< What Does a Pie to the Face Really Mean?

Transcript

Friday, July 22, 2011

BOB GARFIELD:

I'm Bob Garfield.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

And I'm Brooke Gladstone. The solemn mood of Rupert Murdoch's testimony before British lawmakers this week suddenly went – splat!

MALE CORRESPONDENT:

And today's hearing took a tabloid twist when this man tried to smash Murdoch with a shaving cream pie. Murdoch's wife Wendy blocked the attack.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

The pie thrower was Jonathan May-Bowles, a the British comic who goes by the alias Jonnie Marbles. He joins a long tradition dating from silent films to the Three Stooges, to the current era when that slapstick prank serves as social commentary.

In 1977, Anita Bryant was pied for her campaign against homosexuality.

MALE CORRESPONDENT:

Newsmen were questioning Miss Bryant about her national crusade against gay persons, when four self-proclaimed homosexuals from Minneapolis interrupted today's proceedings. Bryant burst into tears as the pie ran down her face.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

I spoke to Andy Bichlbaum from the group The Yes Men about the Murdoch's splat. The Yes Men have used and confused the media to draw attention to stories they see as not being effectively reported.

For instance, they created a fake ad campaign for Chevron which proclaimed the quote, “Oil companies should end the wars they helped start” – an elaborate ruse. But he says he appreciated Jonnie Marbles’ simpler gesture.

ANDY BICHLBAUM:

I thought it was great. I thought it was beautiful, elegant, appropriate. You know, throwing a pie in Murdoch's face not only communicates Murdoch is a clown, but communicates that the whole proceedings are a farce. He’s being treated with a respect he doesn't deserve, and he's lying to Parliament about not knowing about this phone hacking scandal.

Everybody knew about it.  People were actually suing the Murdoch empire for it. And there they are, lying to Parliament, essentially throwing pie in the face of the British public. And so, throwing a pie in this face is completely appropriate.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Let me read you this comment by James Wolcott in Vanity Fair, who does not share your opinion.

He wrote, “I hate these prankster pie-ings and glitter bombings - they’re symbolic assassinations, nastily juvenile and intended to humiliate. Not even loathed figures should have strangers lunging at them.

ANDY BICHLBAUM:

Actually, Jonnie Marbles says exactly the same thing, that he himself felt kind of sorry for him.

 

But the point is he pointed out with one gesture this massive fraud happening at the heart of British politics. And, it was tremendously successful, in that there were thousands of articles written about it. So if anybody wasn't following this news, because they don't follow serious news, maybe they would follow it because there – there’s this funny pie-ing that happens."

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

You don't agree with Wolcott at all that this may have just done the reverse of what was intended here, not made him seem like a clown but like a vulnerable grandpa that first gets beaten up by Parliament and then by some brat who’s watching the proceedings.

ANDY BICHLBAUM:

I think if you're not paying attention at all, and this is the first thing you've read about the situation, I don't know. I would think that it would communicate that there is something wrong, that a person will put themselves on the line to this degree and -- risk arrest or actually guarantee their own arrest.  It's an act of Civil Disobedience. And why will some body do that?

You have to ask yourself that question when you hear a story like this. Why would somebody care this much about this issue?

And that can be the beginning of maybe learning more about this issue and really getting to the bottom of what's going on.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

You appreciated the purity of this gesture.

ANDY BICHLBAUM:

Yeah I, I think it's really nicely done. I do have a quibble. I think He should have used a real pie, and he should have taken some care with baking it. This guy used shaving cream, which I think isn’t quite Kosher.

[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Andy Bichlbaum, whose real name is Jacques Servin, helps run the Yes Lab.