Yes Men Hijinks: Protected Speech or “True” Lies
Isn’t the First Amendment right to free speech wonderful? Many people would say so. On the other hand, Chevron probably hates this freedom applies to the Yes Men also.
Chevron suffered at the hands of yet another Yes Men hijink. One would think companies would be prepared for these guys after the stunt they pulled with Dow Chemical. Nevertheless, Chevron’s new PR campaign was hacked and re-done by the anti-capitalist group.
The fake advertisement above was accompanied by a fictional press release and website. That alone is scary. What’s even more frightening is the fake campaign’s similarities to the real “We Agree” Campaign. These guys put a lot of work into this.
Opinion is protected under the First Amendment regardless it is true or not. Though the amendment does not protect harmful speech (damaging to one’s reputation), People still have a right to say what they feel when they feel like it, especially about public figures and big companies. Their really isn’t much protection for these entities. In order to prove defamation and slander one must prove actual malice, which in my opinion, is dang near impossible. Trust and believe, The Yes Men know this too.
In the FAQ portion of their website, the group answers this question, “Can I get in trouble for this stuff?” Their answer summarizes their understanding of the consequences that could come. “Almost certainly! But we, at least, haven’t figured out how to do it yet (yesmen.org).” They also warn their victims not to sue with a reference to the McLibel trial. It is obvious they are willing to go the extra mile to fulfill their mission.
According to their website, The Yes Men are dedicated to “Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else, (theyesmen.org).” Though big corporations may not like their methods, the guys are able to back up at least some of their arguments with facts.
Founder of Reel Green Media Lauren Selman validates the Yes Men’s concerns about Chevron and their Ecuadorian Drilling practices. Chevron drilled in Ecuador for three decades. Selman compared the drilling to the BP Spill and asked her readers to imagine a spill of that magnitude happening for 30 years. Ecuadorians have sued Chevron for the eviromental hazards they caused, but have not been successful. Selman quotes Amazon Watch to summarize Chevron’s actions.
“Chevron has used legal maneuvers and smear tactics to delay and disrupt the Ecuadorian trial, drain the resources of the plaintiffs, and deny justice to thousands of people in the Amazon region of Ecuador who continue to suffer from the oil giant’s toxic legacy (huffingtonpost.com).”
As with any group, people should check all the facts before believing anything. Though a group may seem credible, any group is capable of stretching the truth to get others to belive them. Don’t politicians do this stuff all the time?
Ethically, the Yes Men should not have sent out these fake ads without attribution. Yet, they would most likely claim their ethical approach aligns with the communitarian model of ethics. In their eyes they are doing what is best for the people suffering from big business practices.
There is a fine line between malicious actions and satire, but both expressions are protected. Either way, all the companies can do is be very transparent about their business practices. Maybe, this will extinguish some of the fire behind the Yes Men’s arguments. What do you think?