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10 Strange Protests

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These groups eschewed typical protests for something a little more creative.

1. Bring in the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA)

CIRCA is an anti-authority, UK-based collection of clowns that protest globalization, war, and other activist issues. The group is most well-known for its protests against the 2003 invasion of Iraq and George W. Bush’s visit to the UK during that same year. The group is nonviolent and follows the tenets of civil disobedience. According to its website:

CIRCA is reclaiming the art of Rebel Clowning, it’s combatants don’t pretend to be clowns, they are clowns, real trained clowns. Clowns that have run away from the anaemic safety of the circus and escaped the banality of kids parties, Fools that have thrown away their sceptres and broken the chains that shackled them to the throne.

So what kind of training do recruits for the Rebel Clown Army have to endure? There are five phases of “Basic Rebel Clown Training”: 1) Finding the Inner Clown; 2) Subversive Play; 3) Civil Disobedience and Direct Action; 4) Bouffon Manoeuvers; and 5) Marching and Drilling.

Ironically, CIRCA has created an “army” to respond to war issues. This doesn’t seem to bother them, though. According to their website, CIRCA is an army “because we live on a planet in permanent war—a war of money against life, of profit against dignity, of progress against the future.”

2. The Lone Lucha Libre Biker Protest

In 2009, leaders in Mexico City closed the government-owned Central Light and Power Company, which provided electricity for much of the surrounding area. The closing resulted in the loss of many workers’ jobs. By presidential ruling, many of the employees' unions were also banned.

In 2011, a supporter from the Mexican Electricians Union dressed up in a luchador cape and costume, hopped on a motorcycle, and charged at a group of police standing outside of the electric company’s headquarters. The bike and the biker’s helmet were decorated with union memorabilia. As the luchador did donuts in the parking lot of the closed electric company, the police fired at him with bean-bag guns.

3. Nude Calendar Pothole Protests

Back in 2006, a group of Canadian residents from Leader, Saskatchewan, protested against a fairly common complaint: poor road conditions. Apparently, the roads of the highways in Leader were filled with horrible potholes, and drivers often had to dodge them to travel safely down the road. These Canadian residents decided to create a 2007 calendar which featured people posing nude inside of the worst potholes—one naked man is featured floating in a pothole in a full-sized canoe. The calendar sold 3000 copies at $20 each, and Saskatchewan’s government finally agreed to fix the highways.

Others have addressed pothole issues in other ways. Citizens in Raipur, India held fake religious ceremonies to name potholes in honor of the city’s officials. Russian protestors have marked potholes with neon paint, and citizens in Uganda have sold fish from water-filled holes.

4. Channeling Avatar

In Israel, there is a huge controversy over the separation barrier in the West Bank Village that divides the Israeli and Palestinian communities. In 2010, Palestinian protesters dressed as Avatar characters—in blue clothing, blue body paint, and makeshift loincloths—as they demonstrated in Bilin to reference the struggle of, and show their affinity for, the film’s characters.

5. Squirting Milk at Police

While most of us would celebrate dropping milk prices, the issue is a common concern for farmers who sell milk to make a living. In 2009, more than 3000 farmers in Brussels congregated outside the EU’s headquarters to protest plunging milk prices in the area.

One farmer began milking his cow in the middle of the street and squirted the milk—straight from the cow’s udder—at a group of riot police. Other farmers squirted beer at the police and threw bottles, stones, and pitchforks. Millions of gallons of milk were dumped into the streets and surrounding fields or given away for free. At one point, a farmer’s cow became frightened and sprang loose. The cow took off and chased a worker down the street.

Farmers in India also protested plummeting milk prices. On April 25, 2012, angry farmers in New Delhi poured milk on leaders from milk-products companies.

6. Hanging From Shark Hooks

In 2011, performance artist Alice Newstead decided to protest shark finning, a practice in which fishermen capture sharks, cut off their fins for shark fin soup dishes, and dump the bodies back into the ocean.

Newstead decided to hang from hooks in a window storefront in San Francisco to highlight the plight of sharks. The hooks are the same ones used during the shark finning process and were placed through the skin on her back. Newstead was covered in metallic body paint to simulate the color of a shark.

7. Underwater Protests

In 2010, advocates at Greenpeace installed 400 life-sized human statues underwater off the coast of Mexico. The statues were placed 9 meters underwater and are intended to signify the effects of global warming and rising water levels.

Brady Bradshaw, a representative from the Greenpeace U.S. student network, stated that “without action to reduce greenhouse gas emission, 100 million people or more could be in danger of losing their homes, their lives, or both to rising seas.”

The installation’s message was intended for the UN Cancun climate talks and meant to encourage nations to make pledges for reducing carbon emissions.

8. Nuclear Suits and Umbrellas

On the one-year anniversary of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi disaster—which occurred when a tsunami hit nuclear reactors in 2011 and spewed radiation into the surrounding area—Greenpeace activists gathered in the crowded streets of Jakarta to bring attention to the dangers of nuclear energy, donning radiation suits and masks and carrying black umbrellas marked with nuclear symbols.

9. Giant Pigeons

In 2001, people dressed up in giant, 7-foot-tall pigeon costumes and blocked traffic at a pedestrian crossing near Trafalgar Square in London. A local advertising company created the protest to challenge the Greater London Authority, who had recently banned a pigeon-feed seller from Trafalgar Square despite the fact that the seller had been there for many years.

10. Giant Snowmen

In 2010, two environmental activists dressed up as giant snowmen in Berlin to protest global warming. The two stood alone in a field of snow. Still no word on how their two-man protest fared.

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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