This Week in the Mercury


Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Yes Men: Nothing Wrong With a Little Social Engineering

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Sun, Sep 7, 2008 at 3:29 PM

Which is to say: A little lying doesn't necessarily hurt anyone, especially when it's done in the service of satire... and a good cause.

4.16YesMenDowHoax.jpg

The Yes Men are "a loose-knit association of some 300 importers worldwide" (according to the PICA handbook) but there are two main men behind what could be referred to as the Yes Men movement, Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos. Their goal is to get into the alabaster halls of power (or at least a few hotel ballrooms) and essentially make a mockery of world trade, capitalism and injustice. They do this by posing as representative from say, Haliburton, HUD or Exxon-Mobile, getting themselves invited to conferences, and then offering outrageous solutions (via power point presentations and animation) to what the moneyed power-elite view as "problems."

What should we do about the growing cost of fossil fuels? The Yes Men, disguised as Exxon-Mobile, suggest a new fuel provided by rendering human bodies into oil. Oh, and here is a candle we've made from a recently deceased Exxon janitor to prove that it works. Taa-daa!

Yesterday at PNCA, the Yes Men tried to explain to a capacity crowd how to do what they do. It was a bit unfocused and a whole lot of funny. From what I could glean, here are the steps for pulling a fast one on the big wigs, in the name of social and environmental justice.

Step 1: Create a webpage.

Hopefully one that can pass for the real thing. You want it to look as much as possible like the corporation or governing body you're planning to dupe. The domain name is the most important thing. You want a realistic domain name that you can send and receive e-mails from.

The Yes Men got their start when a satirical web page they had set up for the WTO summit in Seattle was mistaken for the real thing. They were soon flying to Europe on the invitation of trade lawyers, where they posed as representatives from the World Bank and suggested that Spain abolish the siesta in order to increase worker production.

Step 2: Get a pay as you go cell-phone

Untraceable so you can send and receive calls. You put this number on your fake business card, which you give out to people when you...

Step 3: Crash a conference

This usually begins with sending out a press release or calling the conference in the guise of evil company X to let them know you have an exciting announcement to make. No worry, people will want to believe you, no matter how outrageous your scheme. On the off chance that they don't, just go to the conference anyway, look at the name badges laid out on the table and pick one. They Yes Men claim this works just fine.

Step 4: Give your presentation

Make it slick and make sure it pushes the boundaries. Also, make sure to document your prank. The media will need it for a follow-up story. You can also help them out by issuing another press release written to explain what you are doing and why you did it.

All you need now is an issue and a plan. For inspiration, check out the Yes Men exhibit at PNCA, running through the beginning of October. Plenty of video and paraphernalia to get your social engineering activist self all revved up.



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