Saturday, April 30, 2011

NYC DEP Punked by the Yes Men by Lissa Harris - Watershed Post

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No, the sticker above -- which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has been spotted near public faucets around New York City lately -- isn't the work of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. It's part of a pretty slick anti-fracking campaign, complete with a website ( dressed up to look almost exactly like the DEP's actual site. There's also a fake "DEP" video, with instructions on how to tell if your water is safe. (Hint: Try to set it on fire.)

The stickers, and the official-looking fake website that goes along with them, appear to be the work of the Yes Men, a group of activist merry pranksters that specialize in the art of the well-played anti-corporate hoax. Just last month, they gulled the Associated Press into running a story declaring that General Electric would be returning its $3.2 billion tax refund to the U.S. government. And back in 2000, they famously impersonated the World Trade Organization via a fake website ( that earned them an invitation to speak at a seminar on international trade in Austria. (A rather extraordinary drama then unfolded, in which the Yes Men's "WTO representative" spoke at the seminar, was hit in the face with a pie, and subsequently "died.")
Regular Watershed Post readers might recognize the name: The Yes Men were canonized just a couple of weeks ago, along with local anti-fracking activist and radio personality Sabrina Artel, in a ceremony conducted by the Rev. Billy Talen (himself a fellow anti-corporate prankster who performs exorcisms on cash registers, backed up by a gospel choir in full regalia).
Though DEP officials were quick to disavow the stickers, the anti-fracking sentiment behind the stunt isn't too far from their real views on the subject. Department officials aren't big fans of the idea of doing horizontal drilling for natural gas within spitting distance of the city's watershed. From a statement on the DEP's actual website:
While DEP is mindful of the potential economic opportunity that this represents for the State, hydraulic fracturing poses an unacceptable threat to the unfiltered water supply of nine million New Yorkers and cannot safely be permitted with the New York City watershed.
Photo by Flickr user prizepony. Published under Creative Commons license.