Monday, 27 December 2010

LSD Magazine Interviews The Yes Men (Issue 6)

 Hello, good evening and welcome to the subversive, lunacy tinged mischief of the Yes Men and their twinkling mission to fix the world. We love our inventive activists here at LSD and have a massive soft spot for complete nutters, and these two anti corporate reprobates combine the two beautifully. Having made two films that document their extraordinary stunts, they set up fake websites purporting to represent some of capitalism’s most shameless offenders, pursue any offers of the oxygen of publicity sent to those ‘organisations’, and proceed to reshape their despicable policies in the full glare of the public eye, raising not only awareness of the issues, but the spectre of those companies having to come out and deny everything, thus reiterating their complete lack of morality to the world. From announcing 12 billion dollars of compensation to the victims of Bhopal live on the BBC on behalf of Dow Chemicals, to unveiling human corpses as the solution to the worlds energy crisis...

Tell us a little about your background in political activism and what inspired you to start the Yes Men.

Well it all kind of happened by accident. We were already working on what you could call an anti-corporate corporation and we ran a thing called where we were trying to put together people with the resources they needed to carry out subversive projects - match making them with people with ideas and sometimes people with money. In the course of doing that, Andy started making fake websites including one for the World Trade Organisation that were so satirical, we expected people to look at them and laugh. In fact though, some people would go to them and having had such a hard time contacting say, WTO representatives through the real site, on finding the contact button on ours, they would email us thinking that we were the real thing. We had been dong that for a while and received a few invitations before we realised that we could follow up on them to participate in the conferences they were asking us to attend.

So you get an invite, you RSVP, and what – you just swan in?

Yeah that’s pretty much it! I mean over the years things have grown more elaborate but the first time round we fully expected to be thrown out, and when we weren’t and people were ready to accept the dark satire that we were indulging in as gospel, it was so surprising and weird that we decided to stick with it. We kept on with actions in that vein, impersonating the WTO and then expanding into many other wrong doers, big corporations and governments for the last decade now. 

How do you judge the line between exposing how absurd their policies are through an even more absurd satiric announcement and being credible enough to not get kicked off the stage within the first 30 seconds. 

Strangely, we started being very careful about that and tried to ramp up the talk very slowly and not say anything outrageous for a while - sort of lulling the audience into it. Thing was, before long, we found out that there was basically nothing that we couldn’t say in that context because people had so much respect for us and people do tend to trust authority and avoid rocking the boat. They’re in a situation where they are supposed to meet the most important person in the room and get their business card and since we were supposedly the most important people in the room we were the target for everybody to come up, get the business card, meet us and shake our hands, so we had license to say anything and people didn’t respond negatively. Consequently, as the years passed, we really just stopped paying attention to how subtle we had to be.

Were you amazed watching the herd mentality in action as people just swallowed this with very little sense of irony? 

We were surprised at first, but then we came to understand that this was human nature and of course it reflects on what’s going on in the world. Think about it, how can we accept things like climate change and continue with business as usual despite the fact that we know that it’s going to kill us or if not in our lifetime, it’s certainly going to be killing a lot of us a few generations down the line. Right now it’s just killing “other” people far away - 300,000 people a year now according to the UN. But knowing that it’s destroying us why do we keep doing it? I think that this reality of people sitting back and not responding is related to that and of course it’s been tested in laboratory experiments, there’s the famous Milgram experiments and a number of others concerning human behavior whether it’s about group dynamics or deference to authority. People are easily manipulated and in many ways, we have what I would call ‘vulnerabilities to reason’, our reason has vulnerabilities where something else kicks in and we stop using that kind of reason.

Why do you think that freedom and capitalism are considered one and the same, especially in the USA? 

Well there is one very specific explanation, and that is that a small clutch of ideologically driven people who have a lot of money, have put a tonne of it into that way of seeing the world. That’s one answer, and it’s no accident that these massive lobbying organisations like the US Chamber of Commerce who lobby hard for no regulation, the interests of business and that conception, that idea that human freedom is somehow connected or is in fact the same thing as economic licence. Obviously they’re not, and anybody should be able to see that, but that’s of course not the way it’s gone. It’s clear whose interest it serves - eventually there is an end game to all of this and it’s going to have to change, because you can’t just keep on having unfettered growth. Capitalism is a machine that will destroy itself given enough time and given enough rope and you’d just hope that it doesn’t destroy us all with it.


 London Street-Art Design Official Portal

Ananda nahu, The Correspondents, Solo One, Soulflux, The Orb + Youth, Jerm IX, 69 DB, Raymond Salvatore Harmon, Rennie Pilgrem, The Yes Men, Resto, Chaz, Neurodriver, Lokey, Elate, Dhear One, Page 51, Umek, Karma, Andrew Tiernan, K-Guy, Richard A Webster, William Parry, Andy C, Jesus Greus, Push Pony, James Lightning Wilks, Dominic Spreadlove, AK - 47, Mr Sofalumpkins, Mat Banbury, MikkiM, David Corden, Ian Milne, Punch Music, Hudson Zuma, Wayne Anthony, Sirius23

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