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The Yes Men schaffen mal wieder einen großen Fake

On November 29, an email comes in to DowEthics.com: BBC World Television wants a Dow representative to discuss the company's position on the 1984 Bhopal tragedy on this, its 20th anniversary.


Knowing Dow's history of gross negligence on this matter, we think it unlikely they will send a representative themselves—and if they do, he or she will likely only reiterate the old nonsense yet again, which will be depressing for all concerned. Yes, we'd better just do their PR for them.

Since we can't possibly afford to go to London with our pathetic American dollars, we ask to be booked in a studio in Paris, where Andy is living. No problem. Mr. Jude (patron saint of the impossible) Finisterra (earth's end) becomes Dow's official spokesperson.

What to do? We briefly consider embodying the psychopathic monster that is Dow by explaining in frank terms how they (a) don't give a rat's ass about the people of Bhopal and (b) wouldn't do anything to help them even if they did. Which they don't. This would be familiar territory for Andy: he did something similar representing the WTO on CNBC's Marketwrap.

Instead we settle on having the impossible Jude announce a radical new direction for the company, one in which Dow takes full responsibility for the disaster. We will lay out a straightforward ethical path for Dow to follow to compensate the victims, remediate the site, and otherwise help make amends for the worst industrial disaster in history.

There are some risks to this approach. It could offer false hope to people who have endured 20 years of suffering because of Dow and Union Carbide. But what's an hour of false hope to 20 years of unrealized ones? If it works, this could focus a great deal of media attention on the issue, especially in the US, where the Bhopal anniversary has often gone completely unnoticed. Who knows—it could even somehow force Dow's hand.

After all, the real hoax is Dow's claim that they can't do anything to help. They have conned the world into thinking they can't end the crisis, when in fact it would be quite simple. What would it cost to clean up the Bhopal plant site, which continues to poison the water people drink, causing an estimated one death per day?

We decide to show how another world is possible, and hope that it's worth it....

Another problem we anticipate is that this could result in some backlash for the BBC. This is bothersome, because they have covered Bhopal very well, infinitely better than what we're used to in the US. We would much rather hoax CBS, ABC, NBC, or Fox, but none of those could give that rat's ass about Bhopal, and so none of those has approached us.

In any case, it didn't seem to hurt CNBC when "Granwyth Hulatberi" appeared as WTO spokesperson. It was a simple mistake, and one that anyone could make. Intelligent people will not question the excellence of BBC's overall coverage because of an unavoidable mistake, especially if it is caught quickly and provides for some interesting discussion that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

On the day of the interview, we wake up early and put on our thrift-store suits. Andy nervously runs through his answers once more while Mike fumbles with cameras. A crowded metro ride later, we arrive at the BBC's Paris studio. "Jude" is seated in front of a green screen and waits.

Watch the broadcast
At 9am GMT, Dow's spokesperson appears live on the BBC World Service in front of the Eiffel Tower. He is ecstatic to make the announcement: Dow will accept full responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, and has a $12 billion dollar plan to compensate the victims and remediate the site. They will also push for the extradition to India of Warren Anderson, former Union Carbide CEO, who fled India following his arrest 20 years ago on multiple homicide charges.

When it's over, the studio technician is happy about what she has heard. "What a nice thing to announce," she says.

"I wouldn't work for Dow if I didn't believe in it," replies Andy matter-of-factly.

We expect the story to be retracted immediately, but Dow takes two hours to notice that alas and alack, it's done the right thing. The full interview therefore runs twice, and for two hours the story is the top item on news.google.com. After Dow notes emphatically that it is not in fact doing the right thing, the retraction remains the top Google story for the rest of the day.

Back at Andy's apartment, we help Dow express itself better by mailing out a more formal retraction: "Dow will NOT commit ANY funds to compensate and treat 120,000 Bhopal residents who require lifelong care.... Dow will NOT remediate (clean up) the Bhopal plant site.... Dow's sole and unique responsibility is to its shareholders, and Dow CANNOT do anything that goes against its bottom line unless forced to by law." For a while, this—as reprinted in something called "Men's News Daily"—becomes the top story on news.google.com.

"Whatever be the circumstances under which the news was aired, we will get $12 billion from Dow sooner than later," one Bhopali activist is quoted as saying. But the "false hope" question does come up in some articles. Much as we try to convince ourselves it was worth it, we cannot get rid of the nagging doubt. Did we deeply upset many Bhopalis? If so, we want to apologize. We were trying to show that another world is possible....

Throughout the day, we are deluged with email, almost all of it positive. Later, the BBC calls again: they want us back at the studio. Yeah, right! No, really—they want us on for another show, to talk about what has happened. Against our better judgment we go—and arrive to find four smiling staffers. "Where are the cops?" Andy asks, and the staffers actually laugh.

Another interview on Channel 4, and the day is finally over. Now all we can do is wait to see how it all pans out. Will our fondest hopes be met—will Dow be forced to concede? Or will the people of Bhopal have to wait twenty more years?

Noch mehr über den DowChemical Fake

'Telepolis (06.12.2004)
Die "Yes Men" haben wieder zugeschlagen
Kein schöner Jahrestag: Vor 20 Jahren flog im indischen Bhopal eine Chemiefabrik des US-Unternehmens Union Carbide in die Luft – Zehntausende starben, Hunderttausende sind bis heute geschädigt. Die BBC meldete, Dow Chemical, die 2001 Union Carbide kauften, wollten nun endlich für das Desaster gerade stehen. Doch dann stellte sich heraus, dass der live interviewte Firmensprecher ein "Yes Man" war.
Umso überraschender war ein Interview, das ein angeblicher Firmensprecher von Dow der BBC gab und in dem dieser sagte: "Ich bin sehr glücklich, dass ich heute mitteilen kann, dass Dow erstmals die volle Verantwortung für die Katastrophe in Bhopal übernimmt." Die Entschädigung solle auch den 120 000 Opfern zugute kommen, die ihr ganzes Leben lang medizinische Hilfe benötigen könnten und außerdem solle das Fabrikgelände saniert werden. "Wir haben beschlossen, Union Carbide zu liquidieren, diesen Albtraum für die Welt, der Dow Kopfschmerzen bereitet".

Die Süddeutsche Zeitung (3.12. 2004) berichtet nur über die angeschlagene Glaubwürdigkeit der BBC. Den politischen Kontext des Fakes wird ausgeblendet:

"Ausgeklügelter Betrug"?
"Nun gibt es wieder Anlass zum Zweifel an der Zuverlässigkeit der BBC: Am Freitag, dem 20. Jahrestag der Gaskatastrophe im indischen Bhopal, hatte angeblich ein Sprecher von Dow Chemical gegenüber dem international ausgestrahlten Fernsehsender BBC World erstmals im Namen der US-Firma die volle Verantwortung für das Unglück übernommen.

Der Mann, der sich „Jude Finisterra“ nannte, kündigte zudem Wiedergutmachungszahlungen in Höhe von zwölf Milliarden Dollar an die Familien der mehr als 3000 Toten und 120.000 Verletzten von Bhopal an.

Die Sensationsmeldung stellte sich jedoch kurz darauf als Ente heraus: Dow Chemical gab am Freitag kurz nach Ausstrahlung des Berichts bekannt, die Firma habe keinen Sprecher namens Finisterra und übernehme auch keinerlei Verantwortung für das Gasunglück von Bhopal. Die BBC räumte umgehend ein, das Interview sei Teil eines „ausgeklügelten Betrugs“ gewesen."

Zur englischsprachigen Presseauswertung

Mehr über "The Yes Men"


Zur "Dow Chemical"-Fake-Webseite von "The Yes Men":
"IMPORTANT NOTE: Dow-Carbide will absolutely not accept the least responsibility for the Bhopal catastrophe caused by our fully owned subsidiary, Union Carbide. Our only responsibility is to our shareholders. Therefore, we cannot and will not do anything to help the victims of the accident. You, however, are free to do what you can, as your conscience dictates."

twoday.net AGB

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