Thursday, November 13, 2008

(Not) The New York Times

By Ben Trott

Reportedly, up to 1.2 million copies of a spoof version (PDF) of the New York Times were handed out across the United States yesterday. The 14-page authentic looking paper was post-dated July 4 2009 and carried the cover story ‘Iraq War Ends’. Containing numerous articles likely to be warmly greeted by the left (or, ‘liberal-left’), the paper announced the passing of the National Health Insurance Act, an apology from the Times itself for the role some of its columnists played in legitimising the war by perpetuating claims about weapons of mass destruction, and declared the nationalisation of several major oil companies whose revenues would be used to fund efforts to reduce climate change. The distribution of the paper was accompanied by the launch of a website, making the content available online and open to comment. Like the paper, the site is also designed to look like the real deal. One of the most prominent articles claims that it was popular pressure from mass movements which were responsible for forcing the series of progressive reforms said to have taken place since Obama’s election.

Times today reported the story (also, here). Several New York Times writers were rumoured to have been involved in the production of the paper which is said to have been months in the planning.

The Times’ article acknowledges that this is not the first such spoof of their paper. The first took place during a two month strike at the paper and included pieces by numerous well known writers. The second saw Virgin’s Richard Branson produce a 1999 April Fool’s Day parody of the paper.

The production of spoof newspapers has also long belonged to the action repertoire of the counter-globalisation movement. The British-based group Relcaim the Streets, in the mid- to late-1990s, produced a series of parodies of London’s centre-right Evening Standard newspaper entitled Evading Standards. The papers were often distributed across the city in the days before one of their spectacular street parties, both advertising the event and explaining some of the ideas, analyses and motivations behind them.

The group also produced a Financial Crimes newspaper (on the FT’s own pink paper) ahead of the protests around the 2000 International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests in Prague, Czech Republic. Before the World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle in 1999, a wrap-around spoof cover of the local daily broadsheet, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, was produced. Globalisation activists then snuck into newsagents and broke into newspaper boxes on the streets, replacing the paper’s front cover with their own.

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