Yes Man against Dow Chemical

Dow bought Union Carbide in 2001, and with it the legacy of the Bhopal catastrophe. Dow claims the company inherited no liabilities for the Bhopal disaster, but the victims aren’t buying it, and have continued to fight Dow to have an economic compensation. That’s a heavy cross to bear for a multinational company; perhaps it’s no wonder Dow can’t quite face the truth. The Yes Men decided, in November 2002, to help them do so by explaining exactly why Dow can’t do anything for the Bhopalis: they aren’t shareholders. To do so, the Yes Man created a fake website imitating the Dow Chemical style,

Two years later, in late November 2004, an invitation arrived to the 2002 website, neglected since. BBC World Television wanted a Dow representative to discuss the company’s position on the 1984 Bhopal tragedy in the year of its 20th anniversary. So a “Dow representative” “Jude Finisterra” (a Yes Man playing this role) went on BBC World TV to announce that the company was finally going to compensate the victims and clean up the mess in Bhopal. The story shot around the world, much to the chagrin of Dow, who briefly disavowed any responsibility as per policy. The Yes Men again helped Dow be clearer about their feelings.

Dow took two hours to notice xhqt was going on; the full interview therefore ran twice, and for two hours the story was the top item on CNN reported a Dow stock loss of 2 billion dollars on the German exchange. After Dow noted emphatically that it was not in fact going to do right by those non-shareholders in Bhopal, the retraction remained the top Google story for the rest of the day.

After two hours, Dow expressed itself more fully by mailing out a more formal retraction: “Dow will NOT commit ANY funds to compensate and treat 120,000 Bhopal residents who require lifelong care…. Dow will NOT clean up the Bhopal plant site…. Dow’s sole and unique responsibility is to its shareholders, and Dow CANNOT do anything that goes against its bottom line unless forced to by law.” For a while, this became the top story on

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