Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leftists and disinformation

I was extremely disappointed to see Rachel Maddow, on her MSNBC program, seemingly approve of the latest unscrupulous hoax by the so-called “Yes men”.

The "Yes men" are a bunch of anarchist thugs who deceive the media and thereby the public into believing that they (through websites, interviews, or public speeches) represent large organizations, corporations or even individuals. They make highly controversial (and not always untrue) statements, for instance publicly admitting guilt on behalf of a corporation (ex. Dow Chemical) for contributing to an industrial disaster (the Bhopal gas leak). In this case they claimed Dow Chemical would liquidate Union Carbide (the company originally responsible for the disaster back in 1984) in order to clean up the site of the disaster. This declaration on the BBC had within a few hours caused Dow Chemical's stock to shrink by $2 billion before the company could announce that the person making the claim did not represent their company in any way, shape or form.

They also claimed to represent the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development when announcing that the department had decided not to raze much of the undamaged public housing in New Orleans after Hurrican Katrina, contrary to what the government had actually told local residents.

Nevermind the money they cost corporations with their near slanderous hoaxes, nevermind the reputations they ruin (whether deserved or not), when they make these claims they often get the hopes up of people involved in tragedies. The people living in New Orleans who had been told by the government that their undamaged public housing was going to be torn down were very distressed about this. So when these "Yes Men" took it upon themselves to claim that the government had changed its mind, naturally it got these poor folks' hopes up, but all in vain. Probably the best news they had heard since before the hurricane but then only to find out soon afterward that the whole thing was a hoax, their homes are still going to be torn down.

The same for the unfortunate souls in Bhopal, India who quickly heard the news, via International coverage, that Dow Chemical was finally going to clean the disaster site and care for their desperate medical needs. So imagine how these poor people felt upon learning that the whole thing was nothing but a disgustingly cruel hoax.

And these shameless pricks don't even have the decency to own up to the misery they bring to the tragic lives of innocent people. To them they rationalize that it's all for a good cause and the damage of their lies can't compare to the damage that corporate or government action (or inaction) has caused.

One doesn't have to feel any sympathy for the corporations or governments who are essentially 'punked' for their wrongs, but one should definitely feel sympathy for people who are sold a false hope for a fucking activist publicity stunt.

So, as Rachel's show points out, the latest hoax was on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when the "Yes Men" claimed that the organization would be changing its position on climate-change. Welcome news to environmentalists everywhere, but of course, it wasn't true. So why do it? Apparently it's supposed to force the organization into having to publicly declare an unpopular stance opposing climate-change legislation and the science behind anthropogenic climate-change.

Now I know there are anti-consumerist/anti-corporation types who are apologists for these guys and their so-called "identity correction" tactics, and I would expect as much from a reporter with Mother Jones magazine, but I honestly didn't expect Rachel Maddow to be as approving as her coverage portrayed. Of course, like most liberals she doesn't like the Chamber of Commerce (good reason not to) and so such a level of deliberate deception is apparently welcomed.

I have to admit that I really don't get the appeal of all this. I would think it would be obvious to anyone who values honesty and an informed populace as to just how inherently wrong this is, regardless the good intentions. Some obviously see it as a necessary means to an end. I doubt they would agree, however, if the shoe were on the other foot. I can imagine the self-righteous indignation among many of these liberal apologists if some conservative activists got together to concoct a hoax that they represented PETA or Greenpeace and declare in press conferences or for the BBC or NPR that they have engaged in illegal terrorist activities in the past and that they have decided they no longer want to use such tactics or otherwise advance anarchism.

Regardless whose side you're on, regardless how noble you believe your cause is, it is wholly dishonest to make outrageous, misleading statements whilst claiming that you represent a person, organization, corporation or government when in fact you do not. More than just dishonest, those who engage in this or condone it are setting all of us down a dangerous path.

Quite seriously, all this is going to have drastic consequences for the information age. It is difficult enough to get at the truth these days, both in spite of and because of our 24/7 mainstream media coverage and technologies which make creating, altering and disseminating information cheap and simple, but now as we engage in the world and encounter spokesmen who seemingly have the credentials, the letterhead, the business cards, the podium, the room full of reporters, they cannot be trusted  at all. We have to doubt anything and everything they are telling us.

In making these activist statements, as if they actually achieve anything other than appealing to juvenile and/or anarchistic sensibilities, we are being thrust into a brave new chaotic world of disinformation. Do we really want to usher in an era where anyone who cares at all about truth and reality will have to go to increasingly extreme lengths to verify the identity of people who make such important claims? Do we really want to suspend  reasonable discussions and debates; freeze the reporting of what someone has to say so that we can instead waste more of our time running background checks on everyone? File away legitimate news sources in the same category as wikipedia? Is all this worth it?

To me this isn't progress at all. It's a step closer to chaos. Of course, anarchists are all about chaos which explains why they appreciate this group so much. But those who are not anarchists yet still defend what the "Yes Men" are doing should beware that these tactics can and no doubt inevitably will bite you and your interests in the ass, too.

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