A couple of weeks ago in class we discussed the Bush website lookalike–how a man bought a few domain names and made a website that closely resembled the official George Bush website and transformed it to completely ridicule him. Professor Lamb showed us how easy it is to access the codes for websites in order to copy certain layouts and designs. As we read in Hack Attacks and Electronic Civil Disobedience “hacktivism” is not terrorism but rather a means for social change and peaceful civil disobedience. Not only is there the famous George Bush website example but there have been other forms of very effective online media disobediences that have been virtual acts of nonviolence in protest against politics or a certain agenda. Funnily enough George Bush as a response said that there should be a limit to freedom—this statement certainly did not positively affect his popularity.

The documentary we watched in class Yes Men explores not only electronic civil disobedience and hack attacks, but also taking it to the next level. Two guys, Mike and Andy, create fake websites and take on fake identities to falsely represent powerful companies and people. These hoaxes are meant to help promote social change. In their pursuit to fix the world they make a fake website for the company Dow chemical company that had a disastrous gas leek in Bhopal 20 years previously. Mike and Andy secured an interview with the BBC as representatives of Dow and made a statement to the world saying Dow would compensate the people of Bhopal financially. Was this a cruel act to play giving the people of Bhopal false hope? Although drastic, Dow did lose a lot of money on the market for this hoax and gained a lot of negative publicity. Not only that but the response in the market clearly showed that cleaning up one’s tracks reflects negatively in the capitalist system and just shows the disgustingly flawed system of capitalism filled with private property and ownership. Mike and Andy’s hoaxes were very creative and demonstrates how an idea can be portrayed to a large audience through tricks in the media. What the documentary does not fully demonstrate however is just how much impact these hoaxes had. As a viewer I wanted to know more about the effect of going to such means to prove a point and how does the world react besides solely becoming “aware” of the issue?

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One response »

  1. cmaas3882 says:

    Your last question points to the importance of complementing tactical media efforts, like those of the Yes Men, with strategic media efforts as a way to carry through the shock value towards real change. While awareness of an issue is a first, important step, participant and engagement cannot be achieved without more in-depth planning.

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