Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno
The Yes Men are a pair of culture jamming pranksters whose interventions into media have revealed injustices in the basic structures of contemporary neoliberalist globalization. Their modus operandi has been to mimic the conventional forms by which information is packaged and delivered to contemporary audiences, deliver a message that is absurd, either in the traditional sense or in a modern sense where an inconvenient truth is acknowledged, and then capture the reactions of the audience. The most profound example of this later sense of the absurd which I mentioned, as expressed in the work of The Yes Men, can be seen in this interview wherein one of the Yes Men claim that Dow Chemical will make reparations for Union Carbide's 1984 Bophal (India) disaster, when the company's Bophal plant leaked toxic gasses which almost immediately caused over 15,000 deaths, now that Dow has purchased the guilty company. The result was Dow's stock dropped instantly, revealing the sense of justice encoded into markets, and The Yes Men were instantly acused of giving the people of Bophal false hope.
The film begins with the song 'Get Happy', which I otherwise know from David Lynch's television series Twin Peaks.
This documentary, The Yes Men Fix The World (an irritating title for a film that doesn't actually show them offering solutions) shows The Yes Men going behind the scenes of their own work and following up on its results. They used media to pretend as though officials were acknowledging the errors made in Bophal India, and also in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and bringing equitable compensation to those affected populations. They visited these locations to speak with people and to ask them if they were filled with false hope, the generic critique of Yes Men interventions by media pundits. Naturally the people of of those locations have very good reason to be angry at the cruelty of governments, corporations, and markets, on a continuing basis and weren't especially put off by the actions of the culture jammers.
The film's revelation that the duo were so often accused of providing false hope is fascinating. Clearly the Yes Men are playing with media to create an image of what justice should look like when filtered through the conventions of contemporary media channels. Of course, when The Yes Men are revealed as tricksters, and media personalities are not including questions about the withholding of justice by the actual offenders in part of their response to the Yes Men's intervention, then they are choosing to protect the image of institutions responsible for disaster.
The Yes Men are media pranksters, and fundamentally this is a documentary about media, chains of communication and representation, the manipulation of symbols, and the public relations industry. TV's are viewed in strange locations, creating juxtapositions of imagery, the sleek PR television image against what is often a post-industrial setting, for our own consumption via our own screen. I'm not pointing that out to note any irony, but I do believe that the production of a documentary like this serves the purpose of giving the Yes Men a forum for responding to their own imagery and the responses it garnered in turn, since they're used to making images with other people's machinery.