Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yes Men, Yes Lab!

The Yes Men are artists/activists who stage media-savvy pranks to draw scrutiny to corporations and institutions putting profit before people, among other sins. Below is a video of Yes Man, Andy Bichlbaum, posing as a DOW Chemical representative and apologizing for the Bhopal Disaster.

The Yes Men are currently hatching Yes Lab, currently described as "...a series of brainstorms and trainings to help activist groups carry out media-getting creative actions, focused on their own campaign goals." You can fund the Yes Lab via their kickstarter campaign.

Below is a list of actions carried out by Yes Lab (as quoted from the Yes Men mailing list). Pretty savvy stuff:

General Electric Short-Circuited
Activists US Uncut, with a little help from the Yes Lab, sent out a press release announcing that General Electric would repay the $3.2 billion tax credit they received last year despite massive profits. The announcement was momentarily picked up as true by the AP, and the market, unable to leave a good deed unpunished, responded by knocking $3.5 billion off GE’s share price. The result was massive, enlightening coverage of GE’s tax-cheating ways on everything from local TV to CNN.

What the heck is an Asthmaze?
A small group of activists wondered how a big coal company might address the fact that coal causes childhood asthma. The result: “Coal Cares,” a faux greenwashing campaign in which Peabody Coal tried to “make asthma cool” with free themed inhalers to kids living within 200 miles of a coal plant. The site, taken as real by many, quickly went massively viral, which didn’t amuse Peabody one bit but did help publicize coal as a major public health issue. And as it happened, in the week following the launch of Coal Cares, a real-life attempt by the coal industry to mislead children was defeated by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Hooray!

Beat Up On Chevron? We Agree.
Chevron decided to launch a $90 million greenwashing campaign with a street-art aesthetic, and was stupid enough to approach street artists for help. One of them, Cesar Maxit, promptly leaked Chevron’s plans to Amazon Watch. The Yes Lab helped Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) release a much more honest version of Chevron’s campaign just hours ahead of the “real” McCoy, generating a deluge of media coverage. Hundreds of user submissions and some amazing videos from FunnyOrDie further derailed Chevron’s $90 million lie, infuriating Chevron even more—though not quite as much as the $18 billion judgment against them in Ecuador, which Chevron has vowed never to pay. The fight goes on.

Coal Burns Wealthy Neighborhood. Neighbors Nonplussed.
Students from Columbia College in Chicago came together with Greenpeace and the Yes Lab to create the illusion that a new coal plant was planned in their city—but that instead of going in a poor neighborhood (like the two coal plants that already exist in Chicago), this one would be built in a rich one. The plans got a rise out of residents and the media, and helped focus attention on Chicago’s much-needed Clean Power Ordinance.

Canada was the victim of two Yes-Lab-assisted actions, both targeting the Alberta Tar Sands, the England-sized mess that has made Canada the worst per-capita carbon emitter on earth.

Hair Clogs Pipeline
In the first Canadian action, a group of activists had Enbridge—who are aiming to build a massive pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands through pristine wilderness to the British Columbia coast—announce “My Hair Cares,” a crackpot plan to sop up inevitable spills along the pipeline route with the hair of volunteers. The resulting press publicized Enbridge’s botched spill cleanup in Michigan, and let Canadians know how stupid it can be to let oil flow through your watershed.

More and More Mordor
In the second Canada-centered action, a group of students, working with Greenpeace, launched a surreal campaign, complete with infomercials, cell phone videos, a tweeting campaign, a Facebook page, etc. to make folks in Canada think that the new Hobbit film was saving money on Mordor scenes by shooting them in the Tar Sands. The “news” went quickly viral and helped to cement the Canadian Government’s reputation as top-shelf planet-killing bastards.

Canadian War Room Defeated
Another Canadian action on the same subject took place way back in December 2009, before the Yes Lab really existed—but it happened according to the same model, so the Yes Lab is claiming it. Read about it here!

France Remains Offensive
An ad-hoc group called CRIME (Committee for the Reimbursement of Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti) announced, on France’s behalf, the repayment of €17 billion to Haiti in relief aid—a payment equal to that which France extorted from Haiti in 1804 as a condition for their independence. Because of France’s ham-fisted reaction, the story received global attention, alerting many to the deep colonial roots of Haiti’s problems. The media attention was also used to launch a campaign that further built pressure on France to do the right thing.

People Bite Apple
It’s a bummer that our shiny tech toys are made using the blood of people—or, more precisely, the “conflict minerals” that play a big role in the violence and instability of Central Africa. So a group of students, together with Friends of the Congo, produced a fake Apple ad campaign touting a “Conflict-Free iPhone,” and calling for the citizen’s arrest of John Paulson, whose company finances some of the worst extraction practices. The project received hundreds of media hits worldwide.

Unnatural Gas
Students and local activists launched a campaign to cover Manhattan with stickers warning residents that if a ban on hydraulic fracturing is not extended in New York State, they’ll soon need to test for their water’s safety by trying to light it on fire. The project communicated viscerally just what’s at stake if gas companies are allowed to drill in New York’s aquifer, as the companies are demanding.

Shell Game Uncovers Oil Slick
In the Hague, activists impersonated oil giant Shell and publicly apologized for devastating the Niger Delta each year with oil spills larger than that of the Exxon Valdez. The action generated hundreds of stories—all highlighting Shell’s atrocious record.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Near Florabama