The Yes Men and Greenpeace Punk Their Friends
Perhaps you've seen the video, widely circulated yesterday (and reluctantly reposted below), that purports to show the comic malfunction of a fountain at a party put on by Shell Oil to celebrate its imminent drilling of the Arctic. If you happened to hear about it from my humble Twitter account (@paulrauber), where I mentioned it as soon as I saw it posted on Grist and Treehugger, my sincere apologies--because, as we soon learned, the too-good-to-be-true event was a hoax.
Today, a boasting press release reveals that the perpatrators were the Yes Men and Greenpeace:
"What Shell is preparing to do in the Arctic is the height of obscenity," said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Lab. "We've got to do everything we possibly can to draw attention to this unfolding disaster, and more importantly we've got to stop it."
"The melting Arctic is becoming a defining environmental issue of our era, and this campaign is just a taste of what's to come," said [Greenpeace's James] Turner.
Isn't that great? Our cause is so important that lying about it is justified. Scientists worldwide are issuing urgent warnings that Earth and its ecosystems are at a tipping point, but that isn't attention-getting enough for Greenpeace and the Yes Men. In the future, every piece of alarming climate news--and there will be many--will have to be scrutinized to see if it might not be someone's idea of a prank. That's not necessarily a bad thing--part of what news organizations are supposed to do is assess the credibility of information and report only what they conclude to be true.
But what bugs me in this case is that for the sake of a few clicks on their video, Greenpeace and the Yes Men punk'd their colleagues in the environmental press, playing us for propagandists who, once the deception was revealed, could be expected to laugh the whole incident off as a clever joke.
Sorry, Yes Men, but no thanks.
PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.