The Men who say Ni…I mean Yes. 

As cited in the Cultural Resistance Reader, "electronic methods of protest are becoming more and more important". From fax jamming to phone zapping to subversive website imitations, activists are getting over their supposed collective technophobia and using new technologies for ‘electronic civil disobedience’. Ricardo Dominguez, co-founder of the Electronic Disturbance Theater, has helped to create a space for "direct non-violent use of the Internet, pushing it away from the paradigm of just communication and documentation".

The Yes-Men (aka Andy and Mike) have similarly chosen such a venue for their own, unique version of electronic activism: Identity Theft Redux. While identity theft commonly refers to the borrowing of an identity in order to falsely misrepresent a given person, the Yes-Men impersonate others in order to expose the true, deceptive nature of those who they pretend to be. And not just one person at a time, either, but entire organizations.

How do they accomplish this, you ask? Well, they create almost identical web pages for the official sites of the evildoers they are hoping to target, but the content of their site reveals the subjects dark side, which the real website conveniently omits. (See gatt.org instead of the actual World Trade Organizaztion site wto.org, georgewbush.org instead of Dubya’s official georgewbush.com)

At first glance the Yes-Men versions of the sites appear to be authentic, some more so than others. So authentic, in the case of their GATT site, that they have sometimes been contacted and invited to speak at lectures around the world as representatives for the WTO. And, being the Yes-Men, how could they say no?

But what they have found time and again at these lectures is that people rarely respond to the outrageous speeches they present. Hoping to get people riled up at the notion that cheap, child labour is the natural successor to slavery and hence the key to successful trade? Think again.

From the Yes-Men site FAQ page:
-"Why are you called the Yes Men?"
-"You know how a funhouse mirror exaggerates your most hideous features? We do that kind of exaggeration operation, but with ideas. We agree with people—turning up the volume on their ideas as we talk, until they can see their ideas distorted in our funhouse mirror. Or that's what we try to do, anyhow—but as it turns out, the image always seems to look normal to them."

Strange times indeed.

*Look for a new film by Chris Smith and Sarah Price (American Movie) documenting the many adventures of Andy and Mike, aptly titled The Yes-Men. Coming soon to a theater near you.

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