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Dow Shalt Pay For Bhopal

Just for the record, and those who missed it earlier, thanks to a revival on Twitter -- and perhaps because of that the resulting emails today -- of the old Yes Men hoax/prank on BBC.

The Yes Men explain the background:

Dow claims the company inherited no liabilities for the Bhopal disaster, but the victims aren't buying it, and have continued to fight Dow just as hard as they fought Union Carbide.

That's a heavy cross to bear for a multinational company; perhaps it's no wonder Dow can't quite face the truth. The Yes Men decided, in November 2002, to help them do so by explaining exactly why Dow can't do anything for the Bhopalis: they aren't shareholders. Dow responded in a masterfully clumsy way, resulting in a flurry of press.

Two years later, in late November 2004, an invitation arrived at the 2002 website, neglected since. On the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, "Dow representative" "Jude Finisterra" went on BBC World TV to announce that the company was finally going to compensate the victims and clean up the mess in Bhopal. The story shot around the world, much to the chagrin of Dow, who briefly disavowed any responsibility as per policy. The Yes Men again helped Dow be clearer about their feelings. (See also this account, complete with a story of censorship.)

Only months after Andy's face had been on most UK tellies, he appeared at a London banking conference as Dow rep "Erastus Hamm," this time to explain how Dow considers death acceptable so long as profits still roll in. A life-sized golden skeleton named Gilda helped explain to the bankers that just because something like Bhopal is a "skeleton in the closet," it isn't necessarily a bad one: it may be quite lucrative, i.e. "golden." The bankers applauded and swarmed "Gilda" for free keychains and licenses for the Acceptable Risk Calculator.

Finally, on May 12, 2005, at Dow's annual shareholder meeting, "Jude Finisterra" addressed the Dow board to suggest the same thing he had on the BBC. Two minutes later, Mike addressed the board as if he were furious that Dow wasn't clamping down sufficiently on activists - not nuns and victims, maybe, but at least scoundrels like "Jude Finisterra." Asked if Dow would pursue him, Dow Chairman Stavropoulos answered, "If you help me to find him."

As Channel 4 reported:

Five years later, in 2009, the BBC went back to interview them on their prank:

Part II:

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