e. The Yes Men, The Bhopal Case


the Yes Men, BBC
2003, 5 min 51 sec

On November 29, 2004, an email comes in to DowEthics.com, our fake Dow Chemical website. (See also the long and twisting story of how that website came to be, and how it came to be often mistaken for the real thing. Hint: it was Dow’s fault!)

The email, from a staffer at BBC World Television, is asking Dow Chemical whether a company representative could come in to discuss Dow’s position on the 1984 Bhopal tragedy—on Dec. 3, the catastrophe’s 20th anniversary, and just 6 days from then.

We can hardly believe our eyes. If it’s real, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to say, in front of 350 million people (the viewership of BBC World, according to our email invitation)… well, something. And that something, if we decide well, could change the lives of thousands of survivors of the 1984 tragedy, and maybe millions of others. But if it’s fake….

We’re pretty sure it’s fake, actually. We decide it’s a police trap, an irresistible honeypot that will get us into a place where the police can easily nab us (as if they couldn’t just find us at home). There’s no evidence for this theory, but it’s easier to believe it than to believe the actual truth: that we’re headed into a golden opportunity to do something so valuable, so useful, that if we flub it, we’ve really flubbed huge and will probably regret it intensely for years.

Knowing underneath our useful paranoia that it actually is most likely real, we act accordingly. We write back and let the BBC know—to their immense surprise—that Dow would be absolutely delighted to appear. We let them know that the BBC’s “usual spokesperson” will be in Paris on Dec. 3, so could we do it there? Andy is already living in Paris, for one thing. For another, we figure there will be a lot less scrutiny of the “Dow representative” at a subsidiary office in France than at the big central HQ in London. It’s settled: Mr. Jude (patron saint of the impossible) Finisterra (earth’s end) will represent Dow on Dec. 3, in less than one week.