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April 4th 2004: The Horrible Stunt by the Yes Men

[April 4th 2004]

Andy Bichlbaum at a conference on international trade in Salzburg, Austria in 2000.

The Horribly Stupid Stunt by The Yes Men

The RADAR festival the April 1st- 4th 2004 offered a wide range of events focusing on electronic music, art and technology. Amongst these the film The Horribly Stupid Stunt by The Yes Men was screened at Basement in Copenhagen. In the film The Yes Men are giving a lecture to a group of lawyers who think they are listening to the World Trade Organization. Here they deliver their own very speciel brand of WTO public address. Marie Kirkegaard conducted an email interview with Andy Bichlbaum from The Yes Men to find out a little more about their aims and goals of the project.

Would you like for a start to present the concept of the Yes Men?
We are your standard-issue revolutionaries. We would hope that our impostures so shame Messrs. Bush and Cheney that they crumble into regime dust along with their motley assortment of thugs.

In the film "The horribly stupid stunt" The Yes Men are giving a lecture to a group of lawyers who think they are listening to the World Trade Organization. What makes them think, that you are the WTO in the first place? In that I mean, how do you disguise yourselves to appear to be the WTO to gain access to the inner sanctum that gives you the opportunity to do lectures for a highly motivated professional audience?
They came to our website,, thinking it was the real thing.

I see what you mean. Your website is a mirror image of the official homepage for the World Trade Organization, where you actually use the WTO logo. How do you avoid copyright infringements?
We don't.

Then in what way have the WTO responded to your appropriated use of their identity?
They wrote a press release about us when we first set up Neither we nor anyone else noticed, so they wrote to us directly and told us about it. They said "Hey, look what you made us do, you deplorable dimwits!" So we told 20,000 of our closest friends. That got the WTO a bit of ridicule in the press, which they augmented by telling at least two reporters (from Transfert, and from the New York Times) that they "deplore" us. "Deplore"! Well, we deplore them! Those dumb-asses! Also, in Transfert, they suggested we should wear masks of Mike Moore's face and run around yelling angry epithets about him. That would be funny, they said. Can you imagine? Of course, over time they really warmed up to us, and after the lecture in Sydney, where we shut down them down, they were much, much nicer. Getting shut down was just what they needed.

Alright, lets get back to the film "The Horribly Stupid Stunt" which was shown at the "Next 5 Minutes", International Festival of Tactical Media in Amsterdam 2003, and is now being shown at the RADAR festival in Copenhagen, which is a festival focusing on electronic music, art and technology. In what sense is there, do you think, a correlation between your work and these technological media?
Mainly the correlation is that to do our work, we rely on the Internet.

The Yes Men
in Tampere, Finland at the 'Textiles of the Future' conference, 2001.

How does one of your presentations actually occur?
We get invitation via e-mail. We respond. Then we go.

Can you describe how these events function or how they are run?
Quite nicely. Each is accompanied by a tasty lunch and always some wine. They are in the rich part of town, so you can walk around in a suit without raising eyebrows.

How do you realize your ethos in your work. I mean what methods do you use?
Principally the broad back-and-forth, or, for difficult stains, a series of little round circular motions. That assures a clean suit, which is an absolute prerequisite for successful imposture. The suit can be gotten in your average thrift store for around $20 (15 euros).

What themes have been extolled by the Yes Men at these presentations and how were they received?
Eat, destroy, swallow, devour, glutch, gobble, quaff, marf, munch, lunch, inhale. Hurrah, cheer, kudos, honor, exalt, extol, salute.

Why do you think, that these seemingly intelligent corporate people are willing unflinchingly to accept the ideas expounded by the Yes Men in these presentations?
Perhaps they are eager to appear fully in sync with the bottom line of the commanding operation.

How far do you think you can go before someone began questioning? What do you generally think it would take to startle or even shock these people?
Perhaps a rumpled suit would help.

In your opinion, to what level of corporate cruelty can these buisness people tolerate before being outraged?
Uncertain. Our tests were inconclusive. Both of these questions might be answered by Milgram.

The Yes Men at University in Plattsburgh, NY suggesting that the third world countries start recycle their own shit.

But what do you think the general acceptance amongst your audience indicates about the prevailing corporate mentality?
Ready to goosestep. Fully in sync with the bottom line of the commanding operation. And not just the corporate man: the corporate woman, the academic man, the political woman, the alcoholic child. Many, many people, regardless of education, are easy prey for the ideas of the corporate decision-makers. Present them with a decision, they will accept it! This is why it is important for citizens to decide what sorts of corporate decisions are and are not acceptable. It is never possible to count on the highly educated to filter the okay from the rotten. It is not possible to expect that Ph.D.s will always be on the lookout for the fascist and murderous.

What do you expect people in Denmark to get out of your film?
Well, we expect them to laugh and maybe think about things a bit. Ideally they'd throw out their right-wing government and vote in a more reasonable one like in Spain, but a funny little movie won't accomplish that.

I have heard rumours that The Yes Men are coming to Copenhagen in May this year. Can this be confirmed at all?
We hope so!


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