterism has become mere entertainment and, along the way, serious intentions behind such acts have, in many cases, been replaced by a serious desire for attention -- quick celebrity. Further, as the hijacked Obama TIME cover -- where he's depicted as Batman's arch-enemy -- suggests, it's no longer the domain of the left. Nothing wrong with rightwingers reading Rules for Radicals to muck up town hall meetings, I suppose, but the fact that they are suggests some of the beloved tactics of the left have, perhaps, outlived their usefulness.

Related: Where's all the rightwing street art?

1 comment:

samuel ross said...

i admire pranksters. i really don't care to analyze their intentions when "getting attention" is a critical element to any form of communication. i see your point about these forms of culture-jamming blending in with the flash mobs and other benign outbursts, but if we can consistently show ourselves to be an unpredictable populace...all the better. the big wigs won't know where to start chopping us down.