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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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Godwin's Law?
By Yawgm0th on 1/4/2010 4:42:31 PM , Rating: 1
Are terrorists the new Nazis?

I mean, I don't necessarily disagree with many of Michael's opinions or conclusions here -- at least I do when they are presented clearly and logically without so much flair, hyperbole, and rhetoric. You can disagree with these guys without calling them terrorists in the process.

These guys are basically media pranksters. They aren't inducing fear or causing severe physical damage to property or people. They're white-collar criminals at worst for engaging in fraud. There's a such thing as ecoterrorism and even digital terrorism, but it's more than a stretch to say these guys are any kind of terrorists.

On a side note, am I the only one still wondering why Michael changed his last name?




RE: Godwin's Law?
By Keeir on 1/6/2010 3:16:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
These guys are basically media pranksters.


No... not really.

Pranksters fundamental wish to entertain themselves or others.

The YES Men want to force an organization/set of organizations to perform certain actions.

Since a government or company do not have a direct corporal existence, its really hard to threaten them with voilence (as the traditional defination of terrorism/terrorist requires).

Consider a similar situation to the DOW chemical. Say you owned some property that had gotten overgrown. The next door nieghbors really think you ought to clean it up... and really you should, but right now you just don't have the time or the money to do it properly. The next door nieghbors decide to put up a sign that says "I am the owner, I am going to clean this up". They aren't directly harming you, but its clear they are intending to intimendate you (or worse yet, use other people to intemindate you) into doing what they want... even when its not required by law, and they are essentially breaking the law to the intemindating... pretty close to terrorism, maybe we should call them Mediarrists? Although I prefer a simple jackasses.


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