The Yes Men are at it again. And this time the anti-globalization and environmental pranksters have their sights set on on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Last time they were pulling pranks by setting up fake government websites and sending out legitimate-looking press releases at the Copenhagen climate-change conference. For Davos - among other things - they doctored up an interview between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge.
In their video, they dub over Mr. Harper's voice so it appears he's saying Canada will shame the "carbon monopoly" and fix the environment. (They also doctor a speech by the Queen, having her make amends for colonialism.)
People are buzzing about the clip, but how effective are these sorts of pranks? We asked our expert on "going negative" in politics, Warren Kinsella, to see what he thought.
Mr. Kinsella, who is in charge of the Liberal Party war room, literally wrote the book - Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics - on the types of antics. In his past, he has sent out young Liberals in chicken suits to mock opposing politicians. He also famously held up a plush purple Barney dinosaur on national television to underscore Treasury Board president Stockwell Day's belief in creationism (he was leader of the Canadian Alliance at the time).
"The objective for Yes Men - and virtually every political party, union, NGO, government or company - is to get the media to pay attention to your message," he wrote in an email. "Whether you like them or not, Yes Men are very, very good at that. I mean, here we are, talking about them yet again, right?"
Mr. Kinsella says the two issues that drive media coverage are surprises - he points to Apple's announcement yesterday - and creativity, particularly technological creativity. "When you've got people always wondering what you are going to do next, you are running the media agenda."
He says, however, that there is "always room for a young politico in a chicken suit." And he cautions that using this new medium can be dangerous.
"The thing that political parties need to remember - and they never do, and they end up getting embarrassed by some goofball candidate in every election - is that the Internet is forever," he says. "If you send an email, or post a comment - or upload a YouTube video of yourself doing the Funky Chicken in the nude - guys like me will find it. If you did it online, we'll find it. Think before you hit send!"
(Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)