The Yes Men Fix the World – Review

Posted January 19, 2009 in
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Social engineers Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno have had their antics documented before by BBC, CNN, Associated Press, Fox News, and in the 2003 documentary The Yes Men. The film The Yes Men Fix the World is the first piece of art created by the Yes Men themselves to document not only their antics and hoaxes, but the mission and inspiration behind these pranks. For those unfamiliar, The Yes Men impersonate major corporations or organizations through major media outlets. As their alter egos, they commit the firms to socially and ethically responsible efforts often to the detriment of the financial interests of the firm. For example, in 1984, a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide exploded killing thousands of people and sickening tens of thousands more in the largest industrial accident ever recorded. Dow Chemical, the current owner of Union Carbide, has failed to follow up with adequate compensation for victims of the disaster - which still contaminates the water supply to this day. In response, on the 20th anniversary of the disaster, the BBC contacted Dow (or so they thought) for an interview. Enter Andy Bichlbaum, Yes Men extraordinare. Instead of a Dow Chemical spokesman, BBC world instead broadcast the live interview in which Andy, acting as an employee of DOW, accepted full responsibility for the disaster, proposed the liquidation of Union Carbide and full financial and ecological recompensation for the disaster. DOW's stock plummeted, and the firm had to make the embarassing retraction admitting that they do NOT accept full responsibility nor do they intend to accept it in the future. This is one of many examples where the Yes Men have used their hoaxes to create a brief window in which they illustrate that hope and progress is possible - the actions are well within the grasps of firms in charge of these disasters. Instead of creating a 'highlight' reel of their pranks over the years, The Yes Men highlight their mission and cause - and the positive impact they have on the individuals most affected by the crises in which their hoaxes are direct responses. This film is probably one of the most powerful and moving documentaries about social change I've seen. A sense of urgency both compelling and relevent - showing that direct action is necessary for change, but does not necessarily always cause change. The Yes Men create awareness of issues in the most unignorable of ways -forcing companies to publicly retract statements regarding actions the public and society wishes they would take. Government and free market may be able to turn a blind eye to the corporate greed, but it the public will be aware - if it is the last thing the Yes Men do. The film is a catalyst for social change - a new form of punk rock combining awareness with responsibility, knowing how to talk the talk of those cleverly using the same phrases and words to cloud and blanket the ugly truth.

- Ryan Powers