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The Yes Men: folk heroes, or cyber-terrorists?  (Source: Guerilla Innovation)
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." -- Mark Twain

In the 1990s the theory that the world was warming and humans were causing it -- anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory -- came into vogue.  Since, researchers have been unable to accurately model the climate trends and the Earth has even experienced cooling, virtually dashing wishful thinking of a global heatwave.

Undeterred by the lack of solid supporting evidence for their novel theories, international governments today stand on the verge of adopting expensive new carbon taxation schemes.  Ironically, these talks -- the Copenhagen summit -- come just weeks after many of the most prominent studies to support the theory were apparently exposed to be faked (see DailyTech's coverage on the CRU scandal).

Deep in the thick of the warming mess is pair of hooligans-cum-AGW theory "advocates", who call themselves "The Yes Men".  Critics call the pair essentially digital terrorists or worse.  They accuse the pair of spreading a long trail of libel, lies, and misinformation that has damaged many legitimate firms.

"The Yes Men" defend their actions, saying they're "Cutting the Corporate" crap.  They're beloved figures in the green and anarchist communities, which hold them up as Robin Hood-esque figures.  That's little comfort to thousands of employees and investors with Exxon, Halliburton, British Petroleum, Dow Chemical and others that have lost their jobs or tidy sums based on the havoc the pair's phony news stories and fraudulent web pages stir up.

Surprisingly, you won't find "The Yes Men" behind bars or sued out of house and home for libel and computer fraud.  Instead, the pair exists quite prosperously in New York City.  Despite their alter-egos' stance of anti-consumerism, the pair leads quite a posh lifestyle in New York City, with Igor Vamos (alias "Mike Bonanno") teaching as an associate professor of media arts at the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Jacque Servin (alias "Andy Bichlbaum") teaching as an assistant professor in subversion at the pricey Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.

Together the flamboyant pair recently committed their biggest hoax to date, this time impersonating a government organization.  The pair faked press releases from the Canadian government, claiming to announce pledges of drastic carbon cuts.

In reality, the Canadian government is likely to proceed with smaller cuts, and they did not appreciate the misinformation.  They contacted the ISP of the sites hosting the hoaxed content and were able to secure its take down.  They also briefly blocked a series of similar domain names to prevent the cyber fakers from changing the site name.  About 4,500 non-affiliated sites were briefly taken down, but have since been restored to working order.

While critics are saying "The Yes Men" are lucky not to be facing criminal and civil charges, the pair instead has cried that they are victims, audaciously declaring that they are being censored.  Emboldened, the pair is cooking up more pseduo-legal stunts for the near future, that will invariably result in more damage to legitimate businesses and government entities.

In the pair's discussions with The Seattle Pi and the blogosphere, they have said that their actions were driven in part by the Alberta Sands oil project, a proposed Canadian oil excavation endeavor.  Some estimates have suggested that the project will locally increase emissions by 165 percent, a figure critics like "The Yes Men" have pounced on.  Critics neglect to note the positive impact this project might have.

Worldwide oil sands -- primarily found in Canada and Venezuela, likely hold two thirds of the world's crude oil.  The Alberta sands, better known as the Athabasca Oil Sands are estimated to hold 170 billion barrels (27×109 m3) of easily extractable crude oil (a mere 10 percent of the total in the sands).  Oil companies have worked with the government to establish plans to minimize carbon and environmental impacts of any extraction projects.

The new projects, on the verge of government approval, could create tens or even hundreds of thousands of new Canadian jobs in an industry that already employs 500,000.  Additionally they could make Canada the world's second largest oil producer -- behind only Saudi Arabia (OPEC).  This would allow the U.S. and other commercial partners to enjoy decades of affordable power from a politically stable source.  Amid these benefits, it's clear that the issue is not as black and white as the critics claim.

Returning to the celebrated cyber phonies and their hoax, the actions of "The Yes Men" do at least raise some interesting questions -- chiefly: in the digital age, is misinformation and hoaxes protected under freedom of speech?  If this is partially true at least, how far should the protections go -- to false statements about individuals, to falsehoods about businesses, or to fraudulent government sites, even?  Conversely, if this kind of speech is illegal, who should be the judge of that in the international community, which shares the internet?

Further, should the legality be impacted by profit based on misinformation?  Current laws clearly provide grounds to prosecute phishers who steal peoples' credit card information.  What about individuals like "The Yes Men" who profit based on media works (books, movies, etc.) or prominent positions resulting from their escapades?  Should this be grounds for criminal or civil punishment?

Indeed "The Yes Men" and their warming farce raise many questions, if perhaps not the ones they intended.  Perhaps the biggest question of them all is whether this is truly the kind of figures that the self-proclaimed "green community" wants to embrace.


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RE: Money
By eddieroolz on 1/3/2010 12:58:43 AM , Rating: 3
I wonder if the "Climate researchers" refuse to drive cars, use plastic, operate computers or even buy imported food. Because you know, all those create the "terrifying" CO2 that they a fearful of.


RE: Money
By Fierce Guppy on 1/3/2010 4:30:41 AM , Rating: 3
No. I would not expect bildan's "climate researcher" friends to lead by example the small, meek, and thoroughly joyless carbon neutral existence they demand of humanity.

Tony.


RE: Money
By Reclaimer77 on 1/4/2010 9:39:18 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
I wonder if the "Climate researchers" refuse to drive cars, use plastic, operate computers or even buy imported food. Because you know, all those create the "terrifying" CO2 that they a fearful of.


They don't because they are hypocrites, of course.

A few days ago this woman on a local radio show was going on and on, lamenting these "dead spots" in the ocean where marine life doesn't live. Denouncing commercial fishing and accusing them of killing the oceans, and then she says, I shit you not, she says...

"I love eating fish"


RE: Money
By UncleRufus on 1/4/2010 11:49:23 AM , Rating: 2
I know that I should eat right and exercise more.

Although I say that everyone should eat right and exercise more, I don't do it myself.

I am a hypocrit.

Doesn't change the fact that people should eat right and exercise more.

My hypocrisy doesn't change the facts.

Also...isn't there some sustainable form of fishing? Surely this lady can enjoy the taste of fish without 'killing the oceans'.


RE: Money
By Reclaimer77 on 1/4/2010 1:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
whoa man.. over your head. Way over your head.


RE: Money
By Sandok on 1/5/2010 7:35:55 AM , Rating: 2
... I bet you most of the "climate researchers" are FAR more ecological than you.

No need to stop using cars or plastics and such when there are a BILLION other ways to save energy.

And what's more important, the message or these people's lifestyle? I'm sure you don't live a life which is a 100% in accord with your beliefs. Nobody does.


RE: Money
By AEvangel on 1/5/2010 11:11:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
No need to stop using cars or plastics and such when there are a BILLION other ways to save energy.


I agree, and there are BILLION ways to get people to live a more Green lifestyle with out trying to force them by using fear and propaganda like Messiah Al Gore does in his trumped up documentaries.


RE: Money
By eddieroolz on 1/7/2010 6:17:14 AM , Rating: 2
There is a quote: "If you assume, you make an ass out of you and me."

Please do not assume. I'm a university student taking public transit every day. My parents walk to work, because smart urban planning in Vancouver achieved suburbs and short commutes simultaneously.

I recycle all paper and bins that come into my house. I use a push mower to cut grass, because I don't have to refill it with gas, and my yard is not overwhelmingly big. I turn off my gaming PC when it's not in use.

You can believe you're the greenest person in the world; but believing itself will not make you the greenest person in the world.


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