The Yes Men have been very busy of late. (Mike Bonnano was just in town for the New Orleans Film Fest screening of their latest film, The Yes Men Fix the World, which includes footage of their post-Katrina prank, in which they posed as HUD officials and announced the reopening of public housing in New Orleans.) This morning, several papers including the NY Times (above, screen grab courtesy of Talkingpointsmemo.com) and the Washington Post both ran news stories of a bogus announcement in which apparent spokesmen of the Chamber of Commerce declared a reversal in policy and embraced the need to address global climate change. That, of course, was not true, and within hours the Yes Men and another activist group owned up to the hoax.
It's amusing that the story appeared in the New York Times. In December 2008, the Yes Men and a network of activists in New York City printed a faux edition of the New York Times, which reported the news they wanted to hear, including an end to the war in Iraq, etc. (Footage about that prank is included in The Yes Men Fix the World.) A couple of weeks ago, the Yes Men and their cohorts pulled the same stunt, this time releasing a fake edition of the New York Post. Though in this case, they reported news that is true but doesn't get much press coverage. It covered a report released by the Mayor's office in New York City about the dangers of global climate change. It also covered a Pentagon report that identified global warming as a national security threat.
Perhaps what's most amusing about the Chamber of Commerce hoax is that it has the textbook sound of a Yes Men stunt. A corporation or entity does a complete 180 degree change in policy, with some admission that it's the ethical/responsible thing to do. The prank puts the group in the difficult position of then clarifying and saying, no, we are not for the responsible choice. But the media has covered these announcements and run stories or TV segments without sufficient fact checking. The HUD scam was an exception: It was exposed almost immediately by a WWL reporter seeking to verify the Yes Men's HUD credentials. But it makes one wonder about the routine of reporters who take this (or any) information at face value. A reporter is not supposed to be a stenographer, who simply writes down what "an official" says and then puts it in the paper as news. Yet in spite of their ever more high profile stunts, not many news outlets catch the Yes Men on the first try.
In 2010, Cotton wrote, "The unfortunate murder that occurred on Sunday is not symptomatic of second line culture. On the contrary, it's directly attributable to deep social ills that New Orleans has yet to get a firm grasp on."