Do you live in the United States? Would you like to lead a postering team in your community, to wheat-paste some of these posters all over the place?
As you're probably aware, Chevron has been doing everything it can to avoid justice in Ecuador. They imagine they can cover up their crimes with slick PR campaigns. We think spreading these much-improved posters, making them visible on the street to the public at large (not just on the internet), could be one small step towards building the public pressure needed to force Chevron to compensate their many victims.
If you'd like to lead a postering team (and leaders is what it'll need, if it's to happen), please write to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15th, and Linda from RAN will follow up with you directly. In your email, we'd love it if you could answer these questions:
Have you organized folks before? If so, tell us about it. If not, that's okay, Linda will be more than happy to help you get going.
Why do you want to lead activists in your community?
Why do you want to get involved in this or other campaigns?
Where do you live?
Also, please feel free to email with any questions, or call Linda at 415-659-0534.
Postering is only the very first step. This campaign will need to do a whole lot in the months ahead, and we'll need leaders to make that happen. Also, this step will help us identify potential leaders for future Yes Lab projects. Please consider becoming one!
It's really important that Chevron be held accountable for its pollution in Ecuador - that will send a message to all big corporations that they can no longer poison communities with impunity.
Onwards! Your friends at the Yes Men and RAN
Note: This is mainly for folks who live in the U.S., where Chevron is from. If you live in a big city, RAN or the Yes Men will be able to send you local folks for street teams. If you live in a small town and want to be a leader, you should email anyhow - there's still a way. If you live in the countryside or the wilderness, well... we're jealous!
After Chevron's PR disaster, RAN, AmazonWatch and the Yes Lab decided to push it further, and enlist the public's help in making sure Chevron couldn't sweep Ecuador under their greenwashed rug. The result? ChevronThinksWereStupid.org.
It’s now time to take this a whole lot further, and wheat-paste your favorites everywhere. Everyone needs to wonder: “What's this whole Chevron thing about, anyhow?”
Click here for full instructions. We know this is a tall order, but as you know, it's important. And if one eight-foot giant could take over the world, surely all of us can! (Incidentally, there are awesome prizes for those who wheat-paste the most copies, as well as for those who figure out the coolest places to put up an ad.)
If nocturnal stealth and derring-do aren’t your style, here’s another way you can mess with Chevron, right from the comfort of your own home, or during your coffee break:
Call or email Chevron. (See below. When you find other numbers that don't go to voicemail, please send them and we'll update this page!) Make sure to record your call.
Chevron switchboard: 1-925-842-1000 or 1-925-218-3825.
Send us your phone conversation or email correspondence. There will be prizes for different categories of funny: funny repartee, most heated funny, funny confusion, nonsensical funny, and longest exchange.
The main point is to make something funny that people will share around widely. (It's also great to occupy a bunch of Chevron's time.) Here are just a few ideas foropeners for phone calls or emails, to get your creative juices flowing:
“Dear Chevron: Your usage of the ‘Gollum’ character is an infringement of the rights of New Line Cinema. We hereby demand that you cease and desist from any and all misleading P.R. operations that involve the use of ‘Gollum’ or related trademarks. Yours truly, GreenbergTraurig, LLP”
“Hi Chevron, I’m a 94-year-old grandmother from Plano, Texas, and I just wanted to say I don’t think your Hitler ad is really appropriate for small children.”
“Dear Chevron: We commend you on your compassionate visual treatment of sea fowl. We can haz, indeed. Thanks.”
“Hey Chevron! I love your new ad campaign. Would you consider making a ‘We Agree’ poster for [insert issue here]?”
“My dearest Chevron: My church, acting as one, wish to commend you on your wonderful ad, ‘Oil Companies Should End The Wars They Helped Start.’ Your sentiment is noble, and the ad itself so very well conceived. May God bless you all.”
“Dear Chevron, Thank you for pointing out that bicycles are no panacea. It is also very smart to point out that wind power has a few drawbacks. Best, Alternative Energy Watch, San Ramon Chapter”
“Chevron: We wish to commend you for noting that although it is difficult to prove that God does not exist, this does not, nevertheless, prove that God does. You have some new fans at the Tuscaloosa County Atheist Association.”
“Yo Chevron. As a longtime shareholder, I am appalled that you would equate money with the proverbial ‘middle finger’ expression.”
“Dear Chevron: Your endorsement of Sarah Palin for President in 2012 does not fall on deaf ears. Just as Palin sees much from her windows, so we see Palin from ours. Best, Wasilla County GOP”
“Chevron: I think your ad, ‘Corporate tanks stop for no one,’ sends the wrong message. That Chinese tank actually did stop for the man in the photo, at least briefly.”
Anyhow, you get the idea... Whether you choose to mess with Chevron in the streets or from your phone, let us know how it goes!
Note: With the newly-launched Yes Lab, the Yes Men are helping a number of activist groups launch projects around crucial issues. Soon, this will mean a lot more opportunities for you to be involved—whether locally, in a specific cool action in your city, or by joining forces with thousands of others in all kinds of different places to do something fun and important, like this. To make sure you get the right messages, please take a moment to update your profile at www.theyesmen.org/join.
It's very simple, really - just go out and wheat-paste those improved Chevron ads wherever you can, and try to take pictures of each. Contest ends December 1, but we hope you keep it up indefinitely. (See also this for another, easier contest.)
Choose your favorite printable ones (with a little printer icon), and download and print, at any size and in any quantity. (You can of course make new ads instead of downloading ones that exist. Make sure to submit them to the contest if you do! If you’ve already submitted and you can send a higher-res version, please email it to us!)
Larger sizes will get more points. Stickers will get 1-2 points, 8.5”x11” sheets will get 3 points, billboards will get a huge number of points, etc.
Cool locations will get more points. Like, if you manage to get an ad onto each pump at a Chevron gas station, or onto a podium while some oil industry wonk is holding forth, or onto the back of a real Chevron manager’s suit jacket while he’s not looking, or onto a board member’s house, or... you get the idea. But just getting them under a bridge is great too! (You might want to videotape your action - it might just make it into our next film, which is about shit like this.)
Try to get an ad printed in your local paper - that counts as a really cool location! The sky’s the limit.
Try to take a snapshot of each poster after you’ve pasted it up. Then:
Just twitpic your photos with the hashtag #weagree and #wepaste, and send us an email telling us that you did, so that we have your email and can reward you when the time comes.
Chevron's plan for the “We Agree” offensive was first leaked to Amazon Watch over a month ago, when ecologist blogger Lauren Selman received a casting call to appear in one of Chevron's new split-screen television ads. Selman used the information she gathered to help Amazon Watch, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Yes Men pre-empt Chevron's insulting PR campaign. (Read Selman's blog post here.)
Another leak came shortly after, when Chevron's ad agency, McGarryBowen, asked DC street artist César Maxit if he could help wheat-paste the new Chevron posters. Instead, Maxit sent the Chevron files to the Rainforest Action Network and helped build their campaign. (See video here.)
The activists' continuing efforts are ensuring that Chevron's PR strategy backfires severely, as media continues to highlight Chevron's poor environmental and human rights record. That's exactly the point, say the activists: to raise public awareness around Chevron's abuses in Ecuador and elsewhere, and ultimately force Chevron to do something about them.
Coming soon: a billboard alteration kit for making Chevron's real-world “We Agree” ads better, an automagical “We Agree” poster generator, online resources for producing video parodies, and more! The contest will end in late November, and voting on entries will begin next week. Very special prizes will soon be announced.
Thanks to all who have submitted print ads so far! We've been getting some great ones. Keep 'em coming, and make sure to twitter with #weagree. Entries will be posted next week.
If you saw our last press release, you'll know that in the last few days we have been working with Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Amazon Watch on a campaign that spoofs Chevron's idiotic new greenwashing campaign. It's been working: search on Chevron in the news and all you get is our spoof. $50 million spent to keep our eyes off Chevron's dirt... and it all just went down the drain!
Now it's time to make sure that "the era of greenwashing is over," as TheAtlantic says, flatteringly but over-optimistically - by making sure the laughter doesn't stop.
If you're game, study Chevron's real "We Agree" campaign (the print version you can see in newspapers and soon on bus shelters, etc., and also on the web and on TV). Figure out the funniest mashups, image swaps, collages, rewrites, or remixes of their print, web, and/or TV productions. Mock them up, paste them up, post them up and send them on to email@example.com (by email, via a yousendit-type program, or what have you)! We'll put them on a new website next week and get that out to the press.
(New!) We're also calling for alterations of any “We Agree” ads in public places. If you see a “We Agree” poster or billboard, alter it and send us the photograph. Best alteration wins a prize! Also, help us create a “billboard alteration kit”—a readymade cut-out kit that users can simply download, print out, and go to work with.
And make sure to post whatever you do to your Facebook, and twitpic them with the hashtag #weagree.If you can, wheatpaste your posters around town, and twitpic photos of them with the same hashtag (#weagree).
The best ad gets a big prize, the best picture of an in-situ Chevron ad gets another, and I'm sure we'll be coming up with some other categories.
Massive Chevron Ad Campaign Derailed, Media Slapstick Follows News outlets, citizens duped by web of deceit - but whose?
A day-long comedy of errors began Monday morning when the Yes Men, supported by Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, pre-empted Chevron's enormous new “We Agree” ad campaign with a satirical version of their own. The activists' version highlights Chevron's environmental and social abuses - the same abuses they say Chevron is attempting to “greenwash.”
“Chevron's super-expensive fake street art is a cynical attempt to gloss over the human rights abuses and environmental degradation that is the legacy of Chevron's operations in Ecuador, Nigeria, Burma and throughout the world,” said Ginger Cassady, a campaigner at Rainforest Action Network. “They must think we're stupid.”
“They say we're 'interrupting the dialogue,'” said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men, referring to Chevron's terse condemnation. “What dialogue? Chevron's ad campaign is an insulting, confusing monologue - with many tens of millions of dollars behind it.”
The activists' pre-emptive campaign began early Monday with a press release from a spoof Chevron domain, which launched the fake “We Agree” site hours before the real Chevron could launch its own, real campaign The fake “We Agree” site featured four “improved” advertisements, complete with downloadable PDF files to be used in on-the-street postering.
Nine hours later, after issuing its own “We Agree” press release, the real Chevron decried the hoax in a predictably curt and humorless manner. Mere moments later, the counter-campaign issued a much better denial on Chevron's behalf, laying out Chevron's principal arguments in its Ecuador case. “We have binding agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempting us from any liabilities whatsoever, granted in exchange for a $40 million cleanup of some wells by Texaco in the 1990s,” the spoof press release crowed, absurdly yet accurately.
Throughout the day, a sort of slow vaudeville unfolded on the web, as a number of press outlets, from industry mouthpieces to the AFP and even a watchdog group, produced accidental mash-ups of “real” and fake information.
Shortly after that, Energy Digital, an online source providing “news and information for Energy Executives” (capitalization theirs), quoted extensively (archive here) from the fake release to describe Chevron's campaign, then mentioned that the campaign had “already been spoofed.” They didn't realize they'd just fallen for that very same spoof.
Even the AFP found itself duped (original article archived here). It described with glee the hoax “that appeared to have fooled some news outlets,” before going on to quote “the real firm” at length. (The “real firm” wasn't.)
Nor were industry watchdog groups immune. “Oil Watchdog” dissected the hoax minutely and accurately, before citing Advertising Age as one of the outlets duped. That whole article, however, was a fake.
“If you really want to snooker the media, it's pretty hard for them to resist,” said Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men. “We cobbled together some fake releases and websites with string and thumbtacks and chewing gum, and we fooled some of the most respectable press in the world.”
“Chevron is doing what we did, a million times over, with a ginormous budget - and it never reveals its subterfuge,” said Bichlbaum. “No wonder the media's full of lies.”
“Yesterday's spoof was a comedy of errors, but what's happening in Ecuador is no joke,” said Mitch Anderson, a campaigner at Amazon Watch. “While Chevron spends tens of millions every year to greenwash their image and fool the media, Ecuadorians continue to die from their toxic legacy."
Yesterday's hoax is just the beginning for the activists. “Stay tuned,” said RAN's Cassady. “There's a lot more to come in the days ahead. We're going to keep Chevron scrambling.”
The government of Canada has used strong-arm tactics to shut down two parody websites criticizing Canada's poor environmental policy, taking down 4500 other websites in the process.
The two websites, "enviro-canada.ca" and "ec-gc.ca", are "directly connected to a hoax which misleads people into believing that the Government of Canada will take certain actions in relation to environmental matters," wrote Mike Landreville from Environment Canada in an email to the German Internet Service Provider (ISP) Serverloft. "We trust you appreciate the importance of avoiding confusion among the public concerning Canadian governmental affairs and that you will assist us in preventing this hoax from spreading further."
In a remarkable overstepping of bounds, Landreville also asked the ISP to "make every effort to prevent any further attempts concerning other environment-related domains (enviro, ec-gc, etc.) originating from your servers."
In response to Environment Canada's request, Serverloft immediately turned off a whole block of IP addresses, knocking out more than 4500 websites that had nothing to do with the parody sites or the activists who created them. Serverloft was shown no warrant, and never called the web hosting company about the shutdown.
"We are sorry to see that the Canadian government will not 'take certain actions' that could help stave off catastrophic climate change," said Mike Bonanno of The Yes Men, one of the groups that performed the "sophisticated hoax" two weeks ago that involved the fake sites. "And we are also sorry to see that they don't care so much for free speech."
The websites that Canada shut down were part of an elaborate "identity correction" carried out by anonymous Canadian activists, the Climate Debt Agents of Action Aid, and The Yes Men. They used press releases and fake websites to announce that Canada would adopt science-based emission targets - reducing emissions by 40% over 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050 - and would pay the countries most impacted by climate change a proportional amount of the $600 billion total recommended by the United Nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They even used a replica of the UN conference center podium to show "Uganda" reacting with glee to the plan, before seeing their "tragic hopes" dashed.
Canada had prepared for just such an eventuality by creating a so-called "Climate Change War Room," a special office tasked with delivering rapid-response messaging to any negative media coverage around Canada's role at the Copenhagen climate change negotiations. Despite these efforts, last week's flurry of parody announcements, which the prime minister's office called a "childish prank," received enormous media attention across Canada and caused at least two embarrassing media moments for Canadian high officials.
Canada has been heavily criticized for its increasingly deplorable climate policy, and this year in Copenhagen was awarded the "Colossal Fossil" prize for worst behavior in the COP-15 negotiations. The group giving the award, the Climate Action Network, is a global coalition of more than 500 organizations working on climate change.
In the release, Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, waxed lyrical. "Canada is taking the long view on the world economy," said Prentice. "Nobody benefits from a world in peril. Contributing to the development of other nations and taking full responsibilities for our emissions is simple Canadian good sense."
Thirty minutes later, the same "Environment Canada" sent out another press release, congratulating itself on Uganda's excited response to the earlier fake announcement. A video featuring an impassioned response by "Margaret Matembe," supposedly a COP15 delegate from Uganda, was embedded in a fake COP15 website. "Canada, until now you have blocked climate negotiations and refused to reduce emissions," said "Matembe." "Of course, you do sit on the world's second-largest oil reserve. But for us it isn't a mere economic issue - it's about drought, famine, and disease."
(The video was shot in a replica of the Bella Center's briefing room, at Frederiksholms Kanal 4, in the center of Copenhagen. Matembe was actually Kodili Chandia, a "Climate Debt Agent" from ActionAid, a collective of activists that push for rich countries to help those most affected by climate change for adaptation and mitigation projects. The "Climate Debt Agents," with their signature bright red suits, have been a ubiquitous presence in Copenhagen during the climate summit.)
Then it was time for Canada to react. One hour later, another "Environment Canada" (this one at ec-gc.ca) released a bombastic response to the original release. This one quoted Jim Prentice, Canada's Minister for the Environment, decrying the original announcement: "It is the height of cruelty, hypocrisy, and immorality to infuse with false hopes the spirit of people who are already, and will additionally, bear the brunt of climate change's terrible human effects. Canada deplores this moral misfire."
Because almost none of the resulting news coverage even mentioned Uganda or "Matembe's" response, a fourth release was sent from the second website (ec-gc.ca).
Meanwhile, in the real world
The real Canadian government's reactions were almost as strange as the fake ones in the release. Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for the Canadian Prime Minister, emailed reporters and blamed Steven Guilbeault, cofounder of Quebec-based Equiterre. "More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks," said Soudas in a first email, while misspelling Guilbeault's name.
Guilbeault demanded an apology. "A better way to use his time would probably be to advise the Canadian government to change its deeply flawed position on climate," said Guilbeault. Soudas and Guilbeault were seen exchanging angry words in the hallway outside of Canada's 3:30pm press conference, which did not start until 4:30pm, and at which the Canadians refused to answer any questions about the flurry of false releases.
More raised voices were heard when Stephen Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, refused to pose for a photo with his Canadian counterpart, Jim Prentice. After Steve Kelly, Prentice's chief of staff, begged for 10 minutes, the US guy finally asked why a photo was so important. Kelly replied that "we were carpetbagged this morning by [environmental non-governmental organizations] with a false press release. I gotta change the story."
Why Blame Canada?
The only country in the world to have abandoned the Kyoto Protocol's emissions and climate debt targets, Canada also has the most energy-intensive, destructive and polluting oil reserves in the world. The Alberta tar sands, according to The Economist, are in fact the world's biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.
"By not agreeing to emissions reductions, Canada is holding a loaded gun to our heads, and seems ready to pull the trigger on millions of us around the globe, " said Margaret Matembe aka Kodili Chandia of the "Climate Debt Agents." "They leave us no choice but to see them as criminal."
"The Canadian government is not listening to its citizens," says Sarah Ramsey, a resident of Alberta who has seen the destruction of the tar sands firsthand. Ramsey traveled to Copenhagen to give voice to a generation of young Canadians. "We are discouraged and demoralized by our government's position on climate change. We decided to lend our government a hand, and show them what good leadership looks like."
In solidarity with the delegates from the G77 Bloc of nations, today's intervention was also meant to highlight an issue at the heart of the ongoing talks—the issue of climate justice, and the climate debt that the developed world owes the developing world. Seventy-five percent of the historical emissions that created the climate crisis came from 20% of the world's population in developed countries, according to the UN, yet up to 80% of the impacts of the climate crisis are experienced in the developing world, according to the World Bank.
"I meant every word I said," says Kodili Chandia, a spokesperson for the Climate Debt Agents, who spoke out as a member of the Ugandan delegation. "This debate isn't just about facts and figures and abstract concepts of fairness—the drought we are seeing right now in East Africa is directly threatening the lives of millions of people, including farmers in my own family. We have not created this problem but we are living with the consequences. That's why I still say: It's time for rich countries to pay their climate debt."
"We've finally made it," says Andy Bichlbaum (aka Hingo Sembra) of the Yes Men. "We're officially part of the the Extreme Left-Wing Agenda.
"At least that's what you'll learn if you click through to the Google ads keyed to the phrase 'Yes Men' that have popped up overnight steering people to a fundraising page for the Chamber. Or if you received the email solicitation they sent out to their supporters, claiming 'we're under attack,' a message which also directs to a fundraising page.
"We can see why they might need those funds: after all, this year alone they've already spent a mind-boggling $50+ million on lobbying fees. But it's still pretty ironic that the Chamber would ask for money for its effort to punish criticism, given that they are so publicly opposed to frivolous lawsuits and publicly in support of free speech.
"The Chamber complains that we've misled the public. But the Chamber misleads the public every day when it claims to speak for 3 million business, effectively masquerading as a populist lobbying organization - when a closer look reveals it represents barely a tenth of that. In fact, the Chamber repeated that debatable number in the press release sent out announcing the lawsuit against us. Now that's chutzpa!
"Bragging about their size is only the tip of the iceberg, of course. Among many other things, the Chamber routinely undermines American democracy by spending millions to oppose sane climate legislation, health carereform, and employee free choice - not to mention so-called 'grassroots' campaigns to kill banking regulations on derivatives trading. That's right: the Chamber is lobbying to prop up the same system that left the American economy in a shambles.
"No wonder 63% of Americans distrust the news: powerful business lobbies and their massively funded PR campaigns are subverting the media every day, expensively and effectively, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It's shameful that the Chamber has decided to lash out at a public interest group like ours for trying to push back and call attention to the Chamber's outrageous positions."