US Chamber Will See Yes Men In Court

yesmenIf you are a fan of the Yes Men, you probably ought to go see their newly released movie, The Yes Men Fix The World.  Multiple times.  With all of your friends and family.  The Yes Men will need all of the backing they can get, financial and otherwise, to fight a lawsuit filed by the US Chamber of Commerce against the group for copyright and trademark infringement.

Last week the Yes Men staged a fake US Chamber of Commerce press conference to announce that the world’s largest business federation would reverse its previous denial of climate change.  Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, impersonated a representative of the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas J. Donohue, addressing a number of reporters who attended the event under the false pretense that it was an official briefing.  The Yes Men also created a fake US Chamber of Commerce website.  The media was, by and large, unaware that this was staged- Fox News interrupted programming to broadcast the phony announcement, and Reuters ran the press release as an authentic news item.  It’s hard not to laugh.

The Chamber filed the lawsuit in federal district court, complaining that “[these] acts are nothing less than commercial identity theft masquerading as social activism.”  Steve Law, chief legal counsel of the chamber, accused the Yes Men of “deliberately [breaking] the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise.”

The US Chamber of Commerce’s position on climate change is antiquated–  sustainability does not inhibit, but rather drives, business innovation and prosperity.  Denying the severity and imminence of climate change is not only ignorant, but self-destructive for an organization that champions the interests of business.  And it is losing some high profile constituents as result.  A number of large companies–such as PG&E, Nike, and Apple–have rescinded their membership, while many others have officially stated that the Chamber does not represent their views on climate change.

However, the Yes Men are treading a politically dangerous line.  Politics and culture wars are dirty enough, but introducing guerrilla impersonation warfare takes things to the next level.  It’s one thing to adopt a fictitious political persona for entertainment, or say, go to a Republican convention in political drag to gain material.  New Left Media employed such a covert strategy to capture revealing (and frankly scary) footage of the DC Tea Party in September.  But it’s a completely different ballgame when you impersonate real people or real organizations. The Yes Men claim this was an act of free speech, but it’s not hard to imagine how such a tactic would incite anger.

Nonetheless the Yes Men’s stunt, ethical or not, has drawn even more attention to the Chamber of Commerce’s ridiculous stance on climate change.  If this raises awareness and urgency for climate action, some will argue it was worth it.  Because the one thing we don’t have in the battle to stabilize global temperatures is time.

Carly has a BA from Stanford and recently finished her MBA in sustainable management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her interests revolve around sustainable food production, sports, renewable energy, finance, and sustainable business consulting. She lives in Oakland where she spends her spare time cycling, home brewing, gardening, cooking, and surfing (when she can make it over the bridge).

4 responses

  1. Well written and to the point. The question of whether or not the ends justifies the means in the effort to raise awareness and bring about the necessary actions to efficiently and morally deal with climate change and to change our collective behavior to reduce emissions and pollutants is an interesting one. I don’t condone breaking the law but it should be stated that throughout history groups of people have broken the law to make the world more just. Having an African American president is a stark reminder of the importance of facing the truth that not all laws are just, let alone intelligent.

    Either way I’m going to see the movie.

  2. The Chamber’s stance on climate change is not ridiculous. They oppose the Waxman-Markey bill because they feel that specific provisions will hurt American businesses, not because they are climate change deniers or oppose all climate legislation. They have several suggestions for how a more U.S. business friendly climate bill can be written. Read up on their stance on climate change on their website, not the blogosphere.

  3. I guess that the Chamber of Commerce never heard of the McLibel trial that McDonalds instigated against anti-McDonalds activists. The activists were acquitted on several counts, convicted on others. But the anti-McDonalds publicity continued for the several years of the trial and did much more damage than the original activism. Wonder if the Chamber of Commerce will avoid or make the mistake that McDonalds made.

  4. Don’t forget the light that the Yes Men have brought to the brain dead, knee-jerk media organizations that are supposed to be responsible journalists. This was not just an act of political satire, but satirizes our whole corporate/media/political culture. No one has the balls to speak truth anymore, just what will “play” (i.e. get air time). Go Yes Men! I am sorry for their looming court battle ahead, but I hope it gets dragged out for a very long time. It will just be an extension of the Yes Men’s satirical theater. Go Yes Men!

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