THE YES MEN: DOW CHEMICAL SPOKESMAN
BBC World, Democracy Now
2003, 5 min 51 sec
On December 3, 2004, the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Andy Bichlbaum appeared on BBC World as ‘Jude Finisterra’, a Dow Chemical spokesman. Dow is the owner of Union Carbide, responsible for the chemical disaster which killed thousands and left over 120,000 requiring lifelong care.
On their fake Dow Chemical website, the Yes Men said that Dow Chemical Company had no intention whatsoever of repairing the damage. The real company received considerable backlash, and both the real Dow and the phony Dow denied the statements, but Dow took no real action.
The Yes Men decided to pressure Dow further, so as ‘Finisterra’, Bichlbaum went on the news to claim that Dow planned to liquidate Union Carbide and use the resulting $12 billion to pay for medical care, clean up the site, and fund research into the hazards of other Dow products. After two hours of wide coverage, Dow issued a press release denying the statement, ensuring even greater coverage of the phony news of a cleanup. In Frankfurt, Dow’s share price fell 4.24 percent in 23 minutes, wiping $2 billion off its market value. The shares rebounded in Frankfurt after the BBC issued an on-air correction and apology. In New York, Dow Chemical’s stock were little changed.
After the original interview was revealed as a hoax, Bichlbaum appeared in a follow-up interview on the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 news. During the interview he was asked if he had considered the emotions and reaction of the people of Bhopal when producing the hoax. According to the interviewer, “there were many people in tears” upon having learned of the hoax. Bichlbaum said that, in comparison, what distress he had caused the people was minimal to that for which Dow was responsible. The Yes Men claim on their website that they have been told by contacts in Bhopal that once they had got over their disappointment that it wasn’t real, they were pleased about the stunt and thought it had helped to raise awareness of their plight.
In February 2012, it was widely reported in the 2012 Stratfor e-mail leak that Dow Chemical Company hired private intelligence firm Stratfor to monitor the Yes Men.