Just Say Oui: An Interview with the Yes Men
Whether you see them as merry pranksters for moral justice or asinine hoaxsters with a hard-on for anti-globalist propaganda, there’s no question that Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, better known as the Yes Men, know how to goose the news media and middleminded corporate enterprisers with straight-faced impersonations of legitimate (often nonexistent) Big Biz types. Phony aliases, outlandish PowerPoint presentations, and giant-prop-assisted demos are all in a day’s work for these culture-jamming wags, who’ve punked everyone from Exxon and the World Trade Organization to Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, targeting the logic of free-market capitalism with an eye to boosting a greener, more idealistic society.In September, for instance, on the eve of the U.N. summits on climate change, the satirical activists distributed a fake “Special Climate Edition” of the New York Post with the Rupe-worthy headline WE’RE SCREWED.
In their latest film, The Yes Men Fix the World (co-directed by Kurt Engfehr), the duo create one of their most elaborate stunts, appearing on BBC World in the guise of Dow Chemical who, on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, issues an unheard-of mea culpa and announces a $12 billion aid plan to the people sickened long ago by the chemical spillage. Within half an hour, Dow’s stock has plummeted. By the time Bichlbaum (appearing as the ludicrously named rep) has been unmasked, the message about corporate responsibility has filtered through world news outlets, taking on a life of its own.