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By Andy Bichlbaum on Dec 4 2013 - 6:46pm Tagged:

(Or: "Exposed: Hapless Yes Men Played for Fools by Sneaky Serbian Stooge")

 

Carl Gibson and Steve Horn’s misleading and poorly researched story—about the links between Srdja Popovic, cofounder of Otpor! and CANVAS, and a crappy corporate spy outfit named Stratfor—does no one any good.

Stratfor is evil, and Jeremy Hammond went to jail exposing them. Some of Popovic's choices—from talking to Stratfor in the first place, to working with activists in Venezuela to unseat a democratically-elected leader—can legitimately be called into question.

But yellow journalism, like conspiracy theorizing, does a disservice to those with such concerns. By making unfounded allegations about Popovic's involvement with Stratfor, by claiming without justification that he shared activists' info before gaining their consent, and by puzzlingly giving far disproportionate weight to the idiotic assertions of Stratfor operatives, Gibson and Horn's story not only unjustly trashes one of our most effective and inspiring activists, but caters to perhaps the worst tendency of the Left: taking refuge in shallow paranoia and conspiracy theories rather than asking the really hard questions—and doing the really hard work.

* * *

The title of Gibson and Horn's story begins in typical breathless yellow-journalism fashion: “Exposed.” Actually, not: an article in Waging Nonviolence had already thoughtfully and clearly addressed the Popovic-Stratfor connection more than a week before. In fact, that article could easily serve as a post-dated retort to Gibson and Horn’s piece, as it addresses most of their “points.”

The story in brief:

A 1990s-era friend of Popovic’s named Marko Papic went to work for Stratfor, which pretends to be a media outfit but actually specializes in selling the lowest-grade, laziest intelligence imaginable to corporations stupid enough to pay for it. (Here is our own rather breathless release about Stratfor's "spying" on us.)

Thanks to Papic, Stratfor invited Popovic to come give a talk at their offices in Austin, Texas. They covered his travel costs and gave him a $500 honorarium, which is what he typically charges those who can pay. (He doesn't charge activist groups or established media outlets.)

Popovic, perhaps mistaking Stratfor for actual analysts, continued to correspond with the Stratfor people, and, when they asked, gave them information on how popular movements work—which the Stratfor people didn’t take, perhaps not surprisingly given the radical nature of those ideas.

Popovic also put activists in touch with Stratfor—always, Popovic says, with the consent of the activists.

"Some people speak as if activists are a rare and fragile species living under glass jars," Popovic says. "But the activists I know did not become the world's top activists by living in jars.

"In the case of the Egyptian revolution—which the U.S. did not support—I did put the April 6 people in touch with Stratfor. Stratfor was approximately the tenth organization I put them in touch with. Six months before that, in exactly the same manner, I had put them in touch with Al Jazeera, resulting in 'Seeds of Change,' one of the most important pieces about the revolution.

"Should I have been concerned with what Stratfor is? Probably. But I'm sure the people in Egypt were spied upon by much more serious organizations—just as I was under Milosevic."

* * *

Popovic's interactions with Stratfor seem pretty obviously innocuous on a casual perusal of the Stratfor emails released last month by Wikileaks. But the theory that Gibson and Horn prefer to relate, against all evidence, is a much more exciting and perhaps more emotionally satisfying one. In their version, Popovic is employed by Stratfor to help US interests, and to help Stratfor spy on activists on behalf of corporations and governments; also, he is funded by Goldman Sachs and is as powerful as a battle cruiser. They achieve these conclusions mainly through a seemingly purposeful sloppiness.

For example, when Gibson and Horn add the Yes Men to the list of entities that Popovic helped Stratfor to spy on, they do it through a kind of juxtaposition that seems to be their stock in trade. After reeling out a laundry list of countries, including Egypt, whose activists Popovic supposedly compromised, the authors recount how Gibson and I met Popovic back in April 2011 and "gave Popovic information about both groups’ plans for the coming year and news later came out that Stratfor closely monitored the Yes Men’s activities."

There is obviously no connection between our meeting with Popovic and Stratfor’s spying on the Yes Men (which was very far indeed from “close monitoring”). As Gibson and Horn know very well, Stratfor had already “spied” on us for quite a long time—several years before Gibson and I met with Popovic that day in 2011. Their purposeful juxtaposition, however, leaves an entirely different impression.

Gibson and Horn also seem to give total credence to anything that Stratfor staffers say, no matter how silly. They quote Papic saying that CANVAS “basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;)”—a phrase which manages to be patently false on several counts; CANVAS have in fact worked with activists from at least some 40 or 50 countries, many with movements that do not at all line up with US interests. Gibson and Horn also quote Papic ludicrously saying that CANVAS “just go and set up shop in a country and try to bring the government down. When used properly, more powerful than an aircraft carrier battle group.” A ridiculous statement, but by quoting it uncritically, the authors seem to be saying that Stratfor employs CANVAS to do just that.

When Gibson and Horn assert that Popovic is funded by a Goldman Sachs executive, how do they know? The speculation of Stratfor staffers.

Why do Gibson and Horn systematically take Stratfor's word over that of Popovic (whom they interviewed but hardly quoted), and quote Stratfor's emails as fact, even though at many points the Stratfor analysts acknowledge their conclusions are speculative or that they don't have hard evidence? Any other time, activists would critique and try to debunk Stratfor—yet Gibson and Horn choose to take them at their word, however obviously unreliable that word may be.

At one point Gibson and Horn state that Popovic penned for Stratfor a report on how to unseat Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, even though Popovic told them explicitly in an interview that he drafted the report with Venezuelan activists, for activists, and with the knowledge from the outset that it would be made public and available for anyone to read, including governments or Stratfor. One can disagree with the very idea of working to unseat a democratically elected leader like Chavez, but the broad misrepresentations of Gibson and Horn's article do nothing to further this—or any other—discussion.

* * *

Gibson interviewed me twice by phone for his article and I also wrote him extensively by email about how they were barking up the wrong tree—but nothing I said appeared in the article. Popovic told me he also wrote a six-page response to Gibson's interview questions, including much that challenged the article's narrative, but the authors chose to exclude him as well, except for a one-off quote at the end that they quickly dismiss.

Was this shoddily-researched, nearly logic-free article custom-made to be divisive and sow discord, in the style of COINTELPRO, the FBI's '60s-era program aimed at discrediting and disrupting domestic political organizations? Or do Gibson and Horn just want to make a name for themselves at the expense of the truth and the reputation of a well-respected activist?

Perhaps. But there's another factor in all this, that could make it even more damaging: the predilection for conspiracy theorizing that besets a lazy segment of the Left.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Wikileaks released a number of leaked texts mentioning 9/11. Julian Assange told me he expected the 9/11 truthers to go nuts and examine it all with a fine-toothed comb, and that he was quite disappointed when they didn’t. As Assange has written, “I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11, when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud.” (Such statements have earned Wikileaks the status of CIA plot in the nuttosphere.)

The problem is, like yellow journalists, 9/11 "truthers" aren’t actually interested in the truth; rather, they need the WTC towers to have been knocked down by our government. They need the Bush administration to have been, against every last shred of formal and informal evidence, incredibly competent, and to have planned 9/11 and then miraculously kept the evidence so hidden that no experts of any stature at all would ever support it.

* * *

As Assange notes, if you actually want to fight a conspiracy, there’s a whole smorgasbord to choose from. There’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a highly secretive and expansive free trade agreement that few people know about. There’s a Russian-Dutch partnership to exploit the Arctic. There’s ongoing COINTELPRO-style police surveillance of activists. There’s the Republican conspiracy to scuttle Obamacare. And the biggest one of all: the oil companies' conspiracy to make sure their value doesn't disappear.

The real powers arrayed against us are much, much more frightening than Stratfor. But it's easier to spin crackpot ideas, or to "expose" supposed plots between activists and corporate-spy charlatans, than to organize against the TPP, oil companies, or those trying to destroy Obamacare. Conspiracy theorizing not only offers an evil father to those who need one, it offers a much higher chance of personal glory if you should happen to be right—or even if not. (Gibson and Horn's article has already been widely reprinted, and they're even starting to appear on television.)

Real conspiracies are daunting, hard to deal with, and offer few opportunities for journalists to make a name for themselves. Gibson and Horn can do better. Let's stop looking for fake conspiracies amongst our activist allies, and get back to taking on the real conspiracy—global capitalism—that's destroying the planet.

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By mary@yeslab.org on Dec 4 2013 - 9:13am Tagged:

Dear World People:

Last week, esteemed colleague President Obama sent you email asking you to seed Yes Men group with cash.

Russia wishes to hereby erect our opposition. Like the Netherlands, Russia is well-endowed member of international oil community. But Yes Men hooligans make fun of Russia/Dutch coupling with stupid bear puppet in Amsterdam. That is gay to not only Russia, but to whole Netherlands people too.

Russia is like real and extremely large and strong bear: Moscow at head, paws on Middle East, wild Arctic at rear. Dutch come to help Russia thrust deep and hard to tame that rear for all Man's benefit. Yes Men try to stop us, but limp fake bearhood is no match for firm real manhood of Russia and Netherlands ganging together.

Do not support Yes Men. If you do, we treat each of your country's Sochi Olympics visitors just like we do with Greenpeace boat hooligans: we knock them up in jail.

In some heat already,

 

 

 

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By mary@yeslab.org on Nov 29 2013 - 1:19pm Tagged:

Dear Valued Customer,

Our prices are so low, our customers are killing each other. At Walmart, we care, which is why we’ve created this Black Friday Survival Guide and coupon. Please share it with anyone whose survival matters to you or to someone you know.

Wishing you safe and happy holidays for years to come.

 

Tired of the same old routine? Consider donating to the Yes Lab so together we can make the holiday culture slightly less stupid.

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By mary@yeslab.org on Nov 26 2013 - 12:36pm Tagged: Barack Obama

 

 

Dear the American People,

Things are tough for me at the moment; as you may know, the website for my health care plan had a big glitch.

If I were my predecessor, I'd order a full-scale attack on Webistan. Fortunately Webistan doesn't exist, so I've just had to deal.

Dealing is hard. But I know in my heart that despite this glitch, and even if there are additional glitches, we will one day in this country have a health care system even better than Cuba's.

How do I stay optimistic? Simple: as a one-time community organizer, I know that even when actions don't achieve miracles right out the door, the overall movement does often succeed. Even glitches can play a part in the triumph.

Take, for example, that raggedy group of anti-corporate weirdos, the Yes Men.

In 2009, the Yes Men and friends impersonated the US Chamber of Commerce to announce that the Chamber was no longer opposing climate legislation. A real Chamber rep barged in the door; the ensuing melee resulted in tons of hilarious media coverage–and even more when the Chamber sued the Yes Men.

But so what? Well, two weeks after this action, the Chamber really did reverse its opposition. As my colleague Al Gore noted at the time, the Chamber's about-face was "not courtesy of the Yes Men"–—but their action was part of the wave that forced it to happen!

Shortly after that action, the Yes Men formed the Yes Lab and have worked with a number of groups to pull off high-profile media actions around the groups' goals. None of those actions changed the world by itself. Some merely put the issue front and center for a few minutes, others for a few hours. Some of them even had website glitches as bad as mine. Yet most of the movements these actions were a part of succeeded!

Shell's Arctic drilling program ended up failing, thanks to nature and Shell's own incompetence. Monsanto's GMO corn was banned in Mexico. New York City’s courts found Stop and Frisk policing unconstitutional, despite Bloomberg.

So, movements can succeed. Isn't that comforting? It suggests that we, too, could one day succeed at achieving a level of health care for all Americans that's currently afforded only the wealthy, or prisoners—no matter how many glitches my website may currently have.

The Yes Men prove it. Which is why you should support them as lavishly as you possibly can.

Thank you,


Barack Obama
44th President of the United States

PS: I was proud to present the Yes Men with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Pics below:

 

 

Please help out my friends. They need all the help they can get.


 

 

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By Richelle on Nov 22 2013 - 12:10pm Tagged:

We all know the facts: the sixth greatest mass extinction in Earth's history is already underway—and this time it's all our fault. We all know about rising sea levels, epic floods and hurricanes, wildly fluctuating temperatures, and ever-more-deadly droughts. We know that bad things are happening, and we know that the people causing the mess are profiting from it immensely, while the poorest people are getting hurt most.

In the face of these facts, it's no wonder we're often paralyzed. The scale of the unfolding disaster is simply too huge to stomach. And after a hard day at work, listening to more dire warnings has about as much appeal as sliding down the proverbial razor blade, and just sends us further into bewildered hopelessness.  

At the Yes Lab, we use humor to help journalists and other people talk about difficult issues that matter a lot—like "free" trade, global capitalism, and now the end of a livable planet. On that last theme, we mostly use humor to focus attention on the real criminals, the companies that are making off like the bandits they are.  
 

At its best, humor can break through the general paralysis and get more people to join the movement for climate justice. Humor can be a Trojan horse for important, mobilizing messages that don't qualify as news in today's corrupt media environment. Jokes aren't ends in themselves, but they can be important ingredients for bigger campaigns, drawing attention to critical facts without much of the preachiness that sometimes turns people off.

Our upcoming movie focuses on our recent climate actions, and includes an inspiring personal story that is geared to get audiences acting for change. And with our soon-to-be-launched Action Switchboard, accessing tools, guidance, and partners for brand-new actions will have never been easier.
 

We rely on our savvy, brilliant, and generous network to keep this stuff going. So please, if you can, help keep the Yes Lab afloat!

For every dollar up to $75,000 we raise between now and Dec. 31, Kindle Project will match every dollar with a whole other one. That's two dollars for one! So if you haven't given yet, please do. And if you have (thanks!), please urge your friends to do the same.

Thanks for your support,

Andy
 


This is reason #2 to support the Yes Lab, out of a total of 8. If you can't donate financially, you can still help us by sharing this campaign with your friends. You can email it, tweet about it with @theyesmen and we'll retweet you, and/or Facebook about it and tag the Yes Men or The Yes Men Are Revolting.

 

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By mary@yeslab.org on Nov 19 2013 - 10:57am Tagged:
 

RSVP

Thursday November 21, 6pm
 
Daniel Hunter relates a rare first hand account of the movement to keep casinos out of Philadelphia. Outspent by hundreds of millions of dollars, up against powerful elected officials, private investigators, thugs, and the supreme court, this riveting David versus Goliath story gives unparalleled access to the behind-the-scenes of campaigns: the fervent worrying in late-night meetings, yelling matches behind church benches, and last-minute action planning outside judges' chambers. It's in the heat of these moments that the nuances of strategy come to life, showing what it takes to overpower billionaires for a cause you believe in.
 
For more info or to buy the book, join us on Facebook and go to http://www.strategyandsoul.org/
 
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Daniel Hunter is a direct action organizer and trainer with Training for Change where he trains activists in experiential methodology and campaign strategy. His new book, Strategy & Soul: a campaigner's tale of fighting billionaires, corrupt officials, and Philadelphia casinos, is a David versus Goliath story of the campaign to keep casinos out of Philadelphia. He has been published in We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America and in Beautiful Trouble: A toolbox for revolution
 
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Support for this series is provided by
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By Richelle on Nov 15 2013 - 12:06pm Tagged:

Reason #1: The Yes Lab is Revolting

 

Give now to defeat evil

 

In the last twenty years, we Yes Men have taken on some of the world’s nastiest corporate criminals, using harmless lies to expose some really harmful stuff. We founded the Yes Lab in 2009 to train others in our no-holds-barred approach to fighting the bad guys.

 

It's been successful—so successful that we'll be scaling up dramatically in 2014 with the Action Switchboard, which we'll launch off the back of our upcoming film. Together, these are designed to get thousands of people out of their seats and into the streets, giving them the motivation, tools, and community to act for change. Truly revolting.

So prepare yourself for some extra doses of meaningful mischief in the coming years… but only if we can get the financial support we need right now.

 

Some of the Yes Lab's recent successes include:

 

 

Naturally, we didn't do this all on our own. At the Yes Lab, we use humor to hijack media and provide a surge of attention for a crucial cause at just theright moment. At our best, we push existing campaigns over the edge. None of that would be possible without the work of the organizers and activists we partner with.

 

Here’s the thing: this work takes relatively little money, but it does take some. As our organization grows, we are able to do more and more actions and trainings. We will soon need to increase our capacity, which may mean hiring new staff to tackle the many intricacies of our blossoming non-profit. We rely on you to make this work possible—any amount helps.

 

Thanks for your support!

 

From all of us here at Yes Lab

 
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By mary@yeslab.org on Nov 11 2013 - 10:58pm Tagged:

UPDATE 12/31/13: Kindle Project has generously extended the deadline of their match until January 17th! 

The Yes Lab needs your help! 
And there's this incredible catch: If we raise $75,000 before December 31, Kindle Project will match it dollar for dollar. No joke. Click here to contribute.

The wealthy villains we’re up against exploit people to make huge profits. But we rely on the generosity of our incredible Yes community to expose corporate crimes against humanity and the environment.

Find more reasons to support the Yes Lab here.
 
Get your friends to contribute too! Email it—personal endorsements from you are the most effective! Tweet about the campaign with @theyesmen and we'll retweet you. Facebook about it and tag The Yes Men or The Yes Men Are Revolting pages.
 
Thanks for your support!
 
Team Yes Lab
 
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PS - You can also donate by check! Make it out to The Yes Lab with this note in the memo: Yes Lab Year End Campaign. Mail it to:
 
Yes Lab, Hemispheric Institute
30 Cooper Square, 5th Fl.
New York, NY 10003
 

 
 
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By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 30 2013 - 10:59am Tagged: Project: SaveCanada

Sept. 30, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pipeline Company's PR Dream Turns Into a Nightmare
TransCanada's "community consultation" squad dogged by activist lookalikes

In towns across Canada, troupes of mischievous activists are successfully derailing the attempts of TransCanada—the company building the stalled Keystone XL pipeline—to ram through their latest proposed project, the Energy East pipeline, which would bring over a million barrels of Tar Sands oil to the East Coast for export, primarily to Europe and Asia.

During previous pipeline projects, stakeholders were able to express concerns in front of their whole community. To impede the type of opposition that has stalled past projects, this time TransCanada has changed the format of community consultations, turning them into trade-show-like promotional events where stakeholders can only speak one-on-one with company representatives (or PR contractors hired for the occasion).

To outwit this latest ploy by TransCanada, local activists all along the pipeline route have been swarming these events dressed just like TransCanada reps, but with lookalike "SaveCanada" name tags and brochures. Instead of promoting the pipeline, the SaveCanada reps communicate risks.

"Since TransCanada has come up with a new way to lie to the public, we had to come up with a new way to tell the truth," said North Bay farmer Yan Roberts, who helped to launch the unusual protest. "We're friendly folks, so our solution is to dress like them, outnumber them, and 'out-friendly' them in every community they're trying to scam."

The series of SaveCanada actions began at TransCanada's open house in North Bay, where roughly 30 TransCanada reps were surprised to see their meeting overwhelmed by newcomers wearing nearly identical shirts and also carrying slick PR materials, but with a twist.

Now, ten other towns have orchestrated their own versions of the prank. When TransCanada came to the Montréal area on September 24, members of the Québécois SaveCanada counterpart, "SansTransCanada," nearly outnumbered the TransCanada reps. A Global TV segment even identified a SansTransCanada activist as a TransCanada rep.

The Montréal SaveCanada action came to a carnivalesque conclusion when attendees were invited to play "pin the bitumen spill on the pipeline" and a crowd formed around TransCanda's large route map to see where the sticky-note spill would end up.

NASA's James Hansen has said of the Keystone XL pipeline that, if built, it will be "game over" for the climate. This is truer still for the Energy East pipeline, as it's designed to carry a greater volume. The new pipeline also threatens the local communities in its path with inevitable leaks.

"In the next few weeks TransCanada is holding more of these so-called 'consultations,' and we are looking forward to seeing them derailed by every community they hope to fool." said Roberts. "Then we'll see what they try next, and we'll derail that, too."

Upcoming TransCanada "consultations" are scheduled in: Saint-Honoré-de-Témiscouata, Québec (Oct. 1); Kemptville, Ontario and St-Onésime-d'Ixworth, Québec (October 2); Montmagny, Québec and Horton, Ontario (Oct. 3); and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada's capital city (Oct. 10). To help derail one of these events, please visit www.save-canada.com.

"Companies may try to invent new ways to fool people, but citizens will always be more powerful because we care more," said Shona Watt, a local organizer of the Montréal SaveCanada/SansTransCanada action. "What's guaranteed is that, ultimately, people will win."

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 16 2013 - 1:50pm Tagged: Project: SaveCanada

O Canada! SaveCanada needs mischievous folks in Ontario and Quebec to stop TransCanada's latest Tar Sands pipeline—by dressing up and talking to people over the next three weeks! Visit www.save-canada.com for full details and to join, to watch the video, and for an account of one action.

Email hello@save-canada.com or visit save-canada.com to join up!

As you may know, TransCanada is now planning another pipeline, this one sending oodles of tar sands crud east.

This time, they're employing a special new tactic to bypass the opposition that's stalled two other pipelines (south and west): instead of holding a town hall, which lets citizens see how many other folks are concerned, they've switched to a trade-show format where an army of TransCanada reps can limit questions and conversations to a one-on-one level. The result: folks don't get to see how widespread the opposition is in their own community.

When TransCanada came to one Canadian town to promote their new pipeline, a group of locals took action: they made outfits and handouts nearly identical to TransCanada's own, but branded as "SaveCanada." At the event, they spoke with citizens about risks, handed out pamphlets, pinned "bitumen spill" stickies on TransCanada's big pipeline map, and otherwise ruined TransCanada's plans. Connections were made, people were empowered, and a town, once paralyzed, blossomed into a powerful and mobilized community.

Now, citizens from all over Canada (especially Ontario and Quebec) are invited to join SaveCanada over the next three weeks and disrupt all the rest of TransCanada's "Open Houses."

Email hello@save-canada.com or visit save-canada.com to join up!

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