The Yes Men, those political pranksters responsible for the ‘News We’d Like to See’ fake New York Times have a new movie out called the The Yes Men Fix the World. I was fortunate to attend the west coast premiere last night at the Hammer Museum in Westwood with my friend Lisa (link to her and her awesome sweaters!), amongst others. The last time I went to the Hammer was for Bike Night, where aforementioned Lisa organized a screening of Breaking Away and a fully-catered vegan dinner.
The Yes Men, if you are not familiar, pose as the representatives of the companies that are responsible for social and environmental destruction and make presentations with ridiculous topics to get the audience to question the legitimacy and power these companies have. As the film progresses, they struggle with just how much bullshit people are willing to accept if it makes them money (‘We were hoping to offend them and they only asked for our business cards!’ one of them says).
Especially worthwhile is how the Yes Men deal with the discomfort they feel when pulling these pranks. The film begins by showing Andy’s live interview on BBC on the anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster, posing as a spokesperson for DOW Chemical. He speaks directly to 300 million people. Seeing his nervousness and what he is pulling off makes you think these guys are just like you and me! I’d be nervous too, but maybe I could do something like that.
I think normal protest tactics trigger automatic responses in people. Often the issue at hand is not even discussed. I’m a big fan of political pranks because they:
1) challenge accepted norms of behavior and the status quo.
2) make people uncomfortable! Being out of your comfort zone inspires new ideas, thoughts and perceptions (see how this can relate to ultra-cycling?)
3) get media.
4) inspire others.
5) do not cost much money, require a board of directors or official non-profit status.
Lastly, I admire that they have an anti-capitalist stance and encourage active participation. During the Q&A they mentioned Tim DeChristopher, the Utah enviro activist being charged with federal offenses for making false bids at a BLM auction and a site advocating civil disobedience called Beyond Talk. They don’t just want companies just to be a little nicer they question if these huge, wealthy, powerful companies should even exist. Are they good for the majority of people? I believe the answer is no.