Anarchist Situationalism and Individual Hysteria

I wrote this ten years ago today. Whatever happened to these folks?


What a gas this “prank” is:

A half-dozen fast-food restaurants and one hotel in North Vancouver fell victim to an elaborate phone scam this weekend, as pranksters convinced employees and hotel guests to smash sprinklers and activate fire alarms.  The caller duped staff at restaurants such as McDonald’s, A&W, Denny’s and Subway into setting off their fire-alarm systems on Saturday evening, causing major damage from sprinklers and fire-retardant foam that sprayed doused kitchens, RCMP Cpl. Peter Devries said. A day earlier, eight rooms at the North Vancouver Hotel were ruined after a man, who contacted guests over the phone, pretended to be the hotel manager and persuaded guests to pull the pin on their in-room sprinklers …

The pranks bear the hallmarks of an online group known as PrankU or Pranknet, whose members have convinced unwitting hotel guests in the United States to set off sprinklers, throw televisions out of windows and even consume their own bodily waste … Last month, a Nebraska Holiday Inn suffered $115,000 in damages last month after a phone prankster conned a 47-year-old hotel guest into smashing a sprinkler in his hotel room. More than 18,000 litres of water flooded the room and adjacent meeting rooms, hotel staff said.   In November, an elderly man at a South Carolina Motel 6 was awakened and told of “highly sophisticated” cameras hidden in his television and mirrors. After throwing the TV out his window and smashing the mirrors in his room with a wrench, he was goaded into tearing away Sheetrock from a wall to supposedly free a four-foot-tall man trapped behind.  In June 2009, a wave of calls swept four southern states, convincing guests they needed to break windows or smash sprinklers to avert a gas explosion. One man drove his truck through the door of a hotel lobby in Nebraska, supposedly to turn off a fire alarm, while another hotel guest followed instructions to throw a toilet out his window.  In February 2009, employees at a KFC in Manchester, N.H., were even tricked into undressing and urinating on each other to neutralize a toxic chemical that was supposedly seeping from the restaurant’s sprinkler system.

Police seem to link these “pranks” to a group called PrankU which may or may not be just one guy.  What a fabulous track record!

No person really gets hurt; a little inconvenience — covered by insurance and goodwill — is all.  But there is a loss to the corporate enterprise and its insurers; maybe a million dollars of anti-capitalist sabotage — what a gas!

This whole affairs works on so many levels: As public spectacle it works as a fine Situationist project; As direct action it works with the financial and physical damage to the body corporate; As a source of directed anxiety it works — none of the people involved will ever be sure again that society can protect them from such a situation; And as irony it works by utilizing capitalism’s own creatures — telecommunications networks, in-house “safety” devices, a weltschmertz that allows ordinary people to believe what they are told by seeming authority figures — to damage the capitalistic structure.

It is fascinating that the system wants us to treat these as “pranks” and nothing more serious.

Bravo to more of this stuff!


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