The Yes Men, the group of clever activist/designer pranksters, struck again this week—or tried to. Their target this time? Apple.
On Tuesday, they launched a website that was a spitting image for Apple's, and professed to be announcing a new product: the iPhone4CF. "CF" stood for conflict-free, and the site promised that the new phone was exactly like the normal iPhone 4, only it didn't source its minerals from conflict-ridden regions like the Democratic Republic of Congo, thereby fueling atrocities there.
The Yes Men has taken on some very big targets in the past—Chevron, the US Chamber of Commerce—but they seem to have met their match in Apple. On Thursday, the site came down. Mother Jones's Dave Gilson emailed one of the Yes Men for the story, and it turns out that Apple sent the Yes Men's internet provider a nasty message, which was enough to result in the suspension of the site. "Apple's heavy handed and humorless reaction just shows where their big mechanical (and conflict-mineral-rich) corporate heart is at," Yes Man Andy Birchlbaum wrote Gilson. "More is learned by that than would be by keeping the website up."
Gilson goes on to make the point that while the Yes Men's design and humor are spot-on, making them phenomenal pranksters, their politics are a bit simplistic, making them less than ideal activists. Mother Jones is no bosom buddy to multinational corporations, but Gilson—relying on MoJo's own reporting—points out that conflict minerals simply don't appear to be the root of the DRC's problem. It's "a conflict complicated by dozens of major players and a web of regional politics and rivalries," he writes, and, noting that the Yes Men plan to re-launch their site, adds: "Here's hoping the Yes Men work out some of these glitches before they roll out the 2.0 version of the iPhone 4cf."