American Culture

Viva Vivoleum! Yes Men punk Calgary Gas and Oil Exposition

How long should it take an educated audience to figure out they’re being played?

Protesters spring hoax on oil expo audience
Yes Men ejected from conference
Sean Myers, with files from Ashok Dutta and Gina Teel, Calgary Herald
Published: Friday, June 15, 2007

By the time candles supposedly made from remains of a deceased ExxonMobil janitor named Reggie Watts were handed out, an audience of oil and gas professionals attending a keynote luncheon at Calgary’s Gas and Oil Exposition realized they’d been had.

A man named “S.K. Wolff,” claiming to be an analyst for the Washington-based National Petroleum Council, and co-speaker “Florian Osenberg,” said to represent ExxonMobil, were getting ready to show a memorial video made by Watts when security officers forcibly ushered the two men from the stage.

The Globe and Mail elaborates:

In a speech that cost $45 to attend, a man who identified himself as “S.K. Wolff,” a policy analyst at the NPC and a special adviser to Exxon Mobil, first caused ears to prick up by claiming that the U.S. would announce a fivefold increase in the amount of crude it receives from Canada’s oil sands in the next five years – a practical impossibility given current development limitations.Then, before the backdrop of an unprofessional-looking PowerPoint presentation, Mr. Wolff – in actuality Jacques Servin, one of the leaders of the Yes Men – said that Exxon Mobil had created a system known as “Vivoleum,” which would condense any biological matter into fuel, creating a fallback situation in the event of a cataclysmic global warming event.

A group of assistants handed out oddly shaped candles apparently made of Vivoleum, as a man identifying himself as “Florian Osenberg,” director of human resources at Exxon Mobil’s Vivoleum program – actually Igor Vamos, the Yes Men’s other leader – encouraged those attending to light them in memory of “Reggie Watts,” who had helped develop the new technology.

At this point, event security stepped in and hauled Mr. Vamos behind a black curtain. In a brief statement before he was also removed, Mr. Servin affirmed that Reggie Watts was a former employee of Exxon Mobil who had had an incurable disease and had bequeathed his body to be used by the company for fuel, and that the candles handed out were made from Mr. Watts himself.

As an aside, what I really want to know is how these two got on the program. If you’ve never dealt with the corporate conference world you may have no idea what goes into getting on a program. You think they invite experts, but in reality you often have to buy your way onto the podium (unless you’re pretty darned famous) and it’s not a cheap process.

Ultimately there’s an art to keeping this kind of crowd on board to the point where they’re actually holding and lighting candles allegedly made from Reggie Watts.

Fun stuff….

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  1. From what I gather about the Yes Men’s activities, they basically indulge in identity theft and then “help themselves” to get onto programs. They’ve done the same with the WTO. After all, they claim to be from ExxonMobil and, since someone from ExxonMobil is expected, you can get quite far.

    Remember “Fight Club”? Most people don’t really want direct confrontation and will “humour” something that seems completely wrong for quite some time before getting outraged. It’s the same tactic adopted by Bhorat and the various others who make fun of the general public at their own expense.