‘The Yes Men’ & Satire

Sarah Buttle

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What is Satire? & Who are ‘The Yes Men’?

Satire is used in many works of literature to show foolishness or vice in humans, organisations or even governments. It uses sarcasm, ridicule, or irony. For example, satire is often used to effect political or social change, or to prevent it.

A satirist can direct the satire toward on individual or a whole country or even the world. It is sometimes serious, used to expose something or someone.

It can be comical when used to poke fun at something or someone too. Most political cartoons in newspaper and magazines use satire for full effect. It is used to mock politicians by using diagrams and spoofs.

This brings me onto the self made satirists and activists Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano. These are two guys who just cannot take “no” as an answer, they are the Yes Men.

The Yes Men: Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonnano

They have an usual hobby: posing as top executive or corporations targets in nothing but thrift-store suits and scripts. The Yes Men lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate targets in even more extreme ways than thought possible.

To date they have produced many documentary styled movies and spoofs, but they are most famous for :

The Yes Men. Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonnano
The Yes Men. Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonnano source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Yes_Men.jpg

Dow Chemical vs. The Yes Men

One day Andy pretended to be a Dow Chemical spokesperson and he managed to get himself on to the biggest TV news gram in the world, the BBC. Dow provides chemical, plastic, and agricultural products and services to consumer markets. Including: food, transportation, medicine, personal care and construction. Dow operates in approximately 180 countries.

The company puts profit before human morals and ethics. The Yes Men new this and wanted to expose them. The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident in India, considered the world’s worst industrial disaster.

A staggering, 2,259 died instantly from the disaster with 500,000 people were exposed gas and other chemicals. It left 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases.

The toxic substance made its way into and around the shanty towns located near the plant. Dow was responsible for this but did not admit this as it would cost millions to their company. Thousands of children today are and living with and are born with deformities and still birth rates were up 200%.

The Yes Men decided to go live on air and release a report stating that Dow were ready to finally clean up the site of the largest industrial action in history. The result could not have been predicted. When news broke, Dow’s stock values had a loss of two billion dollars.

Although people wanted Dow to do the right thing and this is surpassingly what they did, the value of the company dropped significantly. The reality hits Andy and Mike like a ton of bricks. The way the market system is run makes doing the right thing impossible. If we keep putting the market in the drivers seat, it could happily drive the whole planet off a cliff!

They started to question why we had given the market more power than other institution to determine our direction as a society. As they appeared on the BBC before 300 million viewers, the layers of lies are peeled back through the use of clever satire.

They use this satire to expose the truth. The Yes Men are prime examples of satire used right.

Many people often do not get satire. The Yes Men think that there audiences, those who are in powerful positions in our society do not get the jokes because they are blinded by their views of how the world works.

Those in power believe, even when shoved in the face by hideous consequences of their actions, they are doing the right things. Even for those of us who love satire and have lots of experience laughing at satire, it can be hard to tell whether something is real or meant as satire.

The Yes Men characterise much of their satire as identity correction: impersonating big time criminals in order to publicly ridicule and humiliate them. It is very effective. This is aimed at corporate criminals who put profit before and ahead of everything else, no matter what the outcome.

In The Yes Men, there first movie, they explain that economically and politically powerful institutions like the World Trade Organisation characterised their work as compassionate and humanitarian. In reality there actions collectively have led to catastrophe for hundreds of millions and possible billions of people globally.

Examples of alternative news programmes and sites that use effective satire to convey the truth are endless.

Personally my favourites include Mock of the Week hosted by Dara O’Brien in the UK. Another excellent source is Waterford Whispers. This is an online website that uses the journalistic approach of satire to make ridiculous headlines and statements. 



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Sarah Buttle

Mental Health Youth Advisers for the Milestone Study