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Published: 6 August 2009

Yes Men Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno take the Tube
Can they fix it? Yes Men attempt to save the world

Directed by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno
Certificate PG

OIL companies are going to combat climate change and the energy crisis by boiling up the cadavers of the victims of global warming and turning their body fat into candles.
Nonsense, of course, but this is exactly what a glossy presentation to leading petro-conglomerate executives at an oil industry conference claimed. And while the hundreds of smart-suited carbon dioxide peddlers listened intently without actually getting the underlying message, it was loud and clear: your business is not sustainable and the world needs to do something about it.
“Doing something about it” is the theme that runs through this marvellous, kooky look at the politics of globalisation and the rotten, downright immoral evil that has come about through the triumph of neo-liberalism in the West.
The Yes Men are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, two campaigning film-makers with a nifty line in patter and an eye for the absurd.
They set up fake websites, purporting to be the internet homes of leading multi-nationals, then get themselves invited to give keynote speeches at business conferences around the world. Once on the podium, they let rip and use the stage to show how indefensible the behaviour of these companies really is.
The vogue for tub-thumping pieces on the state of the planet has filled our cinemas with righteous indignation: Franny Armstrong of McLibel fame gave us the superb Age of Stupid earlier this year, while Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was also a worldwide hit.
The Yes Men use a slightly different tactic, but one which is perhaps more accessible.
They take on trophy causes that illustrate the inane stupidity of capitalism as a system for which we organise our societies, and through the use of very simple concepts flag up how the relentless pursuit of profit above all else is simply no way to go about things.
Target number one is the giant chemical company Dow, who bought Union Carbide.
On the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal tragedy, our two smartly dressed Yes Men duped the world into thinking they represented Dow and were interviewed live on the BBC. Seen by around 300 million people, they said: “Actually guys, we are responsible for what happened and we are sorry. We will liquidate our company and finally do the right thing – we’ll pay compensation and clean up the city. It is the least we can do.” The announcement wiped more than £2billion off the share price of the company within minutes, but the spoof also had a very serious message: Dow could do this. Dow could do the right thing.
Of course, a Dow PR lizard refuted the fact they were going to do what was morally right, and in a flash the Yes Men showed up exactly how vile the system is.
From Bhopal they move to global warming and Exxon’s candle, and then pretend to be from Halliburton, whose shareholders make a living out of investing in other people’s misery. They present something called the Halliburton survival ball, a ridiculous Sumo-style inflatable suit that means we don’t have to care about disasters as those who can afford one will be zipping up their survival balls and sodding the rest of the world. Other highlights include talking head interviews with leading members of free market thinktanks, illustrating exactly how horrible their selfish philosophy really is (one scene shows Arnie Schwarzenegger gabbing on about Milton Friedman – weird, and hilarious).
Sadly, as these spoofs show, doing the right thing is simply not on some people’s agenda. Thank you, Yes Men, for illustrating this so starkly.

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