Depending on your world view, The Yes Men Fix the World, out on DVD today, is either very, very funny or really, really not funny at all. But humorous or not, it is entertaining and should be required viewing for anyone who doubts that big business is out to screw the public.
In the mocumentary, The Yes Men (duo Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno in thrift-store suits and ties) are shown infiltrating corporations and conferences (they pose as company executives, corporate spokesmen, industry experts, lecturers; actually, anything that will get them in the door). The pair set up phony websites that are patterned after real company websites, setting themselves up as industry insiders. Over and over, the pair show that when corporations are given the choice between doing the right thing and making a few bucks, they always choose the latter.
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One bit is the Yes Men's appearance with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in front of 1,000 contractors there to rebuild the city. Nagin does his usual blah-blah, but the Yes Men have some news. Pretending to be government officials, they tell the contractors that instead of tearing down the houses that were damaged but somehow survived Hurricane Katrina, they are going to restore them. The contractors, who have been saying some houses are salvagable, burst into applause, Nagin and his colleagues aren't as happy. (The houses marked to be torn down are sitting on prime acreage that developers have been pushing to aquire.)
In another prank, the Yes Men took aim at Exxon (which sits just across the street from Hair Ball's offices). The pair get into a conference lunch, supposedly to demonstrate a new biofuel. The film's audience sees a conference room full of unsuspecting Exxon employees watch a short film honoring an Exxon janitor who donated his body to the project. The Yes Men pass out candles made of the new product and then tell the audience the candles they are holding are made out from the now dead janitor's body. After the Yes Men are removed from the stage, waiting reporters ask them real questions: "How long will it take to develop [this material]?" and "Is this a real product?" and "Why don't you want to develop it? Isn't that what happened to technology that could fuel cars at 200 mph?"
In what must be the Yes Men's coup, Bichlbaum, purporting to be a Dow Chemical spokesperson, gets asked to appear on BBC World News to discuss industrial accidents and clean-up efforts. During the interview, he announces that Dow takes full responsibility for one of the largest such accidents ever, the Bhopal catastrophe, and that the company would be compensating the victims and starting clean-up efforts. While people, including those affected by the disaster, environmentalists and corporate watchdogs cheer, Dow stock plunges to the tune of two billion dollars.
The fact that Bichlbaum, with nothing more than a fake website, could get on the BBC for an interview is funny. (We're guessing the show's booker got fired for letting a phony on air.) The fact that besides some fat cats, a lot of regular, normal, working people lost two billion dollars in an afternoon isn't so funny.