The Yes Men formed accidentally in 1999, when two friends, Andy Bichlbaum
and Mike Bonanno
, created a website that parodied
that of the World Trade Organization
and the website started being mistaken as the real thing. Organizers of highly-corporate events started to email and invite The Yes Men to speak at conference
s and such, thinking they were really leaders of the WTO
. The Yes Men accepted these invitations, dressed in corporate attire
, created powerpoint presentation
s, and fed godawful ideas to the conference attendees.
Horrifyingly enough, they were never, not once, identified as imposters.
In Salzburg, at an International Trade Law conference, "Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer" (Andy) delivered an offensive lecture which, among other things, insulted the work habits of Italians and Spaniards, calling them lazy, and encouraged the idea of making democracy more of a free market by selling votes to the highest bidder. Although several people appeared slightly insulted by the comments on Italians, no one opposed to the idea of auctioning off votes. At lunch, "Dr. Bichlbauer" praised Hitler's economy, and no one at the table disagreed with his ideas or appeared surprised at what he was saying.
In July 2001, Andy participated in a CNBC on-air debate, posing as "Granwyth Hulatberi". He asserted that people should market human rights violations, and allow countries to buy "Justice Vouchers" if they want to abuse people. Although Barry Coates, the man he was debating against, could barely contain his anger and disbelief, none of the producers noticed anything out of the ordinary.
At a "Textiles of the Future" conference in Finland, the Yes Men decided they needed to do something more dramatic, since no one had blinked an eye at their antics yet. Five minutes into his lecture, Andy rips off his business suit to reveal a gold lame bodysuit with an inflatable phallus to be used as a television screen. He explains that by wearing a suit like this, business owners can relax leisurely while keeping an eye on their sweatshop worlers and employees in other countries by viewing them on the television screen, which he calls the "Employee Visualization Appendage". Although he looks ridiculous in his gold bodysuit (especially with an inflatable three-foot-long phallus), once again, no one questions them, much less identifies them as imposters.
The Yes Men's official site is www.theyesmen.org.
There is also a movie about The Yes Men. It debuted at the several film festivals this year, and will be in theaters September 24. You can find out more about the movie and view the trailer at www.theyesmenmovie.com.