Thu, 28 Sep 2000 09:37:28 -0700
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Picked up your latest copy of Financial Crimes?
Why are anti-globalisation campaigners turning to hoax newspapers to get
their message across?
By Gibby Zobel
26 September 2000
I'm in a three-bedroom flat in north London. It's 3am. The place is
in rucksacks and people reading print-outs, passing comments. There's
computer, manned by a homeless designer, his face furrowed in
You may see the result today being handed out on the streets in London
beyond. You would be forgiven for thinking you were reading the FT. The
paper, the world market graphics, the features on fuel, debt, the
But after considering the slant on the lead - "World Bank terrorism -
evidence" - you may have realised that the logo reads, in fact,
Crimes. It is the latest, ever-more professional tool in the kit of
anti-globalisation campaigners - the spoof newspaper.
Today is touted as the latest in a line of days of action against global
capitalism, timed to coincide with the 55th meeting of the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Prague. It follows the carnival in
city of London on 18 June last year, the unprecedented scenes in Seattle
November and the May Day riots. Each day has seen its own pretend paper.
Since the first 20,000 print run of Evading Standards, a skit on
Evening Standard, was published in April 1997 for a march in support of
Liverpool Dockers, the mockery idea has spawned its own imitators
That original issue was seized in bulk by police and three people were
charged with incitement to affray. The use of the masthead with the
of Eros and a joke advert for the Metropolitan Police breached
But the spoofers sued the Met for wrongful arrest and were awarded
five-figure costs. The money funded the next edition, and Evading
made a return for the demonstration in the City of London with an
appropriate thanks in the small print.
"Developing alternatives must be a collective endeavour. Publishing this
newspaper is only part of that process," says the Financial Crimes
editorial, written by the direct action collective Reclaim the Streets.
is an attempt by campaigners to bypass the mainstream media and deliver
their message direct.
The lengths they go to are sophisticated. One mock London Underground
was published using the exclusive Johnson typeface, leaked to the group
an anti-privatisation Tube worker.
And it appears to be effective. The subversives responsible for the
south coast effort this year, the Brighton & Hove No Leaders, received
glowing tribute from the proprietor of the real thing, the Leader. "We
evidence that substantial confusion has already taken place," wrote
Scott, managing director of Newsquest (Sussex) Ltd. "We are not against
parody and satire as such. However, we believe your publication goes a
way too far." Another one of Newsquest's publications, the Evening
was renamed the Evening Anus in an earlier stunt. In Bristol, the
Post is now variously the Evening Pissed or Pest. Not very subtle, but
monikers have stuck locally.
Giving the paper out on the streets was the only distribution method
available to UK pranksters, but when the concept crossed the Atlantic,
game moved on. Protesters against the World Trade Organisation produced
quality copy of the awkwardly named Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Squads
early morning paperboys and girls simply opened up the street boxes with
quarter, replaced the outer four pages and put them back. They were
in an angry editorial the next day.
The San Francisco Chomical used the same technique to highlight the
incarceration on death-row of black activist and writer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
"Nothing like this has ever happened before," said Randy Schuller, head
security for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency. "We've hired an
investigator to check it out."
America has seen this before, however. In 1978 a New York Times spoof
produced by striking journalists, including Watergate's Carl Bernstein.
other hacks in dispute have done the same, from London's Time Out to The
Morning Star. "The most successful pastiches are done by ex-employees,"
underground newspaper chronicler Nigel Fountain. "You've got to really
understand the thinking behind the product to satirise or deconstruct,"
says, but admits he has yet to come across the new protagonists. The
difference in the new field is two-fold. One, the satire is generally
page deep to pull in the reader and the rest is analysis, ranging from
quality critique to diatribe dogma. Secondly, this is no media-on-media
effort, merely a vehicle.
There was an all-night debate in the north London flat over the four
of type which run at the foot of the Financial Crimes. Fearing a
compromise, the final disclaimer reads thus: "The aping of newspapers,
use of advanced technologies and the use of printers run for profit,
in no way be seen as an endorsement of newspapers, capitalist social
relations or industrial society." No FT? Plenty of comments.
The writer is news editor of 'The Big Issue'
Information is a weapon-arm yourself, visit www.teknopunx.co.uk thoroughly disaproved of by most leading politicians
"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then
they fight you. Then you win." - Gandhi
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