Monday, December 19, 2005

The Yes Men

Recently, I watched The Yes Men, a documentary following two WTO impersonators. Although the documentary itself wasn't great in its own right, the hijinks of the Yes Men keeps it compelling. The Yes Men started by creating spoof websites with similar links to the person or organization they were satirizing. It started with a George W. Bush site in 1999, and a WTO site soon followed that. Each site tried to portray their victim in a way that the Yes Men thought was more honest; they call this Identity Correction.

Soon after the creation of the WTO site, they received email questions followed by invitations to speak at a number of conferences on trade. The Yes Men would accept the invitations and use the forum to satirize the WTO through advocating for policies that show callous disregard for people in developing countries. Strangely enough, the Yes Men are not discovered at the conferences, despite the absurdity of their presentations.

It seems though that the Yes Men saved their best satirical conference for after the documentary. Their latest website takes on DOW, and again they were invited to speak at a conference. In April 2004, the Yes Men announced the Acceptable Risk Calculator, and its mascot, the golden skeleton – because, “It may be just a skeleton in the closet, yes--but it could very well be a golden skeleton too.” This new calculator will help companies determine, through examining market forces, if any potentially dangerous products might still be profitable in the long run. The best part is that instead of being ridiculed for their speech, many at the banking conference wanted pictures with the golden skeleton and signed up for licenses to use the Acceptable Risk Calculator.