(N.Y. Daily News screenshot)

Above, the New York Daily News reports that a “pro-cycling group” had taken responsibility for having removed American flags atop the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced them with white flags. That “pro-cycling group,” continued the story, was the Bicycle Lobby, which had tweeted: “Earlier today we hoisted two white flags to signal our complete surrender of the Brooklyn Bridge bicycle path to pedestrians.”

The current version of the story now reads, “A parody group, the Bicycle Lobby, joked that it hung the white flags to signal surrender of the bridge’s bicycle path to pedestrians.” Joked indeed: Have a look at the Bicycle Lobby’s Twitter feed; there’s nothing even slightly serious about it:

An Associated Press story on the CNBC.com site followed a transformation similar to that observed on the New York Daily News. Before:

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After:

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The Associated Press passed along this statement about its Bicycle Lobby-oriented credulity: “The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about bike path advocates taking responsibility for the appearance of two mysterious white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge. The claim of responsibility has not been verified. A corrected version will be published imminently.”

The Bicycle Lobby has had a lot of fun with its status as a serious player in the Associated Press and the New York Daily News:

Now, sometimes Internet-based jokesters manage a careful, cagey balance between the preposterous and the realistic, such that it’s hard for media organizations to determine whether they’re a parody thing or a more legit concern. Too bad for the New York Daily News and the Associated Press that such is not the case here:

Intrigued by this turn of events, the Erik Wemple Blog reached out to whoever answers the e-mail address on the Bicycle Lobby Twitter account. A phone interview request was rejected, so we went via e-mail:

EWB: Who are you?

BL: Just as bike lanes can be simultaneously devoid of cyclists and packed with dangerous cyclists, we are everyone and no one. Cyclists! They’re just like us!

EWB: How many journo orgs fell for your tweet today about placing the flags atop the bridge?

BL: We are aware of two organizations that fell for our tweet, The Daily News and the AP.

EWB: Have you ever climbed a bridge of this magnitude?

BL: We have never climbed a bridge of this or any magnitude. Citibikes only have three gears and the terms of the user agreement clearly state that they should not be used for planting flags on bridges.

EWB: Have you ever been taken so seriously before?

BL: No one has fallen for us like this. We’ve taken credit for all manner of things, from the Moon Landing to installing an android version of Janette Sadik-Khan in City Hall, and somehow people were able to get the joke. No one who has been following our “live tweeting” of the Tour de France honestly thinks that Snoopy or Bart Simpson are winning that bicycle race.

EWB: Liked the joke about the second line in your profile signaling that you’re a parody account. Can you think of anything more you could do to help the Daily Newses of the world in the future?

BL: I’m not sure anything can help the Daily News. Print is dead.

Two American flags were replaced with white flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday. Authorities don’t believe the switch was connected to terrorism. (Reuters)
Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.