December 4, 2004

Artists Affect Company’s Stock Price
Yes Men's Andy Bichlbaum

BBC Retracts Bhopal Story (Quicktime, 3.4 MB)

Yesterday, on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, I received the following email, ostensively from Dow Chemical’s media relations department. It seemed to be counteracting a hoax that said the company would take full responsibility for the disastrous chemical leak twenty years ago and would pay out millions of dollars to survivors of the catastrophe. Read it closely.

When I got home I tuned in the BBC World and saw this news report (Quicktime, 3.4 MB).

The BBC was retracting a story it had aired earlier in the day when it interviewed a “spokesman” for Dow Chemical, the company who bought Union Carbide a few years ago. On December 3, 1984 a poisonous chemical released by a plant owned by Union Carbide killed thousands of people. Yesterday’s spokesman turned out to be Andy Bichlbaum of the art activist group, The Yes Men. From their Web site:

Small-time criminals impersonate honest people in order to steal their money. Targets are ordinary folks whose ID numbers fell into the wrong hands. Honest people impersonate big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.

Date: Fri, 3 Dec 2004 18:57:21 +0100
From: Dow Chemical Corporation
To: Jeff Gates <>

December 3, 2004

“DOW” STATEMENT A HOAX “Historic aid package for Bhopal victims” a lie

Contact: Marina Ashanin, Corp. Media Relations, +41-1-728-2347
Related information:

Today on BBC World Television, a fake Dow spokesperson announced fake plans to take full responsibility for the very real Bhopal tragedy of December 3, 1984. (1) Dow Chemical emphatically denies this announcement. Although seemingly humanistic in nature, the fake plans were invented by irresponsible hucksters with no regard for the truth.

As Dow has repeatedly noted, Dow cannot and will not take responsibility for the accident. (“What we cannot and will not do… is accept responsibility for the Bhopal accident.” - CEO Michael Parker, 2002.) The Dow position has not changed, despite public pressure.

Dow also notes the great injustice that these pranksters have causedby giving Bhopalis false hope for a better future assisted by Dow.The survivors of Bhopal have already suffered 20 years of false hope,neglect, and abdication of responsibility by all parties. Is that not enough?

To be perfectly clear:

* The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) will NOT be liquidated. (The fake “Dow plan” called for the dissolution and sale of Dow’s fully owned subsidiary, estimated at US$12 billion, to fund compensation and remediation in Bhopal.)

* Dow will NOT commit ANY funds to compensate and treat 120,000 Bhopal residents who require lifelong care. The Bhopal victims have ALREADY been compensated; many received about US$500 several years ago, which in India can cover a full year of medical care. (2)

* Dow will NOT remediate (clean up) the Bhopal plant site. We do understand that UCC abandoned thousands of tons of toxic chemicals on the site, and that these still contaminate the groundwater which area residents drink. Dow estimates that the Indian government’s recent proposal to commission a study to consider the possibility of proper remediation at some point in the future is fully sufficient.

* Dow does NOT urge the US to extradite former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to India, where he has been wanted for 20 years on multiple homicide charges. (3)

* Dow will NOT release proprietary information on the leaked gases, nor the results of studies commissioned by UCC and never released.

* Dow will NOT fund research on the safety of Dow endocrine disruptors (ECDs) considered to have long-term negative effects.

* Dow DOES agree that “One can’t assign a dollar value to doing what’s morally right,” as hoaxter Finisterra said. That is why Dow acknowledged and resolved many of Union Carbide’s liabilities in the US immediately after acquiring the company in 2001. (4)

Again, most importantly of all:

* Dow shareholders will see NO losses, because Dow’s policy towards Bhopal HAS NOT CHANGED. Much as we at Dow may care, as human beings, about the victims of the Bhopal catastrophe, we must reiterate that Dow’s sole and unique responsibility is to its shareholders, and Dow CANNOT do anything that goes against its bottom line unless forced to by law.

For more information please contact Marina Ashanin, Corporate Media Relations, +41-1-728-2347, or reply to this email.


(1) On December 3, 1984, Union Carbide - now part of Dow - accidentally killed thousands of residents of Bhopal, India, when its pesticide plant leaked a vast cloud of lethal gas over the city. Since that date, at least 12,000 more people have died from complications, and 120,000 remain chronically ill. The Dow Chemical Corporation hereby expresses its condolences to the victims.

(2) Union Carbide was originally forced to pay US$470 million in compensation to survivors, which amounts to about US$500 per victim. (Note: Dow hereby wishes to retract the 2002 statement of Dow PR Head Kathy Hunt as to US$500 being “plenty good for an Indian.” The poor phrasing of this statement has often come back to haunt us.)

(3) Arrested in India following the accident, Andersen posted US$2000 bail and successfully escaped India.

(4) Dow settled Union Carbide’s asbestos liabilities in the US, and paid US$10 million to one family poisoned by a Dow pesticide. This is a mark of Dow’s corporate responsibility.

From the BBC retraction:

“For the people of Bhopal still living with the ghastly consequences of twenty years ago, the hoax may have been a cruel deception. But it won’t be the last time activists use a stunt to get their message into the media…

“Today’s stunt affected Dow Chemical’s share price though it’s since recovered. It also embarrassed the BBC.”

For the people of Bhopal still living with the ghastly consequences of twenty years ago: whatever it takes!

Related Story: For background on the real effects today of the Bhopal disaster on the Indian people, listen to this NPR story.

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