The rich get richer, the poor masses get a raw deal – nothing new to report there. For anyone who thinks the powers that be deserve a good poke in the ribs for all that privilege, Maori Television has the tonic: THE YES MEN, a documentary screening in the channel’s Sunday Feature slot on July 13 at 9.00 PM.
The Yes Men are a group of activists around since the late 1990s or so, whose main purpose has been to play elaborate pranks on the bigwigs in corporations, agencies and governments around the world.
The group has some serious points to make, in an anti-globalisation, anti-consumerism kind of vein, but as chief rib-pokers Andy and Mike observe in this documentary, it’s a lot more fun to make a statement in a satirical way.
The film begins as the guys get started on their next big prank. After setting up a phony website almost identical to George W Bush’s campaign site, but with content critical of his policies, they have been asked to do the same for the World Trade Organisation. The WTO is often criticised as being all about the interests of business, at the expense of the rights and quality of life of workers.
Through the site, The Yes Men have been invited to speak at an upcoming business conference for European textile businesspeople, on behalf, at least in the organisers’ minds, of the WTO. The presentation goes ahead, posing ideas they expect to outrage the conference.
What if, yes man Andy muses, the slaves in America’s cotton fields had not been freed? Surely market forces would have adjusted to the situation we have today – remote labour in developing countries, where the workers cost less than it would to maintain a slave in Helsinki, and without the downside of homesickness or racism for the slave/worker.
Not a peep does the conference audience make, except for the scribble of pens of conscientious note-takers.
Next, an outrageous gold shiny ‘leisure suit’ is produced, an outfit that comes with protruding phallic ‘workstation’ attached, allowing the remote worker ‘manager’ to observe his microchip-implanted staff.
Again, the audience is unmoved. So much for being arrested, or even just told off, for impersonation or bad taste, or anything at all.
The pranks keep coming. A false report that the WTO is dismantling itself, after admitting its intent for greater peace and prosperity a mission failure, is warmly received as a brave call by delegates at an accountants’ conference in Australia.
A presentation to students about a ‘re-burger’ – recycling of Western human waste to be fed to the world’s poor – finally gets the hoped for outrage from the audience.
The antics are long way from the riots and protests often credited to anti-global activists, which is no doubt why they work. Food for thought: THE YES MEN, screens on Maori Television on July 13 at 9.00 PM.