In the autumn of 1983 a tape recording of a telephone conversation between President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher was sent anonymously to newspapers in various parts of the world.
A covering note claimed that the tape was a recording of a crossed line on which was heard part of the two leaders’ telephone conversation. In January, 1984 the story was taken up by the Sunday Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Sunday Times described the tape as part of a KGB propaganda war. The U.S. State Department said that the tape was evidence of “an increasingly sophisticated Russian disinformation campaign.”
In fact the tape was made by members of the anarchist punk rock group Crass. The tape had been produced by using parts of TV and radio broadcasts made by the two leaders, then overdubbed with telephone noises.
“…we sent the now infamous ‘Thatchergate Tapes’ to the world’s press. The highly edited tape, which took the form of a telephone conversation between Thatcher and Reagan, had her admitting responsibilty for the sinking of the Belgrano, an issue at the time which she had not been confronted with, and implying knowledge of the Invincible’s decision to ‘guinea-pig’ the Sheffield, a fact that still has not came to light. So as to leave no stone un-turned, we caused Reagan to threaten to ‘nuke’ Europe in defence of American heritage, a hypothesis which is probably not as wild as it seems.
“The tape lay dormant for almost a year before surfacing in the State Department in Washington D.C. The categorical denials that were issued in relationship to the tape and its contents acted as a clear indication that the methods we had employed to discredit Thatcher and Reagan were in no way disimilar to the State Department. Why else would they have taken our somewhat amateurish efforts at tape forgery so seriously? Inevitably, they waved the finger in the direction of the Kremlin. Shortly after that, several papers in America, and The Sunday Times in Britain, ran the story as proof of KGB ‘foul play.’ It was the first time that the press had run any story that, albeit in a roundabout fashion, questioned Thatcher’s integrity concerning the Belgrano. We were overcome with a mixture of fear and elation, should we or should we not expose the hoax?
“Our decision was resolved when a journalist from The Observer contacted us in a relation to ‘a certain tape.’ At first we denied knowledge, but eventually decided to admit responsibilty. We had been meticulously careful in the production and distribution of the tape to ensure that no one knew about our involvement. How The Observer got hold of information that led to us is a complete mystery. It acted as a substantial warning, if walls did indeed have ears, how much more was known of our activities?
“Since the graffiti days of ’77 we had been involved in various forms of action, from spraying to wire cutting, sabotage to subterfuge. We had been concerned that if we went public on the tape all manner of other ‘offenses’ might bubble to the surface. Now we had exposed to that risk and the telephones started to ring.
“The worlds media pounced on the story, thrilled that a ‘bunch of punks’ had made such idiots out of the State Department, and ‘by the way, what else had we done?’ Throughout the years as a band we had never attracted such attention, the telephone rang incessantly, we traveled here and there to do interviews, all of a sudden we were ‘media stars.’ We were interviewed by the Russian press as American TV cameras recorded the event, we were live on American breakfast TV, we talked to radio stations from Essex to Tokyo, always giving the anarchist angle on every question…
The teen magazine Loving ran a “brides” edition which included a special offer of a song called “Our Wedding” by a singer called “Joy de Vivre” working for “Creative Recording and Sound Services.” However, when readers played the record they found it to be a track from an album by the anarchist punk rock group Crass. Loving described the album as a “sneering attack on love and marriage.” The News of the World said the title was “too obscene to print.”
“The final track on Penis Envy entitled Our Wedding, a satire on slush MOR romantic bullshit, was offered by ‘Creative Recording And Sound Services’ to Loving, a magazine specialising in the exploitation of teenage loneliness. Loving proudly offered it to their readers as ‘a must for the happy day.’ When the hoax was exposed Fleet Street rocked, while heads at Loving rolled.”
|On This Day in Snigglery||May 23, 1996: Alan Sokal reveals his Social Text hoax in the article “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies.” (See Modest Proposals for more info)|