I did some work-related traveling this week, and I caught a snippet of the "Yes Men" movie (or show?), which features two merry pranksters who set up dummy websites, false identities, etc. in order to play pranks on evil corporations.
I came away very unimpressed, and even a bit disgusted.
One of their major pranks involved one of the Yes Men posing as a Dow lawyer, and setting up an interview with the BBC during which he announced that Dow would be offering a $12 billion settlement to survivors and family members of the 1984 Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal, India. This announcement, and the follow-up from Dow that it was in fact a hoax, has been well-documented on the Internet.
And as you might imagine, it temporarily raised -- and then crushed -- the spirits of thousands of the poor people in Bhopal, India that the Yes Men claim to champion. Ditto for the spoof HUD announcement about the re-opening of a New Orleans housing project condemned after Hurricane Katrina.
Of course, the Yes Men spun that by saying they were really helping those people by pointing out world injustices...and then manipulated their own film by showing clips of people in Bhopal and New Orleans saying what a great thing the Yes Men had done.
Great for whom? Sounds like it was great for the Yes Men, but bad for HUD, bad for Dow, but more importantly, bad for the people of Bhopal and New Orleans.
A lot of this stuff seems to be going around. I haven't seen the new Sacha Baron-Cohen movie featuring "Bruno" (though I know I will at some point), but I did see enough of Borat to eventually get frustrated at the way Baron-Cohen continually sets up ridiculous situations in order to portray Americans as backwards, racist, ignorant pigs. It gets a bit tiresome, and I have no doubt that Baron-Cohen uses clever splicing to prove his *points* just as Michael Moore does in all of his films. (Most notably, and regrettably, when Moore *proves* that the U.S. news media portrays people of color as criminals by repeatedly looping in local news clips that refer to non-white suspects by race...does anyone not see right through that?)
In any event, I just want to come out and strongly show my opposition to any kind of "Gotcha" used for political purposes. It's underhanded, it's manipulative, and the people who do it would be the first to cry foul were the shoe on the other foot.
For the record, that's totally different from anonymous blog posts and comments, which has been a very hot topic lately in the local blogosphere. Being anonymous, with or without an identifiable handle, is a conscious choice that I respect (with the only caveat that anonymity could be easily compromised, even by someone meaning no harm). A 'Gotcha' would be something like one writer or commenter posing as another in order to prove some type of point --- it seems like that would scarily easy to do, as celebrities keep finding out via Twitter and Facebook impersonations and wild rumors that follow.