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It's funny.  Laugh. The Media Politics

Ask The Yes Men 53

Agit-prop? Absurdist pranksterism? Unsubtly subversive PowerPoint-based performance art? Yes, Yes, and Yes. Specifically, The Yes Men, whose brand of straight-faced media manipulation has raised eyebrows at staged events and on international news, have agreed to answer questions about their activities. These include social engineering of a certain peculiar variety ("Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them"), and multi-media lampooning of major corporations and political bodies — and, sometimes, committing the results to film. (Their 2010 film The Yes Men Fix the World is CC-licensed; the torrent version includes a bonus short, the making of which is the subject of a lawsuit by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the target of a mock press conference it depicts.) So, please ask your questions of The Yes Men, bearing in mind (especially if you've never read them before) the Slashdot interview guidelines. (Major takeaway: for unrelated questions, please use separate posts.)
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Ask The Yes Men

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (> on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:20PM (#37987956) Journal
    I don't know who your targets often are but one of your recent results from the Yes Lab and Black Flood [] was to fool people into thinking that The Hobbit was being filmed in the Tar Sands in Canada []. This apparently raised awareness of the Tar Sands but also there were complaints that you were no longer limited to fooling corporations and that this prank tricked activists as well []. So I must ask, is there a line that you won't cross on who you will prank and who you absolutely will not prank? Is anyone a potential target for these shenanigans? Is no one safe? Children? Impoverished people? Cancer patients? Related follow up, have you personally ever felt bad about someone or some group (perhaps an innocent bystander) that fell into being duped by your antics?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What scenes of Mordor are in The Hobbit?

      Are they normally this accurate?

    • Do You Draw a Line at Who You Prank?

      Well, they do come right out on their web site and make it clear that they are about helping "progressives" (their choice of agenda-identifcation, not mine). That should narrow it down a bit. Now, I think that progressives could indeed by helped by a dose of introspection-inducing public ridicule, just as they have many full-time professionals within their ranks dishing out to others. So perhaps that's within their scope, here, pointed the other way. Or maybe the Hobbit business was just meant to be disarm

    • I think they are targeting anyone who take themselves and their position too seriously. Activists are a prime group as well.

  • How did you get into these shenanigans? How did you realise that this was something that you could actually do, and how did you go from there to make it into a reality?

    This seems like the most obvious and interesting question to me.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also the easiest to find the answer to:

  • by rhakka ( 224319 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:22PM (#37987994)

    What do you feel has been your most effective prank to date, and why?

  • When I was a wee lad, the global company down the road had CEOs who were from the Middle Class and their children attended the same public schools I had. Now CEOs and their cabinet appear to be from some space-faring race which silently invaded the world and replaced responsible, forward thinking professionals with babbling cauldrons of buzzwords, who slashed payrolls and feathered their own nests.

    Irony isn't dead, it just requires a mind which isn't closed to it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      On a related note, do you get as annoyed as I do when people blatantly romanticize the past to make it seem like basic human nature is some new, evil development?

      • On a related note, do you get as annoyed as I do when people blatantly romanticize the past to make it seem like basic human nature is some new, evil development?

        Well, that's true for sure. You only have to look at people like Henry Ford, or Andrew Carnegie, to realize that corporations have always had dubious ethics. Perhaps the best example is the World's first megacorporation, the East India Company, which did all sorts of seriously evil things. Things that the Enron guys could only ever dream about.

        • Perhaps the best example is the World's first megacorporation, the East India Company

          Which one? There were several, and none were particularly non-evil...

      • On a related note, do you get as annoyed as I do when people blatantly romanticize the past to make it seem like basic human nature is some new, evil development?

        They probably don't get as annoyed with that as they do with people who blatantly ignore facts such as the increase in inequality in society in the last thirty or so years, considering that they are progressive, rather than delusional right wingers in thrall to the power of money and willing to suck the cock of capitalism rather than accept reality.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How many CEOs did this company have? And if they were all Middle Class, who was the upper class?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        He said the CEOs were 'from' the middle class, not that they were still members. That and the bit about kids going to the same school implies that the CEOs were still part of the same community. Currently, fewer CEOs seem to have any connection to the lifestyles/communities of their employees.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When I was a wee lad, more than 3000 people were killed by Union Carbide in Bhopal, after several warnings, accidents and deaths were ignored by the top-level management. The CEO Warren Anderson is still leading a cushy life in a nice Florida neighborhood at a ripe age of 90.

      I'm not sure when corporate ethics died, but it was before 1984.

    • They are still there. Most CEO's are living a middle class life. They are called small business men. The more successful their business is the more successful they are. Now if they get a little more rich they will still be living in the middle class but their kids will probably to to private school just because public schools have dropped in quality, and they want the best for their kids.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:28PM (#37988050) Homepage Journal

    Question 1: Yes

    Question 2: Yes

    Question 3: Yes ...

    Question n: Yes

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      My friend likes to say no so I named him "The No Man". So all those questions would be answered "No". :P

  • Surely you must appreciate the research and hard work that goes into the field of prankology and I was wondering if you could share with us each of your favorite pranks throughout history that are well documented and evidenced. Crop circles? Andy Kaufman? What?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, given how often media outlets trip over themselves to "scoop" their competitors by running stories with little or no confirmation of facts, it is not all that hard to prank the media. The guys behind the first "Arm the Homeless Coalition" that caused a media uproar (twice!) in the 90's were three art students who merely issued a press release and rented a PO Box under an assumed name to establish an address. That was all some newspapers and television stations needed to run with the story, and som

  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:33PM (#37988102) Homepage

    Do you actually make a living at what you do? If so, how?

    • I can answer this one quite easily.
      Both of the pay the bills by being college professors. I have had several classes with "Mike Bonannno" here at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy NY. "Andy Bichlbaum" is a lecturer at Parsons in NYC and formerly worked for Maxis []

      So, neither of the Yes Men are really planning to get rich from this.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Are you very comfortable with the means (impersonating people, companies and organisations to tar their image) as something that the public debate really could use more of in general, or do you feel that they are mainly justified by the ends of fighting for good causes?

  • Has there been any retaliation for your pranks/hijinks?
  • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:47PM (#37988276)

    ... that you have made examples of (or their representatives), shown any evidence of sympathy or understanding to your cause?

    In your film "The Yes Men Save the World" it would appear that the targets of your pranks were completely offended and dismissive; they were portrayed to respond 100% in line with the wrongoer persona by which the Yes Men has identified them (I'm sure many would agree with your analysis).

    If any had shown a form of understanding or compassion for your rhetorical purpose, who, and how?

  • by SteveFoerster ( 136027 ) <steve AT stevefoerster DOT com> on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @02:49PM (#37988306) Homepage

    What was it like getting busted by the Bureaucrash guys in front of the Cato Institute? Do you just hate those guys or is there any sort of camaraderie or at least friendly rivalry among culture jammers, even those with different ideological motivations?

  • (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @03:06PM (#37988526) Homepage

    You purchased the brilliant satire project "" in 2000 for 1 euro. Any plans to resurrect large-scale web-based pranks like this? They seem to have more broad penetration than your videos, which go largely unnoticed save for the astute film-goer.

  • I'm watching your Fix the World movie, and it's hilarious. But, I disagree. You make the point that industry is at fault for the suffering of Bhopal. That's not the whole truth, though. Aren't the people of India responsible for suing Dow in order to get the justice they want? The biggest failure as I see it is from the government of India, and the lack of unrest. Luckily for them, two members of the Free Market saw an opportunity in calling for more damages from Dow.

    So, to summarize in a question, wh

    • The biggest failure as I see it is from the government of India, and the lack of unrest. Luckily for them, two members of the Free Market saw an opportunity in calling for more damages from Dow.

      Congratulations on a witty parody of libertarian free-market-evangelistical vileness..

      OH, wait, this is slashdot, so you were probably serious.

      • by winmine ( 934311 )

        Calling someone a troll isn't a refutation.

        OH, wait, this is slashdot, so you probably think it is.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you posed as a lobbyist, I suspect some legislator would be willing to accept "persuasion" from you. This might expose the routine bribery accepted by politicians in the name of lobbying.

  • As the official spokesmen for [insert name of multi billion dollar bailed-out bank here], can you confirm that all executive bonus payments for the next financial year will be returned to the taxpayer as a gesture of gratitude and goodwill?

  • How have you been successful at thwarting litigation? Are you able to claim fair use / parody rights?

  • by Bootsy Collins ( 549938 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2011 @05:50PM (#37991312)
    I first became aware of your efforts when the Dow Chemical/Bhopal news stories hit. It struck me as brilliant at the time; but less than seven years later, it's hard for me to find folks who remember that bit of agitprop (indeed, sadly, it's often challenging to find people who remember what happened at Bhopal at all). In general, it's definitely hard to see any trend towards change in the attitudes of the type of organizations you've lampooned. I wonder sometimes if the most lasting effect of your efforts isn't simply to boost morale among activists who share your views and love seeing you skewer your targets? What do you think? In your opinion, what is the lasting impact of your work?
  • I've been watching the movie and HO LEE SHIT it is so funny and so wrong. You all must see this. It's like Michael Moore's old TV show, on crack. Holy shit this is wrong and funny.

  • by mustPushCart ( 1871520 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @01:37AM (#37995872)

    What do you guys think of the occupy wallstreet protests?

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle