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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: Global Warming is false
By Sandok on 1/5/2010 7:29:32 AM , Rating: 1
Again another person who is misled by the name...

So the recent blizzards in China, Europe and the US are proof that the world is cooling right, not warming up? If you believe that, I advise you to open up some books and maybe study a little.

Global Warming indicates that the overall global temperatures are rising. But this doesn't mean that every place in the world will get warmer, far from it. Some places have cooled down quite significantly, but others have warmed up extremely significantly. The "average" is going up and this leads to extreme weather.

For example, the 21st century has seen 7 out of the 10 highest temperatures in recorded history in Western Europe (records started before America was a country...). Most of the wettest and coldest days have also been in the 21st century (which by the way, is JUST starting...).

If you truly believe that 7 billion humans aren't have an effect on the planet in any shape or form, then you are delusional. People like you didn't believe that refrigerators and aerosol cans could cause a hole in the ozone layer. Guess what, it did.

We have the power to easily destroy our planet, so I don't see why you find it so hard to imagine that polluting and destroying our environment might lead to bad consequences? Or you're probably just a zealot with nothing more to do than pick a bone with anything an authority figure says.

RE: Global Warming is false
By Oralen on 1/5/10, Rating: -1
RE: Global Warming is false
By eddieroolz on 1/7/2010 6:13:42 AM , Rating: 1
Hey buddy, stop automatically assuming that everyone here is from the USA, would you? I'm not American, and I'm not paid by oil executives to write my own opinon.

RE: Global Warming is false
By cochy on 1/6/2010 4:10:48 PM , Rating: 2
We don't have the power to "destroy the planet". We do have the power to change our standard of living. That's what people are afraid of, changes to the way the live their lives. Well news flash, even if we do our best not to mess with our environment, soon Mother Nature will change it drastically for us and there won't be anything you can do about...What then? Who will we blame.

My opinion? Start adapting to the way the Earth is changing now and not try are darnedest to keep the status quo because it won't last.

RE: Global Warming is false
By JediJeb on 1/8/2010 2:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
If you truly believe that 7 billion humans aren't have an effect on the planet in any shape or form, then you are delusional. People like you didn't believe that refrigerators and aerosol cans could cause a hole in the ozone layer. Guess what, it did.

Even with 7 billion humans, we don't take up much room on the Earth. In fact if you gave every single person on earth a space of 20 square meters to stand in, the entire population of the Earth could fit in England easily. So really we are not that big of an effect on the planet, let's not be arrogant and think so much of our power.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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