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The Politurgists

Using the principles of theater (usually comedic) to mess with the news.


Politurgy uses the principles of theater (usually comedic) to mess with the news.The skilled politurgist invites us to imagine a different world, or at least to take this one a little less seriously. Sometimes politurgists manufacture phony news events, sometimes they use symbolic gestures to reveal the inherent phoniness of the news itself. This is a game of deceit, bluffs, disguises, and access, the object being to make the headlines of tomorrow's morning paper as laughably true as The Onion is laughably false. At its most basic, politurgy can be the simple mischiefs of Belgian prankster Noël Godin, who has hurled cream pies into the faces of Bill Gates, Jean-Luc Godard, and other overstuffed shirts. Even Stephen Colbert is something of a closet politurgist, holding the president hostage with his own good manners at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner last spring. Finally, there are the more elaborate hoaxers, like Joey Skaggs, who feeds the media fake narratives (dog brothers, fish condos, cemetery theme parks, etc.). Politurgy and Street Art intersect at a few points, like Banksy's makeover of a statue of blind Justice into a slatternly tart. The formula in all these cases is the same: Feign legitimacy. Gain access. Commit unforgivable breaches of decorum and/or fact. Wave to the cameras. Tell the judge it was satire.For example: The Yes MenNot content to merely heckle their chosen targets, The Yes Men actually become that which they hate, impersonating spokespeople for such "criminal" organizations as Halliburton ("Save corporate executives from global warming!") or the WTO ("Coca-Cola can save a thirsty world!"). Fake identities firmly established, the Yes Men then set about their real work as freelance whistleblowers-forcing the companies to deal with smoldering P.R. ruins. When a Yes Man-as a Dow Chemical spokesman-promised to compensate victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak, Dow's stock value plunged $2 billion in less than half an hour.Here's a tip: LOOK THE PARTBe prepared for anything. Keep your clothes quiet and let your actions do the talking. Use paper shopping bags instead of backpacks and wear comfortable shoes, in case you need to run. Also, ties look official. Risk: 5Cost: 3P.R.: 8Cred: 7COOLNESS FACTOR: 6.75
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