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The Chamber of Commerce gets punk'd

M1X00027_9.JPG

This morning, the Chamber of Commerce called a news conference to announce a rather major change in policy: They were going to cease opposing efforts to address global warming and throw the weight of their organization behind the bills traveling through Congress. "The Kerry-Boxer Bill is a good start to a strong climate bill," said president and CEO Thomas Donohue, "and the Chamber will work with Senators Kerry and Boxer to strengthen it."

Wait a sec.

It was, as Kate Sheppard first reported, a hoax. The Chamber of Commerce would never do something crazy like admit the threat posed by catastrophic climate change and get behind sensible, market-based efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The chamber, it turned out, had been punk'd by the merry pranksters known as the Yes Men, in conjunction with Avaaz.org. In a nice touch, the news release was sent out by "Erica Avidus," whose last name means "greed" in Latin.

The Chamber of Commerce is, predictably, outraged. But you'd think they'd at least have a trickster's appreciation for a good prank. After all, as Steve Pearlstein detailed in a column last week, the chamber isn't above a good illusion of its own. For instance:

[T]he chamber, in fact, does not represent anything close to the 3 million businesses it has always claimed. In response to an inquiry from Mother Jones, the chamber acknowledged that its actual paid membership is only 300,000, including several thousand local chambers of commerce whose own membership was used in calculating the inflated 3 million figure. Moreover, when Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones contacted some of those local chambers, their leaders took pains to distance themselves from the national organization, whose policies, they said, they had no hand in shaping and with which they frequently disagree.

"They don't represent me," said Mark Jaffe, chief executive of the Greater New York Chamber.

I should get the chamber to measure my blog traffic.

Photo credit: Peter Kramer/Krape

By Ezra Klein  |  October 19, 2009; 3:36 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Comments

This is more evidence that all you need is a nice suit and an impressive title, and the press will take you seriously. Reuters and the AP ran the hoax press release as "news" almost verbatim.

Which just makes you realize that this is what the media has been doing with the "real" Chamber of Commerce: just taking stenography of their press releases and passing it off as "news" without checking to see if any of it is worth reporting in the first place or even if any of it is even true.

Posted by: constans | October 19, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Given that the CoC is running utterly disingenuous healthcare ads on constant rotation right now, it couldn't happen to a better bunch of corporatist shills.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | October 19, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

You appear to be unclear on the concept of "punking."
The chamber of commerce didn't get punked - the AP and Reuters got punked. As in "fell victim to a hoax."

The chamber of commerce was the subject of the hoax, not the victim.

Although you kind of qualify as a side victim of punking, since you gleefully let your bias show...

Posted by: kenobi1 | October 19, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

The Yes Men stunts have focused *both* on fooling the public media with their announcement *as well* as forcing the subjects of their derision to publicly come out and say things like, "No, the press release was not true, we really DON'T support regulations of emissions/we really DON'T support compensation for the victims of Union Carbide" just to drive home the point at how sleazy they are.

There's nothing wrong with laughing in glee at the various organizations being mocked here.

Posted by: constans | October 19, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

--"The Chamber of Commerce would never do something crazy like admit the threat posed by catastrophic climate change and get behind sensible, market-based efforts to reduce carbon emissions."--

Klein biased? He's a regular Tokyo Rose of disinformation.

Climate change is real, but which way it's a-changin' is anyone's guess, so "catastrophic" and "threat" might as well be the names of two bogeymen hiding under Klein's futon. Calling government control "market-based efforts" is another Klein whopper, which reveals the nonsense of the "sensible" that he hides it behind.

Yeah, Tokyo Rose as performed by a Valley Girl.

Posted by: msoja | October 19, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

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