the yes men weigh in on post-katrina efforts to bleach new orleans

I’d been waiting anxiously to see how our friends the Yes Men would respond to the Bush administration’s handling of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and, I’m happy to announce, the wait is over. Yesterday, on the eve of the first anniversary of the hurricane, Yes Men operative Andy Bichlbaum, posing as Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spokesperson Rene Oswin, took the stage alongside New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, to announce:

“Our charter here at HUD is to ensure access to affordable housing for those who need it the most. This past year in New Orleans, I am ashamed to say that we have clearly failed to do this.”

Bichlbaum, in the character of the apologetic Oswin, then went on say that HUD would, among other things, scrap plans to tear down 5,000 low-income housing units which had been slated for demolition despite the fact that they’d been undamaged by the hurricane.

Video of the event seems to be down right now, but it should be available again in the near future.

(According to the “LA Times,” they used the alias Rene Oswin because “Rene” means rebirth in French and “Oswin” is the Catholic patron saint of victims of betrayal.)

True to form, the Yes Men then went one step further and issued a false response from HUD on the subject of the agency’s forced “Identity Correction” at the hands of the Yes Men. It included the following points. (Unfortunately, I can’t link to the whole thing as I received it from the Yes Men in the form of an email.)

“We are destroying those homes for good reason. It is terribly sad that some people can’t understand that. That lack of understanding speaks for the low level of government education in this country.”

…HUD is NOT encouraging Wal-Mart to withdraw from low-income neighborhoods in order to “stanch” the flow of money out of these neighborhoods, nor does it prefer “local” businesses…

…A national tax base for public schools is NOT on the horizon of HUD or the Department of Education. U.S. public schools will continue to be funded from local taxes, which will continue to mean commensurate and proportionate levels of funding for schools in rich and poor neighborhoods. HUD does NOT believe equality of opportunity must begin in grade one, but believes it is a far more flexible concept…

…Also, Exxon has asked HUD to make clear that it will NOT pay $8.6 billion from its $35 billion in profits this year to close down the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and otherwise repair the damage caused by the oil industry to the natural protections surrounding New Orleans…

Will it change anything? Maybe not. But at least it has people talking, even if temporarily, about the forced takeover of former black communities instead of about stupid shit like the man who drove from New Orleans to DC to tell the President face-to-face that he was doing a “great” job. Hopefully, thanks to the efforts of Spike Lee, the Yes Men and others, the administration won’t be successful in hiding the truth of what really happened, and continues to happen, in New Orleans, behind staged photo-ops and phrases that have tested well with focus groups.

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  1. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted August 30, 2006 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    We’re more interested in John Karr.

    I hear that he just confessed to kidnapping the Lindberg baby.

  2. Kate
    Posted August 30, 2006 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    You know, something I read things like this and want to comment pertinently. But, I end up sputtering incoherently, because the only really appropriate response is to hunt these people down and strangle them. Aaaagggghhhh!!

  3. mark
    Posted August 30, 2006 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure I understand, Kate. Are you wanting to strangle the Yes Men or the government officials who are squeezing African Americans out of New Orleans?

    And someone really needs to get John Karr on reality television.

  4. Kate
    Posted August 31, 2006 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    *laugh* Well, I did say I was incoherent, didn’t I. I meant the HUD people who are wanting to demolish habitable homes at this particular hour in the history of New Orleans.

    And I think it’s horrid that it takes this kind of masterful hoax to bring this issue to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. Here’s Bush, making nice with the NOLA leadership on the anniversary of Katrina, while the government HE heads goes ahead with plans for even more destruction of the area. Hypocrite!

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