— by JOEL CRARY —
What I like about the Yes Men is that they are self-professed failures. One scene of “The Yes Men Fix the World” shows masters of deception Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno sitting in front of a television set, watching the effects of the free market on the poor of New Orleans. The two men are almost fully encased in their last failure, large suits designed by Halliburton to protect people from anything nature could throw their way. Think of the casualties that could have been avoided had the victims of Hurricane Katrina been wearing these suits.
It’s obviously ridiculous, but the joke isn’t on Andy and Mike. It’s on the clueless guy who stands up at the end of their presentation and congratulates them, takes their business card and tells them that the suits would be even more effective in terrorist attacks. I have no doubt that gentleman gets through his day under the impression that he is making the world a better place. The joke is that money has blinded him to common sense, as can happen to so many who have a lot of it and who wouldn’t know what it’s like to go without it.
“The Yes Men Fix the World” is a film that obviously took time to create. In the six years after the release of “The Yes Men” in 2003, Andy and Mike have gone on several new ideological crusades that have gotten them a lot of exposure, yet have seemingly made none the wiser to their identities. Since 2004, Andy in particular has appeared in front of millions of television viewers as well as large audiences of several corporate conferences, pretending to be somebody he’s not. He is frequently addressed as the assistant to or representative of well known politicians and businesses, and initially, none are the wiser.
How does he put himself into these positions? It seems to come down to web savvy, though how Andy and Mike were able to create a website at www.dowethics.com, purport to be a division of Dow Chemical that stands for accountability and not have their pants sued off isn’t fully explained. “Dow’s lawyers never contacted us,” Andy comments after 300 million viewers of BBC News have just seen him claim that Dow has taken full responsibility for the worst chemical spill in history. He gleefully refreshes Google headlines to analyze his fake announcement’s longevity and later discovers that it contributed directly to Dow taking a $2 billion hit.
Clearly Andy and Mike aren’t taken seriously. As they stand in front of Big Oil’s biggest supporters, brandishing candles they explain are comprised of human flesh, those in attendance cast uncertain glances at each other, as though an illusionist has spontaneously made a building disappear right in front of them. Andy and Mike are shut down and escorted from the room while the media tries to pick up the pieces of what just happened. Yes, it’s amusing. But those people in attendance will go home that night and think on the incident as the concoction of a couple of whackjobs who weren’t screened effectively enough by the event organizers. Andy and Mike have failed again, but at least we get to see the results.
“The Yes Men Fix the World” is decent entertainment. It’s gratifying to see these guys infiltrate a world in which little more than expensive suits bar the general public from inclusion in discussing the fate of the planet. That they have an agenda is clear, but this isn’t activism. It’s more like a collection of “Punk’d” segments sewn together, all relying on the fascination that Andy and Mike are actually able to get away with what they’re doing. The film does raise some important ideas that anyone watching will either already know about in advance, or will be disheartened to learn. Anyone on the side of the free market will be left wondering why a security team hasn’t yet nailed these men to the wall.
Follow Joel Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joelcrary.