To Tell You the Truth....

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The Yes Men are now famous for excelling at the art of parasitic media. Led by two artists whose pseudonyms are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, they often work with numerous secret collaborators to pull-off interventions that expose corporate and governmental injustices--frequently revealing the fuzziness of the lines between the two. Following in the footsteps of their previous projects (concocted with fellow tactical media peers) under monikers that included RTMark, the Barbie Liberation Organization, and etoy, their grandly ambitious initiatives rely on the art of parody. Copying the source code of corrupt entities' websites and carefully adjusting the text and images to reveal embarrassing truths about their respective atrocities, the group has been able to successfully convince web surfers that they were agents of George W. Bush's first presidential campaign staff, the World Trade Organization, the US department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), ExxonMobil, Halliburton/KBR, and other groups. Perhaps their most successful coup was being invited to speak on behalf of Dow Chemical, on the BBC television news, prompting Dow to reply that they were not, in fact, taking responsibility for the disaster in Bhopal, as the Yes Men erroneously claimed. Such works make everyday, otherwise unspoken injustices front page news, and the group continues to succeed in pulling off what some dismiss as "pranks." Recently the Yes Men took a step that many of their subjects have been unable to take: They made a major apology. A representative of the trademark group at oil company and general environment-hurter BP recently emailed them to complain about the unauthorized site at http://www.theyesmen.org/agribusiness/beyondpetrol/ which bears "a remarkable similarity to the genuine www.bp.com website.... include[s] multiple reproductions of the BP logo," and possibly poses "a real risk... that genuine visitors could be ...

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Dialing for Democracy

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Fred Benenson's Committee Caller allows Americans to participate in politics from the comfort of their couch. The web-based system is a tool for calling one's 'favorite politician,' by automatically putting users in touch with members of US House and Senate committees. Eliminating the time spent on researching names and phone numbers--a task which often dissuades voters from engaging in dialogue with their representatives--Committee Caller invites visitors to enter their phone number, select a committee, and click a button labeled 'Put me in touch with democracy.' After that, they need only wait for their phone to ring and they can cycle through each of the designated politicos in a single round, even rating their level of responsiveness, if so desired. Benenson, a graduate student, came up with the idea after a frustrating effort to track down and contact every member of the House Committee on Education and Labor regarding an amendment that would have limited on-campus privacy. He realized that he could use the Asterisk PBX system to automate the dialing process, and began creating a functional database for doing so. Less than a month old, the tool has become quite popular online, and Benenson believes this is because, "it short-circuits a familiar point of friction for people trying to participate in democracy while simultaneously encouraging them to actually speak to representatives and staffers with their own voice." One side-benefit, to the artist, is that this vocal exchange gives participants the ability to formulate and articulate their arguments about pressing issues. If users would like to make a practice run, they can elect to be put in touch with members of fictional committees, such as The House Committee on Google Oversight. This will prompt them to select names from a list of Futurama characters before being patched-through to the ...

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