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Rory O'Connor

Rory O'Connor

Posted: September 21, 2009 12:33 PM

Just Say Yes Men!

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I've long been a fan for years of the zany duo of performance artists/political activists known as the Yes Men, ever since their turn-of-the-century stunt of creating their own "corrected" World Trade Organization website at GATT.org, or the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Soon their fake site began to receive real email queries from confused visitors, including invitations to address various elite groups on behalf of the WTO. Naturally, and hysterically, the Men responded as if they actually represented the WTO -- all of which is documented in their very funny and very pointed 2004 film "The Yes Men."

Now the Men have a new, almost as amusing documentary about to hit movie screens across America -- "The Yes Men Fix the World," which they accurately describe as "a screwball true story about two gonzo political activists who, posing as top executives of giant corporations, lie their way into big business conferences and pull off the world's most outrageous pranks."

But it is in their actual stunts -- and not just in their documentation of them -- that the Yes Men truly excel. Of late they have taken to targeting the media directly, such as last fall's fake New York Times... which declared the Iraq War over, universities to be free, bike paths expanded -- and even announced the much-anticipated resignation of Times Op-Ed apologist -- oops, I mean, columnist -- Thomas Friedman.

Now comes their latest effort -- this week's stunning "SPECIAL EDITION" New York Post, trumpeting the headline "WE'RE SCREWED" in large point type.

"SPECIAL EDITION" NEW YORK POST from The Yes Men on Vimeo.

The Yes Men's latest elaborate media hoax/heist blanketed Manhattan early Monday morning with a fake "truth-telling tabloid" about climate change and how it will soon affect New York City -- and the rest of the world...

New Yorkers were met with the appearance of a "special edition" of the Post highlighting warnings that the city could face "deadly heat waves, extreme flooding, and other lethal effects of global warming within the next few decades." The most alarming thing about the spoofy newspaper was that the news within it came from a spooky -- but official -- City report.

Distributed by thousands of volunteers throughout New York City, the paper was created "as a wake-up call to action on climate change" by a coalition of activists. It appeared just a day before a United Nations summit in which Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will attempt to persuade world leaders to reduce carbon emissions in the lead-up to December's upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen. (Ban has called the Copenhagen gathering a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to halt the global rise in greenhouse gas emissions "if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences for people and the planet.")

Although the 32-page Post is a fake, everything in it is true. "This could be, and should be, a real New York Post," said Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum. "Climate change is the biggest threat civilization has ever faced, and it should be in the headlines of every paper, every day until we solve the problem."

The fake Post's cover story reports the real conclusions of a scientific panel commissioned by the mayor's office to determine the potential effects of climate change on New York City. (The report, released in February, received little attention in the real media.) Other articles described the Pentagon's warnings about global warming; the government's inadequate response to the crisis ("Congress Cops Out on Climate"); China's alternative energy program ("China's Green Leap Forward Overtakes U.S."); and how, if the US doesn't quickly pass a strong climate bill, the crucial Copenhagen climate talks this December could turn out instead to be a "Flopenhagen."

The paper includes original investigative reporting, such as an article revealing that Deutsche Bank -- which erected a seven-story "carbon counter" in central Manhattan -- not only invests heavily in coal-mining companies worldwide, but recently entered the business of coal trading itself. It also displays the world's gloomiest weather page, covering the next 70 years -- rather than just the next 7 days - and an "Around the World" section that describes the disproportionate effects of climate change -- such as droughts, floods, famines, water shortages, mass migrations and conflicts -- on the poor. Although they have done little to cause the problem, developing countries will bear the brunt of its effects.

But all the news in the faux Post isn't bad -- one article ("New York Fights Back") reports that the Big Apple's carbon emissions are only one third the national average. There's also a lot of Yes Men-style humor, including a page of cartoons and a number of pointed but funny ads -- for sex ("Awesome. No carbon emissions."), tote bags, and even tap water ("Literally comes right out of your faucet!"). A more serious ad promotes civil disobedience and encourages readers to risk arrest in a planned global action November 30, just before the conference in Copenhagen.

Scared of the future effects of climate change? Angry at the media's failures to highlight the problem? Anxious to do something about it?

Just Say Yes Men!

(Note: The fake New York Post paper is one of 2,500 initiatives taking place in more than 130 countries, part of the "Global Wake-up Call" on climate change. For more information, visit www.tcktcktck.org/wakeup or contact The Yes Men at tabloid@theyesmen.org. To see the New York City report on climate change click here. Link to video news release: http://nypost-se.com/video/)

Follow Rory O'Connor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rocglobal