A group of British volunteers distributed a very slick-looking fake Financial Times in London today in a stunt expressly modeled on that fake New York Times put out by the Yes Men last year.

A scan of the contents (PDF) reveals a fairly dry collection of fake stories about the detrimental effects of capitalism on the environment, along with fake ads and fake sections correct right down to the back-page Lex column.

Unlike the Yes Men, these pranksters, led by blogger Raoul Djukanovic, aren't making any mystery of their identities. In a press release (see below), they said they collected donations through the internet and printed "tens of thousands of copies... almost as many as the FT sells here daily." Volunteers then fanned out to distribute the 12-page paper in London (the printed paper can be seen in the videos here).

Whether the paper will strike a meaningful blow against unbridled capitalism is up for debate. But that so much money was spent printing it suggests that the Web won't rout dead trees from every last news niche: There appears to be no substitute for paper as a vessel for emotional watersheds, be it an activist group's proselytizing (resonant to the group if no one else), a racially and politically momentous inauguration or the rise of a dreaded enemy.

In other words, the newspaper will remain as a powerful cultural icon long after it ceases to have much point as a communications medium. Good look making much money off that, though, unless you sell one last gullible billionaire on living his childhood publishing dream.

Press release:


27 MARCH 2009

Fake FT wakes up London to radical action

Concerned Londoners today handed out copies of a spoof Financial Times, urging journalists and big business to make the future possible by putting people first.

Set in 2020, the 12-page paper revealed how action in 2009 reined in climate change, saving billions from extinction. Carbon rationing didn't kill us, it explained, despite the inconvenience to multinational companies. But we couldn't have endless growth with finite resources. Editors even apologised for suggesting otherwise.

"We live on financial crimes," the paper confessed in a front-page advert, which satirised a recent Financial Times billboard. "In a world of cold harsh truths," it said, beside a panting St Bernard atop a mountain, "we rescue stories from the facts."

Launched at dawn from behind Waterloo station, this coup 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.

"Journalists frame public debate, and the City frames public policy," said Raoul Djukanovic, who edited today's fake FT. "If they reframed their thinking, they could help build a different world instead of conning us with lifestyle porn and bubbles."

The paper was a full-colour replica of the iconic pink ‘un, including news from Britain and abroad, and editorials and comment, poking fun at FT columnists. It was funded by donations on the Internet, and given away for free by volunteers. Tens of thousands of copies were printed – almost as many as the FT sells here daily.

Why bother, some commuters asked. "Newspapers won't change the world, but they do spread words that can make people think," said Marcos Marcuse, who handed out papers near London Bridge. "What are we going to tell our children? That we thought about trying to save ourselves, but it wasn't ‘good business' or ‘objective reporting'?"