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The Yes Men

There are innumerable strategies and motivations behind impersonation on the Internet. Some are legitimate hoaxes, others malicious, others satire. Take this typo for example: Hypothetically, for every person with a sticky "o" key, or too fast of a double-keystroke, there is someone out there who is able to maliciously attack the unfortunately imperfect typist, logging history, Internet etiquette, and personal data. Inversely, one could hypothetically use similar guerilla tactics to attack companies of questionable moral standing, which is exactly what an internet-hoax group, referred to as “The Yes Men,” have done.

In one famous example the group was able to acquire a website ( which gave the appearance of being an official website for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) group. Because GATT is synonymous with the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Yes Men decided to design their new domain name to look like it was a part of the WTO Internet presence. In no time, they were receiving invitations for press conferences, politically oriented lobbyism, and most famously, were able to shoehorn some live interviews on BBC and other media outlets. Their tactics were quick and brutal: a Yes Man would go on a show under the pretense that they were representing a company. They would arrange with the radio show to discuss the company they were representing, and completely divulge all of their criminal activity, and promise compensation and full reparations for all damages considered. [1]

Dow Chemical was among these companies to fall “victim” to the hoax. They were a pesticide manufacturing company in India, and had bought out ‘Union Carbide’ after a disastrous gas leak in 1984. 500,000 were suspected to be exposed to the gas, as many as 20,000 having died from related causes. Unfortunately, because Union Carbide sold themselves out to Dow Chemical, there was a bit of finger pointing as to who accrued the liability debt, which resulted in the victims receiving less than a years worth of medical care.

The Yes Men targeted Dow Chemical by having one of their crew pretend to be a representative of their company on a BBC interview. The Yes Man went on to announce Dow Chemical’s full admittance of responsibility, a promise of lifelong health coverage, and a 12 billion dollar stimulus to get the community back on its feet. These sorts of announcements are unheard of. All that occurred was a slight drop in Dow Chemical’s stock, and a tighter security protocol in media outlets. The Yes Men were able to do a couple more guerilla attacks, including impersonating U.S. Department of Housing and urban Development (HUD) and admitting their obvious ploys to destroy lower income areas and punt the land off to private investors. [2]

[1] Shanken, Edward A. Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon, 2009) AEM

[2] Nelson, Maggie. The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012)