What Is Black Politics?

What Is Black Politics?


We begin our series with the basics… What is politics? For the purpose of this web series, politics
refers to the shaping and distribution of power. The most commonly referred to means of shaping
and distributing power is the simple act of deciding what individuals will have the ability
to set policies and represent a specific group of constituents – or, more simply, the act
of voting. But while I don’t mean to downplay the importance
of voting, politics is so much more than that. How you dress, how you wear your hair, where
you shop, where you don’t shop – all of these things if done for the purpose of shaping
and distributing power can be political acts. If you use your imagination, anything – even
a prank – can be a means of political activism… AMY GOODMAN: Democracynow.org the war and
peace report, I’m Amy Goodman. JUAN GONZALEZ: One of the country’s favorite
anti-corporate pranksters and gonzo political activists, the Yes Men, are back, this time
with a new film called The Yes Men Fix the World. An official selection at this year’s Sundance
Film Festival, the documentary debuts on HBO on Monday. The Yes Men Fix the World follows Andy Bichlbaum
and Mike Bonanno as they infiltrate and expose the world of big business through high-profile
outrageous pranks. From Exxon Mobil to Halliburton, no industry
is too big for the Yes Men’s hoaxes. The film opens with one of the Yes Men’s
most audacious pranks: impersonating a Dow Chemical spokesperson on BBC World News in
a 2004 broadcast that reached 300 million people. Andy Bichlbaum, who identified himself as
Jude Finisterra and claimed to represent Dow Chemical, took responsibility for the world’s
largest industrial accident, which took place in 1984 in the central Indian city of Bhopal. BBC WORLD: Joining us live from Paris now
is Jude Finisterra. He’s a spokesman for Dow Chemical, which
took over Union Carbide. Good morning to you. A day of commemoration in Bhopal. Do you now accept responsibility for what
happened? JUDE FINISTERRA: Steve, yes. Today is a great day for all of us at Dow
and, I think, for millions of people around the world, as well. It’s twenty years since the disaster. And today I’m very, very happy to announce
that for the first time Dow is accepting full responsibility for the Bhopal catastrophe. We have a $12 billion plan to finally, at
long last, fully compensate the victims, including the 120,000 who may need medical care for
their entire lives, and to fully and swiftly remediate the Bhopal plant site. Now, when we acquired Union Carbide three
years ago, we knew what we were getting, and it’s worth $12 billion. $12 billion. We have resolved to liquidate Union Carbide,
this nightmare for the world and this headache for Dow, and use the $12 billion to provide
more than $500 per victim, which is all that they’ve seen, a maximum of just about $500
per victim. It is not “plenty good for an Indian,”
as one of our spokespersons unfortunately said a couple of years ago. In fact, it pays for one year of medical care. We will adequately compensate the victims. Furthermore, we will perform a full and complete
remediation of the Bhopal site, which, as you mentioned, has not been cleaned up. When Union Carbide abandoned the site twenty
years ago, or sixteen years ago, they left tons of toxic waste, which continues —- the
site continues to be used as a playground by children. Water continues to be drunk from the groundwater
underneath. It’s a mess, Steve, and we at Dow -— BBC WORLD: It’s a mess, certainly, Jude. That’s good news that you have finally accepted
responsibility. Some people would say too late. It’s three years — JUDE FINISTERRA: Yes. BBC WORLD: — almost four years on. How soon is your money going to make a difference
to the people in Bhopal? JUDE FINISTERRA: Well, as soon as we can get
it to them, Steve. We’ve begun the process of liquidating Union
Carbide. This is, as you mentioned, late, but it is
the only thing we can do. When we acquired Union Carbide, we did settle
their liabilities in the United States immediately. And we are now, three years later, prepared
to do the same in India. We should have done it three years ago; we
are doing it now. I would say that it’s better late than never. And I would also like to say that this is
no small matter, Steve. This is the first time in history that a publicly
owned company of anything near the size of Dow has performed an action which is significantly
against its bottom line simply because it’s the right thing to do. And our shareholders may take a bit of a hit,
Steve, but I think that if they’re anything like me, they will be ecstatic to be part
of such a historic occasion of doing right by those that we’ve wronged. JUAN GONZALEZ: The hoax ran twice on BBC World
and was picked up by the major news wires before the BBC determined that no man named
Jude Finisterra worked at Dow and that he was an imposter. The action caused Dow’s market value to
drop $2 billion in less than a half hour. Later that day, Dow corrected the apology
that their supposed spokesperson had made. MARINA ASHANIN: This morning a false statement
was carried by BBC World regarding responsibility for the Bhopal tragedy. The individual who made this statement identified
himself as a Dow spokesperson named Jude Finisterra. Dow confirms that there was no basis whatsoever
for this report, and we also confirm that Jude Finisterra is neither an employee nor
a spokesperson for Dow. AMY GOODMAN: Well, that action was from over
five years ago, and it brought the ongoing tragedy in Bhopal back in the spotlight, reminding
the world of Dow Chemical’s responsibility to those who survived the catastrophic gas
leak. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary
of the Bhopal disaster, which has killed over 25,000 people. But Dow Chemical has still not been held accountable. We’ll get to more on Bhopal in a minute,
but right now we’re joined in our firehouse by the Yes Men Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. We welcome you to Democracy Now! The film will be airing, that you made, on
HBO on Monday night, on July 27th, which includes this story. Now, Andy, Jude Finisterra, first, how did
you come up with that name, when you were walking into the Paris studio, of Jude Finisterra? ANDY BICHLBAUM: Well, Jude is the patron saint
of the impossible, and there’s absolutely no way a company like Dow will ever do the
right thing in Bhopal, unless we force it. And Finisterra, of course, end of the world,
end of the earth. It’s just never going to happen. AMY GOODMAN: Explain your website guerrilla
tactics, how even BBC got in touch with you. ANDY BICHLBAUM: Well, in this — sometimes
we sneak our way into things more actively. In this case, we just had this website, dowethics.com,
that looked just like the real Dow Chemical website. We launched it a couple of years earlier,
gotten a little press around it, gotten it kind of seated in Google, and then, suddenly,
a week before the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal catastrophe, the BBC stumbled on
the site. AMY GOODMAN: And they invited you through
the site. ANDY BICHLBAUM: Yeah. JUAN GONZALEZ: So, they contacted you. ANDY BICHLBAUM: Yep. In our next segment, we look more thoroughly
at the concept of power as it relates to black politics, but for now, how can a prank affect
the shaping and distribution of power? Were the “Yes-Men” able to get Dow Chemical
to do something that it otherwise wouldn’t do? What are some creative ways that we can reshape
and redistribute power in the black community? Please add your thoughts and comments below. Hit that like button if you’d like to see
more content and the notification button so that you’ll know immediately when the next
segment drops.

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