The Yes Men Fix the World
On the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster, one of the largest and deadliest industrial accidents in human history, a representative from Dow Chemical gave an interview on the BBC stating that Dow—which had since acquired Union Carbide, the company responsible for the incident—would finally be compensating the victims of the spill.
Except, of course, the man giving the interview was not a representative of Dow, and Jude Finisterra was not his real name. He was Andy Bichlbaum, one of the Yes Men, a pair of guerrilla performance artist/activists known for playing high profile stunts on corporate America.
The Yes Men’s strategy is simple. First they set up a fake website intended to mirror that of the company they wish to dupe (in this case they used dowethics.com). Then they wait until someone mistakenly invites them to deliver a high profile speech, present at a corporate conference, or be interviewed by the BBC on live television in front of 300 million viewers.
The strategy works surprisingly well. As outlined in the new documentary The Yes Men Fix the World, Bichlbaum and his partner Mike Bonanno have been invited to deliver presentations on behalf of Exxon, Halliburton, and even the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The movie has its slow spots. (I can’t be the only one who thought the Survivaball thing dragged on longer than it needed to.) But all in all, The Yes Men Fix the World packs the charismatic punch that Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story wishes it had. Unlike Moore, who too often finds himself shouting at the inhuman exteriors of locked buildings with a bullhorn, Bichlbaum and Bonanno ingeniously infiltrate their targets with audacious precision. Not only do they get to bring their cameras inside corporate HQ, they get to represent the corporation to the rest of the world. Pretty slick stuff. What’s more, their website features a tutorial to help aspiring pranksters follow in their footsteps.
The Yes Men Fix the World is showing through December 3 at Northwest Film Forum in conjunction with The People’s Summit, a series of events commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the WTO protests in Seattle. I recommend it for anyone with a sense of humor and unsinkable optimism.