Thesis

Alternative Subterfuge: Pranking Rhetoric In Shopdropping And Identity Correction

ABSTRACT
 ALTERNATIVE SUBTERFUGE: PRANKING RHETORIC IN
 SHOPDROPPING AND IDENTITY CORRECTION
 by
 Hilary Beth Tellesen
 Master of Arts in English
 California State University, Chico
 Spring 2009
 Currently corporate rhetoric monopolizes all means of cultural production. A
 new form of social activism has risen to disrupt the corporate control of culture to
 humorous levels of intervention. Art activists have become pranksters in order to
 critique power and disseminate messages of resistance to diverse publics. In this study I
 examine the projects of the Yes Men, who work to correct the identity of corporate
 power-holders. The Yes Men create characters personifying free-trade ideologies and
 present fictitious speeches with candid accounts of free-trade practices. Additionally I
 examine the work of Packard Jennings who leaves products containing social and
 political messages on the corporate store shelf. Jennings is a shopdropper: the opposite
 of a shoplifter. The work of Jennings and the Yes Men articulates the need for social
 movements to engage in creative tactics against the hegemony. This study asserts that
 viii
 pranking challenges traditional conceptions of rhetorical analysis that gauge success by
 access to authority or revolutionary manifestation of the public. Pranking rhetoric’s
 tactics utilize discombobulating tactics to emphasize confounding inadequacies in our
 ideological framework and create qualitative change in social discourse. Through
 analysis of the artist’s purpose and impact the rhetorical implications of the prank speak
 directly to the democratic principles that have become latent in a progressive,
 consumerist culture.

ABSTRACT ALTERNATIVE SUBTERFUGE: PRANKING RHETORIC IN SHOPDROPPING AND IDENTITY CORRECTION by Hilary Beth Tellesen Master of Arts in English California State University, Chico Spring 2009 Currently corporate rhetoric monopolizes all means of cultural production. A new form of social activism has risen to disrupt the corporate control of culture to humorous levels of intervention. Art activists have become pranksters in order to critique power and disseminate messages of resistance to diverse publics. In this study I examine the projects of the Yes Men, who work to correct the identity of corporate power-holders. The Yes Men create characters personifying free-trade ideologies and present fictitious speeches with candid accounts of free-trade practices. Additionally I examine the work of Packard Jennings who leaves products containing social and political messages on the corporate store shelf. Jennings is a shopdropper: the opposite of a shoplifter. The work of Jennings and the Yes Men articulates the need for social movements to engage in creative tactics against the hegemony. This study asserts that viii pranking challenges traditional conceptions of rhetorical analysis that gauge success by access to authority or revolutionary manifestation of the public. Pranking rhetoric’s tactics utilize discombobulating tactics to emphasize confounding inadequacies in our ideological framework and create qualitative change in social discourse. Through analysis of the artist’s purpose and impact the rhetorical implications of the prank speak directly to the democratic principles that have become latent in a progressive, consumerist culture.

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