For over two decades, The Yes Men have staged multifarious hoaxes and actions that
have revealed the mechanisms of corporate and governmental power. They have
impersonated corporate executives and created fake versions of news sources, like the
New York Times, that present public statements and stories contrary to official ones,
among other activities. Their stunts hijack print, web, and television to enact what they
call ‘identity correction,’ a tactic that exposes the latent exploitative operations of
companies and governments. For example, in 2004, Andy Bichlbaum, one of the Yes
Men, impersonated a Dow Chemical representative in an appearance on the BBC.
During the performance, Bichlbaum issued an apology for the 1984 Bhopal nuclear
plant disaster (a toxic chemical gas leak in an Union Carbide plant that led thousands of
deaths and severe health hazards) and promised immediate reparations which resulted
in a $2 billion dollar drop in Dow’s share price, and forced the company into a PR crisis.
Since Trump’s election in 2016, The Yes Men have been questioning their previous
methods that use news and other media platforms for activist campaigns. They ask:
What is the point of getting media attention in an economy of social media that drives
news according to user’s taste and search history? Does satire work when truth itself is
so absurd? What forms of activism are impactful in a moment of rising fascism and
supremacy? Mike Bonanno, one of the members of The Yes Men, will unpack these and
many other questions in the talk Creative Activism in the Post Factual Age.
About The Yes Men and Mike Bonanno
The Yes Men are known for their outrageous, headline-grabbing pranks made in the service of social movements. They’ve made three feature films about the actions (The Yes Men, The Yes Men Fix the World, and The Yes Men are Revolting.) Writer Naomi Klein called them “The Johnathan Swift of the Jackass generation” but that was around a decade ago when people knew what Jackass was. They are currently searching for a new tagline that better explains to college-age kids what they do. (suggestions welcome!) When he’s not doing the Yes Men, Mike Bonanno is also a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, where he goes by the name Igor Vamos,which his parents bizarrely decided to assign him thus necessitating a “normal” name for undercover work. This talk is presented as part of ‘Reading Between the Lines’ a project by first-year CCSBard graduate student Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi and supported by a grant from Center for Experimental Humanities, Bard College, NY with additional support from the Centerfor Curatorial Studies, Bard College.