The 5 Ballsiest Acts of Undercover Journalism Ever

#2. Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent already was a well-established New York journalist when, in 1999, she found herself "undergoing a significantly delayed adolescence, drinking and drugging a little too much, and indulging in all the sidewalk freak show opportunities that New York City has to offer."


What a town.

How this differs from the normal New York experience we have no idea, but we can say that for fun, she decided one night to hit the bars in full-on drag. What surprised her was that nobody noticed she wasn't a man.

The Masterpiece:

In 2003, her one-night drag-a-thon came back to her, and she decided to go paddle across the gene pool to dive at the deep and rather murky end that is Man. This time, though, not just for a night, but for 18 months.


This is her.

Even though her photo indicates she could easily pass for the love child of Judd Nelson and Rob Lowe, some more preparations were in order to pass at close inspection, and we mean close. The drag king who'd first introduced her to the scene helped her fake convincing stubble, because everyone knows the manliest men, from George Michael to Colin Farrell, all have stubble. She also lifted weights, tied down her boobs and bought a false dick to add some anatomical realism (for some reason, rolled-up socks don't tend to intimidate the other males enough).


We recommend kielbasa -- it doubles as lunch.

Then she went all-in, joining an all-male bowling club as well as a men's therapy group under the name of Ned. While she'd always been considered rather a ballsy broad, many people now thought "Ned" was probably gay.

Other places of manly tradition she infiltrated were strip clubs and a Catholic monastery. We can only imagine what the men in there were thinking of Ned, but if they made a pass, she certainly would have had other company on her mind. Like the girls she contacted on dating sites and went out with. Fortunately, she made it a point to reveal herself no later than the third date, so it's only slightly rude. At least the ladies got two free meals out of it, and possibly an interesting story for the grandkids someday.

Though the experience would mix things up for Vicent mentally a bit (and who can blame her?), she wound up writing a book based on the experience called Self-Made Man. Meanwhile, it took her a whole year and trips to three different hospitals to get Ned out of her system. That's the part they never portrayed in all those 80s comedies on the subject.

#1. Antonio Salas

Antonio Salas started out badass enough as an undercover documentary filmmaker covering the Basque ETA guerrillas and then a ring of human traffickers. Eventually, whizzing across the Mediterranean on a speedboat full of illegal African migrants only left him craving more. Clearly, he needed to meet some terrorists.


And not the conspicuously European terrorists we get from Hollywood.

The Masterpiece:

It came to him in March 2004, when Islamist terrorists attacked the Madrid train system and killed 191 people. That's when he knew where he had to go. The problem is, unlike some of the other people on this list, he couldn't just slap on a wig or get a fake ID to fool the targets. He needed to fool everybody. He couldn't play terrorist; he'd have to become one. Everybody needed to think he had gone to the other side.

It took him five years.


Which is slightly less time than we've devoted to our impressive bedsore collection.

He developed an elaborate backstory, learned Arabic, converted to Islam and carried around a copy of the Quran that he copied by hand. Then he started publishing articles in support of jihad, getting them accepted by publishers who would go for that kind of thing.


Of course, getting published is the easy part.

At one point, he got invited to a bath house. This was an issue since he wasn't circumcised, but the man he was playing would be. So he made an appointment with a man with a knife. Yes, Salas sacrificed part of his dick for his job.

Finally Salas wound up in contact with the younger brothers of terrorist legend Carlos the Jackal himself. You may remember the guy as the real-life terrorist who inspired the Bourne Identity series and whose history of kidnapping and killing earned him the spot as the world's most-wanted criminal -- which he kept even after being put away for life -- until Osama came along.


Sorry, Carlos, but there's room in our hearts for only ONE terrorist mastermind.

Eventually, Salas got so deep that he got a job as Carlos' personal webmaster. Being the webmaster of personified evil required updating the site from a different cybercafe every day -- ideally from a different country every day -- to shake off the various intelligence services constantly zeroing in on him. Also, he received enough jihadist training to be able to (in theory) commit major atrocities.

That's what you have to keep in mind: His cover was so deep that he was equally in danger of being killed by pro and anti-jihadists -- by the former if they found out he was an infidel in disguise, and by the latter if they thought he was part of a planned terror attack.

He survived, though, and wound up publicly sharing his experiences. Thanks to his book, he was able to share groundbreaking insights into organized terrorism. And the fact that he published it under his real name ... well, they just don't make pants with crotches big enough.


Oh no! Floating machine guns have attacked the Arab White House!

When not writing for Cracked, Conny Appin gets himself all worked up as Secretary General of NATHO.

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To learn about some unscrupulous journalists, check out The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies Ever Published as Non-Fiction. Or discover that, yes, there are badass spies out there, in 5 Spies with Bigger Balls Than James Bond.

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