Say Yes to the Yes Men

Iris Yirei Hu


Instead of watching the dynamic duo being interviewed on BCC as the spokesman of DOW Chemicals or what have you, we are urged to try and fix the world ourselves. Sounds like a huge endeavor, but during the Yes Men lecture last Thursday at Royce, they definitely put an emphasis on audience participation and community involvement. Immediately, the two announced that the US of A was breaking its own law regarding conflict minerals in Rwanda, and asked the audience to take out their cell phones and call the US Attorney General Eric Holder, whose number was clearly projected on screen. One audience member did end up leaving a message for the Honorable Eric Holder, stating his issue with the tardiness and apparent inability to effectively carry out the said “law.”

When asked which issues were problematic in the city of Los Angeles, audience members shouted out responses such as tuition increases, inability to access clean water in LA, LAPD corruption and some twenty more social/political issues. I kind of had a feeling that the audience was expecting Andy and Mike to take notes and do their Yes Men thing and perhaps make a 3rd documentary about it, but instead they asked the audience to gather in small groups and discuss how they would take charge and try to fix the problem(s) that they were most passionate about, but actually get together and instigate change (or at least awareness). This sort of audience interaction is the basis of the newly launched Yes Lab, a framework for the Yes Men to work with activist organizations to raise awareness for their respective stances.

Though the Yes Men have pulled a lot of big-time pranks, their critique not only lies in the issue or people in which they are critiquing, but also in the media outlets. They are activist-artists who infiltrate global organizations in order to challenge the public personas of institutions they have deemed problematic by “correcting the identities” of these criminals. Their repertoire has consisted of fake websites and press releases, many of which have gotten media attention, which is why they have been asked to speak at so many conferences and on several news channels. Using the media as a forum to critique the dishonesty of corporate criminals, the Yes Men are also challenging the media as a social institution, showing instead the media’s dishonesty, and their shallow investigation of what’s being reported.

The Yes Men are at it again. But while they're thinking of who's identity to correct next, they are asking for our help, for which, they have created an online brainstorming forum for creative activism, the Yes Lab.