A week after the historic presidential election that brought Barack Obama to the White House, the Yes Men were joined by hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists in an elaborate project, six months in the making, to release a "special edition" of the New York Times (complete PDF here) in cities across the U.S.
The papers, dated July 4th of the following year, were headlined with long-awaited news: "IRAQ WAR ENDS". The edition, which bears the same look and feel as the real deal, includes stories describing what the future could hold, if we forced Obama to be the president we'd elected him to be: national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for CEOs, etc. (Less momentous, but poignant, was columnist Tom Friedman's letter of resignation, full of remorse for his consistently idiotic and fact free predictions about the Iraq war.)
"Is this true? I wish it were true!" said one reader. "It can be true, if we demand it."
"We wanted to experience what it would look like, and feel like, to read headlines we really want to read. It's about what's possible, if we think big and act collectively," said Steve Lambert, one of the project's organizers and an editor of the paper. (Please visit Steve's page about the paper for more paper, videos, and details.)
In response to the spoof, the New York Times said only, "We are looking into it." Alex S. Jones, former Times reporter who is an authority on the history of the paper, says: "I would say if you've got one, hold on to it. It will probably be a collector's item."
Bringing the much needed "good news" to a war weary public required the collaboration of hundreds of activists and volunteers, including the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.
Here is the Video News Release we prepared in advance of the newspaper's distribution, but that proved unnecessary.
Our fake newspaper — with its proposals for the ambitious programs that someone like Obama could have been pressured to institute — made a big splash. Unfortunately, however, it remains a sad gravestone for the hopes of that era. Stunts, no matter how huge, only work as parts of campaigns, and there weren’t yet movements like Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter calling for much of what our paper imagined. (Once those movements did emerge, for all that they did to affect public consciousness in the short and long term, they weren’t quite enough to hold Obama’s feet to the fire.)
Progressives had, by and large, let themselves be lulled into complacency by the clever marketing of “change” and “hope.” As a result, they’d failed to see that what we were going to get — beyond all the hype — was just business as usual. Instead of our newspaper’s visions, what we ended up with were massive bailouts for the banks that had caused the 2008 economic collapse, no real end to the wars that our front page had declared over, and the half-measure Affordable Care Act instead of universal health care. There was also the DREAM Act — a result of activist pressure — but, behind the scenes, a torrent of deportations that not enough people cried out about.