According to an unsigned press release I received in my email this morning, 1.2 million copies of the “exact replica” of the New York Times with a cover date of July 4, 2009 were handed out in the city today. The Gawker blog covers some of the details.
The Times’ own City Room blog has posted a good-natured report the stunt, too:
Catherine J. Mathis, a Times spokeswoman, said: â€œThis is obviously a fake issue of The Times. We are in the process of finding out more about it.â€
Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a co-author of â€œThe Trust,â€ a history of the family that controls The Times, said in a telephone interview that the paper should be flattered by the spoof.
â€œI would say if youâ€™ve got one, hold on to it,â€ Mr. Jones, a former Times reporter, said of the fake issue. â€œIt will probably be a collectorâ€™s item. Iâ€™m just glad someone thinks The New York Times print edition is worthy of an elaborate hoax. A Web spoof would have been infinitely easier. But creating a print newspaper and handing it out at subway stations? That takes a lot of effort.â€
Indeed, the Yes Men are known for not doing things half-way, whether it’s appearing on the BBC as representatives of Dow Chemical apologizing for the Bhopal disaster, or speaking on behalf of the WTO at a conference in order to advocate for the “full private stewardry of labor” in Africa.
A well played hoax or prank is a great attention-getting device, and the ability to get attention for a good reason should not be underestimated. And, there is also the sheer joy of a good prank, that is all the more enhanced when it’s in service of a higher goal. While I’m guessing a lot of hard work goes into pulling off a hoax of this magnitude, it’s worth noting that not all “activism” needs to be superserious in order to be effective or make a point — the world I want includes fun.