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About This Book
From BenjaminFranklin's newspaper hoax that faked the death of his rival to Abbie Hoffman’sattempt to levitate the Pentagon, pranksters, hoaxers, and con artists have causedconfusion, disorder, and laughter in Western society for centuries. Profilingthe most notorious mischief makers from the 1600s to the present day, Pranksters explores how “pranks” are part of a long tradition of speaking truth to powerand social critique.
Invoking such historical and contemporary figures as P.T. Barnum,Jonathan Swift, WITCH, The Yes Men, and Stephen Colbert, Kembrew McLeod showshow staged spectacles that balance the serious and humorous can spark importantpublic conversations. In some instances, tricksters have incited social change(and unfortunate prank blowback) by manipulating various forms of media, fromnewspapers to YouTube. For example, in the 1960s, self-proclaimed “professionalhoaxer” Alan Abel lampooned America’s hypocritical sexual mores by usingconservative rhetoric to fool the news media into covering a satirical organizationthat advocated clothing naked animals. In the 1990s, Sub Pop Recordsthen-receptionist Megan Jasper satirized the commodification of alternativemusic culture by pranking the New YorkTimes into reporting on her fake lexicon of “grunge speak.” Throughout thisbook, McLeod shows how pranks interrupt the daily flow of approved informationand news, using humor to underscore larger, pointed truths.
Written in an accessible, story-driven style, Pranksters reveals how mischief makers have left their shocking, entertaining, andeducational mark on modern political and social life.