G-20 parody: Yes, anti-capitalists have a lighter side

Ahead of G-20, London activists publish a creative jab at Financial Times.

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Has The Onion's radical cousin sprouted in London?

On Friday, less than a week before the Group of 20 meeting, anti-capitalist protesters in London handed out thousands of copies of a spoof version of the Financial Times newspaper.

The 12-page edition, printed in the characteristic salmon tint of the FT, oozed with snarky zeitgeist, including these headlines:

Recommended: Default

"Markets eye profits second coming"

"Sugar water parches Africa"

"Caves 'not an option' for first-time buyers, government warns"

Ouch.

Raoul Djukanovic, the editor of the fake FT and accompanying website, www.ft2020.com, told the Guardian newspaper (see story here) that he and an unnamed colleague wrote and produced the newspaper.

The intent, he said, "is to encourage journalists to think about what they can do to promote constructive solutions. It's their job to support facts and not opinions, but a lot of what's reported as facts are actually the opinions of powerful people. If the prime minister says something, it's news. If I say something, it's not news."

The sophistication of the financial news parody might be a hint of the variety (and cleverness) of protests planned this week ahead of the G-20 summit in London. In today's Monitor, London correspondent Ben Quinn offers a preview of what's ahead (click here).

Along with handing out copies to morning commuters, Mr. Djukanovic personally delivered 200 of the spoof FTs to the offices of the real FT, which was nonplussed.

"This isn't the first time that this has happened," an FT spokesman reportedly told the Guardian, before adding, "We will continue to focus on reporting and analysing the G20 summit next week. It's not the FT, no comment."

But an FT blog indicated the stalwart financial journal might, in fact, have a sense of humor. FT energy editor, Ed Crooks, wrote that his employer was the "subject of the sincerest form of flattery." To wit, Mr. Crooks cited the spoof FT's subtle nod to the real FT:

"Frankly, the Financial Times is more honest than most, both about its bias and the state of the world. Investors tend to want their news less filtered, even if they still like it framed to serve their interests."

In the opinion of Crooks, "Perhaps we should use that in our advertising."

The New York Times was the target of a similar spoof in November, when pranksters handed out copies of a fake Gray Lady that declared "Iraq War Ends," among other stories (details here). The Times responded with a blog post that – similar the FT's response – mixed equanimity with an ever-so-slight boast. In the Times's response, an expert was quoted: “I would say if you’ve got one, hold on to it. It will probably be a collector’s item."

Although the spoof FT devoted much of its real ink to lampooning the state of the global economy and the recent excesses of Wall Street capitalism, the publication also targeted journalists for not being skeptical enough. In one article, the fake FT writes, "A poll by the National Credulity Office placed journalists in third place, behind financiers and executives, on a scale measuring density of belief in official announcements."

According to a press release handed out with the papers, the spoof FT "was aimed at everyone's excuses for apathy. Unless we change the way we live radically, we'll make our world uninhabitable within decades. It's time for drastic action, and if governments won't take it, we have to do something ourselves."

There was no mention if a copy of the publication would be provided to the leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world when they arrive in London in coming days.

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