HIS APPEARANCE on the BBC News Channel is already a viral hit, but independent trader Alessio Rastani – if that is his real name – may have pulled the wool over the world’s eyes with a remarkably convincing ruse.
It’s speculated that Rastani – who appeared on BBC News yesterday to admit that he dreams of recessions, as they present a great money-making opportunity – may be a member of The Yes Man, a well-known culture jamming group.
The group has this afternoon published a blog post asserting that Rastani isn’t a member of the group, which is known for its brilliantly elaborate media-screwing ruses.
The BBC has also issued a statement, asserting that after “detailed investigations” it cannot find any evidence to suggest that the interview with 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,” the broadcaster said.
The claim seemed to have two bases: firstly, that his remarks were so repugnant in the eyes of some, that they’re bordering on satire – Rastani appears to be so money-driven, it may appear, that he cannot possibly be real.
The other was based on a video clip from another BBC broadcast, where Yes Men co-founder Andy Bichlbaum poses as a spokesman for the Dow Chemical company.
In that video – posing as Dow ‘spokesman’ “Jude Finisterra” – Bichlbaum appeared to accept responsibility for a Dow chemical spill 20 years ago.
Some readers had noted that Finisterra seems to look quite similar to Rastani – and if you play the two videos side by side, the two men do seem to have quite similar vocal tones.
If Rastani is a fictional character, the Yes Men have put a lot of work into him: his Twitter account has been active for around two years, while his blog LeadingTrader.com was set up in February 2010.
Not only that, but he’s also been quoted in an article on France24 – when he explained the difficulties that people in his native Iran have in trying to find love.
[Update: Thanks to the reader who sent in this link, with comments attributed to Rastani who seems to be a fan of the works of Hector Berlioz.]
Such intense advance planning wouldn’t be unknown for The Yes Men, however – in fact, one of the group’s hallmarks is the extent it will go to to pull off one of its stunts.
Update 2: Forbes.com reporter Emily Lambert has spoken to Rastani on the phone today to try and sound out whether he’s real or not; this is her article.
Here are the two videos, side by side:
Do you think Alessio Rastani is a Yes Man?