Last week I posted about the elaborate hoax called Three Strikes, You're In!, which supposedly a bold new program that rewards individuals, who are stopped by the NYPD and released three times without charge, with one free Happy Meal™ at participating McDonald’s stores. Like I said, it was a hoax so need to get upset. If you missed it, I posted extensively about the day-long prank that had folks in my Facebook network going berserk for a few hours. You can read it here
. Anyway, most of the videos, press releases and websites associated with this prank have no been taken down. However
I have heard back from the organizers, who just posted, under the name Roman, a link in the comment section of the original post about the hoax. The culprits behind the hoax are members of
People Enraged by Racist Policing (PERP), an activist group working with the Yes Lab
. The Yes Lab is mainly a series of brainstorms and trainings to help activist groups carry out media-getting creative actions, focused on their own campaign goals. According to its website:"The group is seeking to highlight what they say are racist and discriminatory policies of the NYPD, while also calling attention to McDonald’s intense marketing of unhealthy food to residents of low-income urban areas. “The cops ‘stop and frisk’ people simply because of how we look and where we live,” said Divad Durant, a PERP spokeperson. “This kind of policing creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust in our neighborhoods, and has convinced New Yorkers that the NYPD is anything but just.” According to its own data, the New York Police Department made over 684,000 street stops in 2011, a 603% increase over 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg first took office, and a 14% increase over 2010. Nearly 90% of “Stop and Frisk” victims are African American and Latino, though they make up only 50% of the city’s population, according to the 2010 census. Fewer than 10% of the stops led to an arrest, and almost none of those to a conviction. In fact, many of those arrested found themselves handcuffed simply because they had questioned the right of the police to frisk them. According to PERP, the disparate impact of stop-and-frisk on people of color, particularly in low-income communities, is just the tip of the iceberg. “Stop-and-frisk is just one notable example of an NYPD that is discriminatory and unjust in policy and practice,” said Jerry Goralnick, another PERP member. “The increasing frequency of extreme brutality, such as the recent beating of Jatiek Reed and the killing of Ramarley Graham in the Bronx, are even more outrageous and horrific.” Abusive policing also has less visible impacts on marginalized groups. Sexual assaults of women, profiling and illegal surveillance of Muslims, and inappropriate treatment of trans-gender, homeless, and immigrant New Yorkers are widespread, according to PERP.But why was McDonald’s part of the act? “Like the NYPD, McDonald’s specifically targets low-income communities of color, but in a different way: as markets from which to draw profits, at the expense of our health and well-being,” said Durant. McDonald’s 365Black.com website merges references to African culture with the company’s marketing goals. “Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald’s has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities,” says the website, which appears to be completely authentic. Activists say that McDonald’s, with condescending and manipulative marketing that co-opts African-American culture, simply wants to profit from minority New Yorkers at the expense of their health. “Last time I checked, baobab fruit is not high in fat, cholesterol, and salt,” said Durant. “In fact, it’s rich in Vitamin C, and reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. McDonald’s shouldn’t compare their unhealthy fare with something that’s actually good for you.” “Other than those who work for the McDonald’s marketing machine, does anyone ever use ‘nourish’ to describe anything about McDonald’s?” added Goralnick. “McDonald’s wants us to think its ‘food’ is not just life-shortening gruel pumped into unsuspecting stomachs via a tube made of salt, fat, and clever marketing,” said Durant. “And that’s particularly true in the African American community, where it uses TV ads and websites like 365Black.com to tell a wholly inaccurate and misleading story about the company and what it offers.”Like I said before I don't mind being fooled. I think that raising awareness about a very important issue such as Stop & Frisk and how it unfairly snarls Black and Hispanic men in the justice system ranks a lot higher than whatever embarrassment I might have briefly felt.
I was checking in with Facebook this morning when Chris Rabb, blogger and book author of Invisible Capital
, posted a link on his wall about a promotion through selected McDonalds' restaurants. Apparently, 365 McDonalds, which is the network of Black and Hispanic owned and operated fast food chain, and the New York Police Department were launching “Three Strikes, You’re In!,” a (very) bold new program that rewards individuals, who are stopped by the NYPD and released three times without charge, with one free Happy Meal™ at participating McDonald’s stores.Oh Hell, this can't be real. That's what I thought initially. Then I
checked my inbox and saw this email press release, which said: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Three Strikes, You’re In! McDonald's and the New York Police Department Launch Joint Initiative New York, New York (March 6, 2012) - McDonald's and the New York Police Department are launching "Three Strikes, You're In!," a bold new program that rewards New Yorkers for their patience with the NYPD's "Stop and Frisk" policy. With "Three Strikes, You're In!," individuals who are stopped and released three times without charge are eligible for one Happy Meal™ at participating McDonald's stores. To receive their Happy Meal™, customers must record each stopping officer's badge number, as well as the the time and location of the stop, on a voucher obtainable at these stores. "This is just one way McDonald’s gives back to the communities we’re a part of," said Mark Ramos, a McDonald's spokesperson. "We're proud to provide copious, satisfying, affordable food in areas that other chains don't dare operate. With 'Three Strikes, You’re In!' we're showing we also recognize these communities' safety and civil liberties problems." "'Stop and Frisk' gets dozens of guns off the streets each year, makes respectable citizens feel secure, and lets would-be criminals know that we're watching them," said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "It generates some resentment in these low-income communities, since most of those stopped are innocent, but with the help of McDonald's, we’re showing we understand. We can't afford to change 'Stop and Frisk,' but we're happy to compensate those who are stopped in the course of keeping the City safe." "Three Strikes, You're In!" is a project of McDonald's 365Black.com, which celebrates African American culture and achievements all year round. To download your own "Three Strikes, You're In!" vouchers, please visit www.threestrikesyourein.org. Non-citizens and those with criminal records are ineligible. CONTACT: Terry Malloy +1 347-350-4099 firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook 365Black Oh Hell No! It got to be real. I mean it certainly looked legit. They had the McDonald corporation, the NYPD and the 365 degree logos. They also had a promotional video, a website,
a Facebook page
and a Youtube channel of videos of youth redeeming their coupons for cheeseburger Happy Meals. Under each YouTube video was this message: Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald's has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities. Are we fucking serious? No, that's not what I was thinking, those are the actual words that came out of my mouth. Needless to say I was ready to
go full H.A.M and cheese on all them. But I wasn't quite convinced. For one, this sounds like something ripped off an episode of the Dave Chappelle show. And secondly, no one is that foolish. But then again...So to investigate further,
I tweeted McDonalds with this message: @McDonalds
: Is this 3 Strikes You're In program for real? Get stopped by the police 3x get a free Happy Meal?That, of course, is my calm voice. I was waiting for them to respond with an affirmative, which they never did, before unleashing on their twitter handle a number of
They never responded. So then I emailed Terri Mallory, the name at the bottom of the press release with the same question. Again, I got no response. In the meantime, this became a war rallying cry for folks within my network, who too began emailing both McDonalds and Mallory as well as several other Black news agencies. A friend of a Facebook friend of mines was even on hold with the administrative offices for the NYPD to find out if they were indeed partners. Folks were ready with the pitchforks and the rocks - Palestinian style. But then, after a half of hour of Google searching, I found a post on Gothamist, which confirmed what everyone had suspected (and was praying for):
this was indeed a hoax. Phwesh. I let everyone in my network know the "good news," which was met with a combination of "Thank God" and "Yo people need to stop playing with people's emotions like that" - this is a direct quote. No word yet on who the hoaxers are but I put my money on it being The Yes Men. They are the only folks I can think of that can thoroughly pull off such an elaborate hoax. As of right now, the Three Strikes, You're In website is down. And no other news organization outside of Gothamist is reporting on this early morning hoax.
In fact, all the fires had simmered and everything is pretty much back to the normal status of posting irrelevant shit in Facebook land. That war rally cry, which we all felt, has now been replaced with relief that this was only a prank. Ironically though, this prank was only half-untrue. The
Stop and Frisk is very real and violates a lot of folks, particularly folks of color's rights in New York, Philadelphia and other parts of the nation. And while we might have been temporarily outraged at the sheer audacity of a corporation teaming with the police department to reward this barbaric and discriminatory practice with a damn Happy Meals, let's not forget how outrage that we should feel everyday knowing that this Stop and Frisk practice is still in play.
I say kudos to the pranksters, whoever they are. Like I said, the website is now down. However check out the Three Strikes, You're In promotional video below:
UPDATE: I just emailed this link to Terry Mallory (probably not a real name) and it bounced back. So if the person, or persons, behind this hoax would like to share the purpose of this prank and what they hoped to accomplish, I would be very much interested in hearing from you.