Sunday, April 01, 2007

Pranking the Super Bowl and the viewing public

This clip from is a story about how a dozen guys got together to prank the Super Bowl under the noses of federal marshals, Homeland Security guys, and probably lots of local police and rent-a-cops. They set it up so hundreds of people in the stands flashed a message on the screen, thinking they were spelling out Prince's name, but in fact, they showed a quite different message. To 93.1 million viewers.

What the author of the prank finds interesting--apart from the fact that they could do this so easily--is that the major news media apparently refused to report on it, on the grounds that (I'm paraphrasing here) this shows, once again, that the Emperor has no clothes. But it's not like we didn't know that already.

The author of this prank has a really good commentary about what they did here:

As I write this, I'm sitting in the Miami International Airport watching a TSA agent systematically destroy my carefully-packed carry-on luggage. He's taking every single item from my bag, including my fake business cards, badges, and detailed plans for the heist. Once we make it through this final checkpoint -- which we will -- we'll be on our way home.

No system is 100% secure. In a system as massively chaotic as the Super Bowl, there are too many variables to ever fully control. All they can do is look for rogue elements, then try to subdue or remove them. But when the rogue employees look exactly like the real employees, what can you do?

We live in a zero-risk society, convinced that more security, more police, more searches, and more technology will make us more safe. This is false. As we've proven, even four comics and a cameraman can outwit the most tightly-controlled event in history. Everyone did their job. No one did anything wrong. But no system is completely safe.

Life involves risk.

I want to leave you with this final thought. Life is some risky business. When we cling to the illusion of security, we give up our freedom and our privacy. When we willingly remove more clothing at airport security, when we allow our government to pass wiretapping legislation, when we give them power to spy on us, we are giving away our precious civil liberties that our founding fathers earned with blood.

So embrace the risk. Take a chance in life. Blow your kid's college education fund on a silly prank. That's what it's about. When we live in fear, then the bad guys have already won. (Are the bad guys the terrorists, or our own government? I'm not so sure anymore.)

It was the prank of a lifetime, and no one else could have done it. A corporate parent like Viacom would never have allowed Ashton Kutcher to do it for "Punk'd." College students could have thought it up, but would have never found the funds to pull it off. It was a magic moment, a momentous message.

Do you see?
The whole description of what they did and how they did it appears here.

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