Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Yes Men say No to Dow and Bhopal

If you haven't been reading Jordan Barab's blog over at Confined Space you are missing a terrific occupational health and safety site with great writing and information hard to find elsewhere. On the 20th anniversary of Bhopal Jordan had a really special post on the tragedy. Do yourself a favor and read it. Today there was an ironic follow-up of a sorts, Behind the Great Bhopal Hoax.

Here's a bit of the story to whet your appetite. On the morning of the anniversary (Friday, December 3) the BBC broadcast an interview with "Dow spokesperson Jude Finiseterra" who announced that Dow had finally agreed to take full responsibility for victim aftercare and environmental clean-up, bankrolling a $12 billion fund for the purpose.
Unfortunately, there was no Jude Finiseterra, nor was there a compassionate and repentant Dow.

The rather ingenious plot began with the name of the mysterious Dow spokesman, Jude Finiseterra. Finiseterra, who in real life calls himself Andy Bichlbaum, explained that "Jude is the patron saint of impossible causes, and Finiseterra means 'end of the earth,' which kind of represents the situation there."
So it was a hoax. But to what end?
The beauty of the hoax was that Dow was forced, on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, to once again publicly remind the world that it would do no more to help the victims or clean up the site. But because Dow responded to the hoax by issuing only a short press release stating that Finiseterra was not a representative of the company, the spoof website Dowethics, decided that Dow needed a little assistance to illuminate the whole situation for the world. They issued another press release on Dow letterhead, explaining that the whole thing was an elaborate, sophisticated, idiotic hoax, and that in fact Dow will not commit any funds to compensate and treat 120,000 Bhopal residents who require lifelong care, will not clean up the Bhopal plant site, will not urge the US to extradite former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to India, will not release proprietary information on the leaked gases, nor the results of studies commissioned by Union Carbide and never released, will not fund research on the safety of Dow endocrine disruptors (ECDs) considered to have long-term negative effects, and...
Well, read the story. There's much more there, good reading and some good thoughts on Alinksy's dictum that ridicule can be an effective weapon.

You can also read there about "The Yes Men," the group behind the hoax that impersonates famous people for the purposes of Identity Correction as opposed to Identity Theft:
Identity Correction, on the other hand, is where "Honest people impersonate big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else."
Funny. I thought a Yes Man was a Cabinet member.