If you haven’t heard of Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno , let me introduce you to the “Yes Men”. Bichlbaum and Bonanno are aliases – Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos respectively, fell into the “Yes Men” with their creation of a fake website poking fun at the World Trade Organization. Apparently satire masquerades as truth – they were contacted to speak at a conference in Austria and the Yes Men were born.
Posing as government or corporate spokesmen, satiric political activism began ruffling feathers. One of their first “pranks” was the 2004 “Yes, Bush Can”. Touring the country in a “Bush wrapped” RV, they encouraged supporters to sign the “patriot pledge” – agreeing to keep nuclear waste in their backyards and send their children to war. The duo even appeared at the Republican National Convention. Another petition circulated on the Bush/Cheney campaign trail urged supporters to support global warming because America’s competitors would suffer while Americans dealt with a few minor inconveniences.
In December 2004, Andy Bichlbaum, AKA Jacques Servin, appeared on BBC news as Dow Chemical spokesman Jude Finisterra.The 20th anniversary of Union Carbide’s chemical disaster in Bhopal India, Finisterra announced that Dow – who acquired Union Carbide a few years earlier- planned to liquidate the company, using the estimated 12 billion dollar worth to make amends in Bhopal. For just over an hour headlines erupted with breaking news of Dow taking full responsibility for the disaster. Finisterra told the BBC interviewer Dow came to the realization truth and people were more important than a dip in stock. Residents of Bhopal wept, believing the company who spent countless millions on warm, fuzzy damage control marketing, and not one dime to tear down the factory or deal with contaminated water supplies, had finally found a conscience. (Union Carbide settled with the Indian government for $470 million – roughly $2,200 paid to families of the dead) BBC issued a retraction, Dow cried hoax – everyone went back to business as usual.
Yes Men have taken on housing in New Orleans following Katrina – posing as Rene Oswin with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, they appeared with Major Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco before an audience of real estate developers to break bad news the government planned to rebuild and open public housing rather than bulldoze and turn the land over to “mixed income” development.
I rarely link to Wikipedia but this gives a great summary of Yes Men accomplishments…
Two documentary films – Yes Men released in 2003, and The Yes Men Fix the World which debuted in 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival – well worth tracking down and taking a peek. Linked below – The Yes Men Fix the World…
Kudos Yes Men, political activism owes you big time.