Alessio Rastani was interviewed by the BBC about the current economic state of the Eurozone. He was introduced by the news station as an independent trader to justify his credentials. Rastani soon made heads turns after admitting he dreams of a recession to make money off it, saying the European Union plan to save the continent wouldn’t work and then claiming that “Goldman Sachs rules the world.”
Shortly after the interview, “rumors began trickling in that perhaps Rastani wasn’t exactly who he said he was,” Mediate reports, “and that, maybe, the entire interview had been part of a well-orchestrated hoax.”
Some speculated that Rastani might be a member of the The Yes Men, a group whose goal, according to its website, is to impersonate “big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.”
Perhaps it was the blatant honesty of Rastani’s statements, because no one goes on television and is that honest. Forbes decided to reach out to Rastani himself to get to the bottom of the rumors. And though the interview is enlightening to a degree, most of Rastani’s answers show an incredible ability to be both informative and skirt a real answer.
On what kind of a trader he is:
Forbes then asked him a series of specific, detailed questions about his work and his background, likely designed to root out whether he had been lying about his knowledge of trading or to see if he would slip enough personal details about his life to background check him.
Then, on whether or not he is part of an elaborate hoax:
Like Rastani’s personal Facebook page, his trader page, his YouTube channel, his Twitter, and his personal website, the interview offered enough details to seem legit, but not enough details to suggest he’s a “real” person. His answers probably won’t raise any suspicious flags.
However, if this is a hoax of some kind, it’s elaborately done. Here’s the video of a man who looks like Rastani posing as a Dow Chemical spokesperson that is alluded to in the Forbes interview.
Now, that interview was the Yes Men, specifically Andy Bichlbaum playing the character of “Jude Finisterra.” That much has been confirmed. The gentleman above certainly looks and sounds enough like Rastani, but not quite enough to say with any certainty.
Richard Metzger, over at Dangerous Minds, says Rastani is absolutely not Bichlbaum.
“I know Andy personally—Disinformation published the Yes Men book—so unless Andy has had extensive plastic surgery or gotten into a time machine since I’ve last seen him, I can assure that he’s not Alessio Rastani,” Metzger writes. “IF this is a hoax, it’s either one concocted with a very, very long fuse, or else the Yes Men hired a real stock broker to say the same nihilistic, ‘fuck the little guy’ things that brokers say amongst themselves all the time,” he said.
“I’ll repeat that: I’m not saying that the Yes Men didn’t hire this guy to say what he said on BBC News—I have no knowledge of this—but the speculation that he’s Andy Bichlbaum is absolutely NOT true,” he concludes.
But how would the Yes Men, manage to get themselves onto a news channel in this day and age? With all the social networking profiles and Google footprints and whatnot, it seems like quite a long con just to create a little bit of a freakout. It’s possible, but it’s a very, very long con.
Felix Salmon notes: “The Yes Men do set up elaborate hoaxes, but they do so with respect to large institutions: they wouldn’t put this much effort into inventing “Alessio Rastani” out of whole cloth. Mostly because there are lots of genuine traders like Alessio Rastani floating around the internet already. They trade their own money, they sometimes win and they sometimes lose, and they aspire to getting famous on the internet and selling their own trading advice. That said, however, the resemblance to “Jude Finisterra” from the Yes Men is startling. Which raises the question: is it possible that Rastani is both a trader and a member of the Yes Men? And the answer there, I think, is absolutely yes.”
Something certainly seems weird about this interview, but there just isn’t enough to say with any degree of certainty that it’s not legit. And, as Salmon notes, this isn’t a either/or situation. Rastani could be a member of the Yes Men and could be an actual trader. He could trade by day and still participate in culture jamming. Salmon insists that many of the same attributes of independent traders are also found in the people who participate in the kind of culture jamming hoaxes perpetrated by the Yes Men.
Still, it’s interesting that a guy goes on television and essentially tells the truth about trading, and maybe even the truth about Goldman Sachs, and everyone freaks out about whether he’s an impostor and not that so much of the world’s economy depends on financial traders who only care about making money.
Shouldn’t we be freaking out about that?!?