banksyhoax

Was Banksy arrested and exposed, or is this report a hoax?

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If you've been on Twitter in the last couple of hours, you might have seen the news that graffiti artist and political activist Banksy has been arrested by London Police and that his real identity has finally been revealed.

The source of this claim is a press release—now taken down—published on PRLog.com, a site where just about anyone can submit a statement. 

According to the report, London Police arrested Paul William Horner, a 39-year-old male from Bristol, England. The press release also claims that the BBC has confirmed this information with Jo Brooks, the artist's public relations agent.

More from the statement:

London Police Chief Wayne Leppard held a press conference to answer questions about how Banksy was finally apprehended. “We had a 24-hour Anti-Graffiti Task Force monitoring different groups known to have associated with Banksy. We received word that around 2am a group of individuals left a flat speculated to be one of Banky’s art studios. This group was followed by agents and once vandalism had occurred, we then arrested the group, 5 men total. These individuals all had ID on them except for one, and that is the one we believed to be Banksy,” Leppard said. “We then raided the studio where this group was last 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 of a Paul William Horner who matched the description of the man that we are currently holding.” Leppard continued, “Horner 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.”

If British officials really did capture Banksy, than that's huge news. But it's probably not news at all, but a hoax designed to fool the media.

For starters, PRLog has the following disclaimer attached to any statement they publish on the site:

Issuers of the press releases are solely responsible for the content of their press releases. PRLog can't be held liable for the content posted by others.

Another telling sign: No other news outlet is reporting this. If Banksy was arrested yesterday and, as the press release notes, the BBC has confirmation of his arrest, then one would imagine that the news organization would have it plastered on their homepage.

If that's not enough evidence to convince you that this is a hoax, then perhaps some Reddit fact-checking might.

"There's a couple of problems with it," writes Briggykins. "[It's] called either the Metropolitan Police or the City of London Police, not just 'London Police.'" 

Briggykins is right. As explained in this video, there's a difference between the City of London and London. Two different cities, two different police commissioners.

The name of said commissioners?

As Reddit user wcg66 points out, The commissioner for the London Metropolitan Police is Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. The commissioner for London Police is Adrian Leppard. The press release, meanwhile, announced that the police "chief" (not commissioner) who confirmed the arrest was Wayne Leppard.

There is, of course, a probability that Banksy was indeed arrested, and that his given name really is Paul William Horner. Right now, however, this press release appears to be more hoax than actual news. 

If whoever wrote this press release was hoping to create the next Bicholim Conflict, their efforts have been thwarted by the Internet.

Which begs the question: Is it possible to spread bogus news in 2013? 

Here's the full press release:

 

PRLog (Press Release) - Feb. 22, 2013 - London, England — The England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter that for years has gone by the pseudonymous name of Banksy, was arrested yesterday by police in London. After hours of questioning and a raid of his London art studio, his true name and identity have finally been revealed.
London Police say Banksy’s real name is Paul William Horner, a 39-year old male born in Bristol, England. The BBC has also confirmed this information with his PR agent Jo Brooks and the website that acts as a handling service on behalf of the artist, Pest Control.
 
London Police Chief Wayne Leppard held a press conference to answer questions about how Banksy was finally apprehended. “We had a 24-hour Anti-Graffiti Task Force monitoring different groups known to have associated with Banksy. We received word that around 2am a group of individuals left a flat speculated to be one of Banky’s art studios. This group was followed by agents and once vandalism had occurred, we then arrested the group, 5 men total. These individuals all had ID on them except for one, and that is the one we believed to be Banksy,” Leppard said. “We then raided the studio where this group was last 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 of a Paul William Horner who matched the description of the man that we are currently holding.” Leppard continued, “Horner 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.”
 
After today’s arrest it is unclear who else will be sought in connection with Banksy’s arrest. CNN spoke with Kyle Brock who is a project manager for Banksy says he is now worried that charges could be brought against him also. “If they spent this many man-hours and brought this many charges against Banksy, I can’t imagine that he’ll be the only one to go down in all of this,” Brock said. “All the beauty Paul Horner brought to this world, and the London Police can only see it as vandalism. It’s such a shame.”
The graffiti artist that goes by the name Space Invader told reporters he does not agree with the arrest or outing of Banksy’s identity. “He’s just doing art. That’s what he was doing and that’s what he’ll continue to do,” Invader said. “For the London Police to setup some 24-hour task force just to catch Banksy is ridiculous. I hope we hear plenty of noise from the good tax-paying citizens of London about this.”
 
Banksy’s identity was long speculated to be Robin Gunningham, a man born in Bristol, England in 1973. Known for his contempt for the government in labeling graffiti as vandalism, Banksy displays his art on public walls and even going as far as to build physical prop pieces. He does not sell his work directly; however, art auctioneers have been known to attempt to sell his street art on location and leave the problem of its removal in the hands of the winning bidder.
 
London Police are not releasing any pictures of Horner or any further information at this time.

Photo via Infrogmation/Flickr