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Outrageous! Military Takeover Of NYC

Grainy video of Times Square

This is the 7th post in a series covering the most outrageous moments in underground film history. You can follow the entire series here.

Film: Military Takeover of NYC
Director: Mike Z
Year: 1999

Remember the panic of Y2K? When it was thought that reality might implode upon itself because the internet couldn’t compute 00? Or, some kind of nonsense like that.

Well, it was, strangely enough, a very real fear at the time, so smarter con men at the time took full advantage of the populace’s gullibility. This was especially true for cinema’s greatest con man, Mike Z, master of the “hoax” film.

In late 1999, Z anonymously produced and directed an untitled video that purported to be an actual military official walking around Times Square and describing the official government plan to start a race riot on New Year’s Eve that would force the full military occupation of all of Manhattan.

Truly, nothing too outrageous happens in the actual video. It’s just surveillance footage of Times Square on a rainy day with the military dude’s VO describing the plan to his “troops.”

But, it’s what happened after Z put the video on the internet that’s totally outrageous.

The FBI caught wind of the video and paid a little visit to Z’s home and politely asked him to remove it from his website. Z refused, so instead the FBI not-quite-so politely asked Z’s internet service provider (ISP), a guy named Mark Wieger, to block all access to the site. Wieger complied immediately.

After a few tense days, it became clear that the FBI wasn’t going to charge Z or Wieger with any crime. And, not to worry, Z didn’t hold a grudge about the incident — against Wieger anyway. The two came to a fairly quick resolution that got Z’s website restored.

However, Z did get in touch with the ACLU, who filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the Dept. of Justice on the filmmaker and the ISP’s behalf, claiming that the federal agency violated their First Amendment rights, especially by getting the website shut down without a court order.

Actually, the complaint that was filed, which can be found on the ACLU website, makes for very interesting reading. Here’s a choice description of the video and Z’s work in legalese:

The “Military Takeover” film is part of a body of work created by Zieper which, though fictional, purports to depict real events. Zieper’s films are part of a genre that also includes, for example, Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds,” and the recent mainstream Hollywood movie “The Blair Witch Project.” Zieper purposefully avoids the use of framing devices employed in conventional films that signal to the viewer that the events are fictional. For example, Zieper generally does not include credits at the beginning or end of his films. He believes that his films challenge viewers to think seriously about difficult social issues. The “Military Takeover” film raises issues about the upcoming millennium and people’s fears about it, the distrust that many Americans feel about their government, and the use of racial hatred to manipulate the American people.


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