Curtain pulled on fee hoax

How far must one go to make a political point?

Last Wednesday, The Minnesota Daily ran a letter to the editor titled âÄúTheater fee would shine spotlight on arts.âÄù The letter supported the âÄúUniversity administrationâÄôs proposed collection of a theater fee,âÄù totaling $7 per student, to renovate the Rarig Center for performing arts. After becoming aware of the letter, Kelly OâÄôBrien, a communications manager from the College of Liberal Arts, informed the Daily, âÄúNo one in our administration has heard of this proposed fee, and I cannot find a Gary Greene enrolled at the University of Minnesota. I think youâÄôve been had.âÄù We had, indeed. So the Daily made another call to Mr. Greene, who was actually a theater student posing as Gary Greene in what amounted to a propaganda project. âÄúHave you ever heard of the Yes Men?âÄù the imposter inquired. The Yes Men is a group of political activists who pose as corporate or government spokespeople. In 2004, one member posed as a Dow Chemical official on BBC World, claiming the company would pay reparations to thousands of chemical disaster victims in Bhopal, India. But Gary Greene did not âÄúfoolâÄù the Daily. He lied to and misled readers on one of the most popular stories of the week. He took advantage of a letters process, which, like much of our society, still operates in the trust of an honor system (the contemporary financial plight of print media does not allow for the Daily to employ an independent ombudsman). Mr. Greene certainly succeeded in garnering attention to his pet cause, but he did so at the cost of the truth. By subverting a forum willing to empower his voice, Mr. Greene undermined the credibility of his own ally and reminded us that noble ends do not always justify ignoble means.