There is a “satirical news programme” in Australia known as The Chaser (technically, they have gone through a few names for different series – their latest was called “The Chaser’s War on Everything” but let’s keep things simple and call them The Chaser.) They specialise in doing public stunts designed to make someone look silly.
The closest approximation I can think of that would make sense for an international audience are the characters of Sascha Baron-Cohen (namely Ali G and Borat). They don’t do character based comedy like Baron Cohen, they mostly do something very public and see what reaction they get. So maybe they’re closer to Candid Camera than they are to Kazakhstan’s finest.
Last year there was a big talk fest in Sydney known as APEC – the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. This was attended mainly by leaders from the Asia/Pacific area (big surprise) but perhaps the highest profile guest was US President George W Bush. In these nervous times, security was particularly high. Supposedly. Much of Sydney went into total lockdown. Which really pissed off Sydneysiders.
The media were given a briefing that included a warning about how serious the whole affair was. People should not make the mistake of making light of proceedings or causing trouble. Pranks would not be tolerated. The Chaser team were looked at very sternly and pointedly during this lecture. There was an “exclusion zone” into which unauthorised persons were most definitely not allowed. Any protesters or pranksters who broke the exclusion zone would find themselves in a metric shitload of trouble.
And so the inevitable happened. The Chaser team set up a fake motorcade (flying Canadian flags for those who are interested) and drove into the exclusion zone. They got through two of the “security” checkpoints. When they were arrested it looked to me like they were seriously fucked. It didn’t seem likely to me that the then in power Federal Government who were responsible for the event would take kindly to being made look like such fools.
Eleven people were arrested, two of them were stars and the others were faceless nobodies who I kind of felt sorry for. I figured the least they were going to get was being totally unable to fly internationally for the rest of their lives. And I suspected they weren’t being paid enough to suffer that punishment. I would not have been surprised if some jail terms were handed out.
Anyway, I figure these are the luckiest people in Australia because today the charges were dropped. This link gives a few details and also has a link to a video of the actual prank. They got off on what could be described as a technicality. It wasn’t found that breaching the exclusion zone wasn’t breaking the law, it’s more that it wasn’t their fault they got into the exclusion zone.
At the time, I found it very hard to understand why they thought the prank was a good idea. After all, they drove into the middle of some very heavily armed men who were probably very nervous and were unlikely to spend a lot of time figuring out the difference between a prank and a terrorist threat.
Oh yeah, and one of the cast was dressed up in an Osama Bin Laden costume. A really shit Osama costume but there was no doubt who he was meant to be. This action looked like a death wish personified.
As it turns out, they had checked out the first checkpoint the day before and decided there was no way they would get through. And that’s why the charges were dropped. Something was different when they actually pulled the prank which is why they got through. But the court decided it was never their intention to breach the exclusion zone and so they got off.
The big joke was to be that when they were refused entry, “Osama” would step out of his limo and say “Why can’t I go in?” Hilarity would ensue. But some idiot waved them through. So they drove in. A different idiot waved them through the second checkpoint. They kept driving.
At some point The Chaser team themselves decided “this is a bad fucking situation.” Who knows, maybe it was Osama himself who said “Stop driving me toward more guys with machine guns!” They turned their motorcade around and told the security forces something along the lines of “ummmm, fellahs… we really don’t want to be here any more. Please don’t shoot us.”
How do you start a conversation like that?
It’s hard to imagine pushing the envelope more than that. A representative has said that just because they got away with this they won’t try anything even more outlandish.