The Sceptic Tank has seen enough broken bones and upturned buckets lodged on heads to know that practical jokes can sometimes go badly wrong. So we were unsurprised to learn things could turn out rather badly for the persons unknown who last month issued a fake statement purportedly from Koch Industries detailing how the conglomerate was planning to cut off its funding for climate sceptic groups.
Apparently, the energy giant's reclusive owners, the Koch brothers, did not see the funny side of this little piece of media manipulation (something tells us the Kochs do not like being the butt of a joke – maybe they suffer from flashbacks to playground bullies who found their name amusing).
A lawsuit has been duly filed in a federal district court in Utah, charging various "John Does" with "trademark infringement, cybersquatting, and unfair competition".
In the complaint, Koch Industries states that it launched the legal action to "redress Defendants' misappropriation of Koch's intellectual property and impersonation of Koch for the purpose of deceiving the public and promoting Defendants' agenda".
"Koch supports open and honest public discourse," it continues. "Defendants' impersonation of Koch and misappropriation of its intellectual property are antithetical to honest discourse because they deceive the public respecting Koch's true position on Issues and respecting Defendant's motives."
All of which sounds fair enough – it really was beastly of persons unknown to try and trick the media by suggesting Koch Industries would stop funding the promotion of discredited climate science, even if it appears no media outlets fell for the prank.
Meanwhile, the Koch brothers continued their support for "open and honest public discourse" with a right-wing strategy meeting this weekend attended by an estimated 200 senior business executives and Republican politicians. The Kochs are so committed to "open and honest public discourse" that press and public were barred from attending the event (25 protestors were reportedly arrested yesterday outside the Rancho Las Palmas resort) and it remains unclear who attended or what was discussed.
The Sceptic Tank can only wish the Kochs all the best in their pursuit of the nefarious internet pranksters and can only agree that these persons unknown pose a far greater threat to America's public discourse than, say, a cabal of far-right billionaires using their power, influence and cash to try to swing elections and overturn environmental regulations.
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