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Iraq War Ends (On Paper)

What's the best way to create buzz for your cause and to galvanize supporters?  The standard new media response is full of cyber-speak: tweets, social networks, flash mobs, text messages. The Barack Obama campaign used the largest grassroots network in history to tremendous advantage in the campaign and will certainly put it to work to advance the goals of the Obama administration.

The left demonstrates its savvy about the net by embracing a range of digital tools, from broad-based efforts like the DailyKos to specific advocacy (the MoveOn.org petition drive for Facebook privacy).

Wednesday morning, though, a thoroughly old media communications technique made a big splash -- ink on dead trees. With the slogan "all the news we hope to print," copies of a mock New York Times proclaimed "Iraq War Ends" in large type, with a subhed declaring "Troops to Return Immediately."

Street hawkers distributed the papers at no charge and an announcement said that organizers printed 1.2 million copies (a circulation that is out of reach of the real New York Times).

Other articles in the spoof paper referred to the nationalization of the oil industry, a treason indictment of President Bush and expanded use of bike lanes in New York City.

The fine print on Page 2 suggested the affiliations of some of the organizers. A list there suggested readers help dozens of organizations including United Students Sweatshops, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Physicians for a National Health Care Program, and United for Peace and Justice.

In the mock ads, Exxon and KBR pledge to find ways to make peace lucrative. Who did it? Gawker notes that the evidence points to the liberal prankster group The Yes Men.

One point made by organizers echoes a point made in Philadelphia when readers snapped up copies of The Philadelphia Daily News and The Inquirer that celebrated the World Series victory. Publishers around the country learned the same lesson when copies of Obama Wins papers became collector items. When print is compelling, print sells.

The other point is a political one: if President-elect Obama thinks he was elected to make a modest shift in policy direction, many others, including many of his supporters, are expecting aggressive moves across a broad array of issues.

-- Carl Lavin

UPDATE Most print papers also have websites, and the mock New York Times has one, too: nytimes-se.com. Servers seem overwhelmed today. The url is registered to Harold Schweppes and a person answered a note I sent to the e-mail address on file saying: "I'm one of the many who was involved in this. We kept it secret by... well, keeping it secret! We do have another couple of events in the works. I volunteered to purchase the domain, and wrote one of the articles. but other than that I've just been involved in various ways. Thanks for writing. Harold"


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