December 7, 2004
The exciting news last week was the stunning announcement that Dow Chemical was finally taking full responsibility for it’s role in the Bhopal chemical disaster. A spokesman for the company made the declaration in an interview on BBC news, issuing a formal apology to the victims and declaring that the company had decided to compensate victims for the entire $12 billion of estimated damages. “The 120,000 people that are estimated to need medical care because of the Bhopal catastrophe are going to need it for their whole lives,” the spokesman said. “They’ve already needed it for 20 years.”
The unfortunate news? The statement was a hoax perpetrated by the performance activists and corporate provacateurs, the Yes Men — and none of it was true.
The Bhopal factory (formerly owned by Union Carbide, now a subsidiary of Dow) paid $407 million to Bhopal residents in 1989. Besides disavowing the statement, the company reemphasized it position that it bears no legal culpability and owes nothing to anyone.
You may take issue with the tactic, but these guys have been advocating for Bhopal victims for years, and have made a real contribution toward keeping the story in the news, and maintaining pressure on those who would avoid responsibility.
You can view the BBC interview, and the Yes Men’s account and explanation here.