Deconstructing the latest Banksy hoax

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You know Banksy. To some a genius, to others a vandal. A pseudonymous English graffiti artist, political activist, film director, painter and undoubtedly the most controversial street artist to emerge on the global stage. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know his identity after 20 years on the graffiti scene; his pictorial and satirical messages still make a huge impact on the street art business.

The 'mug shot' of Paul Horner that was believed to be the first picture of Banksy.
The ‘mug shot’ of Paul Horner that was believed to be the first picture of Banksy.

Recently, another hoax was spread about Banksy to add to the countless others over the last decade: He was allegedly arrested by police in his London art studio and had his identity revealed. According to the highly refutable National Report (a ‘news’ website consisting entirely of fake stories), the artist was arrested by Metropolitan Police at his art studio after he was traced by a “24- hour Anti-Graffiti Task Force”. The City of London Police apparently disclosed Bansky’s real name and identity as Paul Horner, aged 35 and born in Liverpool, after hours of questioning him.

The article provided detailed information from police and quotes from people close to Bansky, which to some made it seem undeniably real. It spoke of how the London Chief of Police, Lyndon Edwards, held a press conference to answer questions about Paul’s Horner’s arrest.

He said: “We had a 24-hour anti-graffiti task force monitoring different groups which Banksy was known to frequent. We received word at around 2am that a group of five individuals left a flat speculated to be one of Banky’s art studios. They were followed by agents and once vandalism had occurred, we made the arrest. These individuals all had ID on them except for one, and that was who we believed to be Banksy.

“We then raided the studio where the group was seen leaving from. Inside we found thousands of dollars of counterfeit money along with future projects of vandalism. We also found a passport and ID which belonged to Horner. He is currently being held without bail on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting. We are also holding the other four individuals whose names we are not releasing at this time.”

The public took to Twitter to express their confusion and shock – Bansky became a trending topic in the UK with over 28k tweets about the news. One user, horrified with what happened tweeted “Free Bansky!” whilst another tried to be comical by tweeting “I’m the real Bansky.” No favourites.

But take one look at the article, and it was obviously another Banksy hoax to add to the list: There is no London Police Chief called Lyndon Edwards. Bansky was said to be arrested by two different forces (Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police), which doesn’t happen. There was a photo of Horner on the article, but the police cannot release pictures of people on bail. Once you do a bit of Googling, it seems the ‘news’ wasn’t even new at all – the same article was circulating last year as a press release, with the only difference being it was Paul William Horner, a 39 year old male, instead of Paul Horner, a 35 year old… it wasn’t even a fresh hoax! Banksy’s PR agent Jo Brooks tweeted to confirm it was fake… as if she needed to.

If you were one of those who fell for it this time, remember that people have been ‘exposing’ Banksy for a good ten years now – there’ll be a ‘next time’, so be sure to take it with a pinch of salt. The only real evidence we have of Banksy is his artwork, and personally, that’s all I ever want.

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