Was the BBC hoaxed by an interviewee?
Despite denials from both the BBC and group The Yes Men that a man named Alessio Rastani tricked the BBC in his late September interview on the news network, journalists questioned if Rastani’s interview was part of a giant prank.
The Yes Men is the group behind stunts like a fake General Electric press release in April 2011 stating the company was returning to the U.S. Treasury $3.2 billion in tax refunds, as StinkyJournalism has written. The Yes Men describe themselves on their website as “impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.”
Rastani’s interview has been described by Foreign Policy as “eyebrow-raising.” Rastani, described as an “independent trader,” stated on air “I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession, ” “governments don’t rule the world. Goldman Sachs rules the world,” and “In less than 12 months, the savings of millions of people will vanish.”
See his interview here.
The BBC issued a “press statement” Sept. 27 announcing that “We’ve carried out detailed investigations and can’t find any evidence to suggest that the interview with Alessio Rastani was a hoax. He is an independent market trader and one of a range of voices we’ve had on air to talk about the recession.”
According to Foreign Policy, questions have been raised as to whether Rastani is part of The Yes Men. The Irish Journal noted similarities between Rastani and another Yes Men member, Andy Bichlbaum, who pretended to be a Dow Chemical spokesperson in an interview with the BBC in 2004. The two “look quite similar” and “seem to have quite similar vocal tones,” according to the Journal.
The Yes Men denied that Rastani is a member, both in a statement and in a post on the Guardian’s website. According to the article on the Guardian with the byline of “The Yes Men,” the group again denied that Rastani is a Yes Men. “Rastani is small potatoes, but he’s a real trader,” the article stated.
Forbes’ Emily Lambert stated that she interviewed Rastani. Among other questions, she asked Rastani if he has “heard of the Yes Men.” Rastani replied “Heard of it before? Not quite sure why they’re calling me that. I have no idea where that came from.”
He also seemed to deny that he is the same person who posed as a Dow Chemical spokesperson. He stated:
“Have you seen this video? That can’t be right. I’ve never spoken to Dow Chemical before in my life. Maybe it’s a fake. Are you sure about this? Honestly, listen, I’ve no idea where that came from. That interview yesterday was one of the first ones I did live.”
“I don’t know why they think it’s a hoax. No, I am a trader absolutely. I have trader friends who could back that up. One of my mentors is a bestselling author and trader. Everyone knows me.”
Reuters’ Felix Salmon argued that Rastani might be “both a trader and a member of the Yes Men.” Regardless of whether he was a prankster or not, the UK Telegraph reported that the BBC still must deal with “Questions about just how qualified Mr Rastani is to speak about the markets” as he hasn’t been “authorised by the Financial Services Authority, which regulates “the financial services industry in the UK.”