The intertubes have been all a-twitter over the “Coal Cares” website, supposedly a public relations effort by Peabody Coal to give away free celebrity-themed inhalers to kids with asthma.
The site is clearly a hoax, and in a nearly equally absurd press release issued today, Peabody Coal denies any involvement.
But a lot of people have been taken in by the prank. There’s even a Change.org petition circulating against Peabody Coal for the campaign (which also appears to be fake).
Naturally, many are speculating that The Yes Men are behind the whole thing. I’m pretty sure that speculation is correct.
The domain coalcares.com is registered under an organization called G.A.T.T., with the email address email@example.com. Gatt.org is a spoof website of the World Trade Organization that the Yes Men put together in 2001, and that domain is registered to Andy Birchlbaum, AKA Jacques Servin, one of the group’s founders.
That’s not necessarily 100% proof that the Yes Men are behind the hoax, but it’d be a heck of a coincidence (or an ingeniously artful diversion) if they weren’t.
UPDATE: Grist’s Jess Zimmerman also points out that the name on the domain registry, Harold Schweppes, is also on the registration for the website of the Yes Men documentary.
The Yes Men were behind another coal-related hoax last month, in which college students protested a fictional coal plant in a wealthy downtown Chicago neighborhood in order to draw attention to the effort to pass the city’s Clean Power Ordinance, which would force two coal plants in lower-income neighborhoods to clean up or shut down.