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The Yes Men Fix the World
(No longer in theaters)
Doro Bachrach, Ruth Charny, Laura Nix
Oct 7, 2009
Corporate greedheads can see Michael Moore lumbering toward them from miles away, but the politically progressive pranksters the Yes Men—back in their second film, the outrageously entertaining The Yes Men Fix the World—are clean-cut fellows who slip right into the business milieu. Like Sacha Baron Cohen, they specialize in gulling the unsuspecting, but their agenda isn’t rooted in humiliation. Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are earnest crusaders with two ends. The first is to take what they see as the capitalist credo (profit over human life), reduce it—in the manner of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”—to its despicable essence, and watch as rows of convention-going free-marketers nod at their refreshingly inhumane proposals. The second—more exhilarating—is to impersonate honchos and behave as they think corporations, in an ideal world, would. Their fake capitalists proclaim, “To hell with what’s profitable, let’s do what’s right!”—and watch the markets react with horror.
The movie is episodic: six pranks and their aftermaths, plus interviews with leading Milton Friedman disciples. Five of the six are a hoot. The one that’s lame is the idea of Exxon execs’ touting an endlessly renewable energy source made from human corpses. (Even in a dystopic future, Soylent Green only sold because no one knew it was people.) The most astounding by far is when Bichlbaum goes on the BBC as a spokesman for Dow on the anniversary of the Bhopal catastrophe to announce that the chemical giant (which acquired Union Carbide) will make full restitution to the 100,000 or so victims who are permanently disabled. A close second is when he shares the stage with bombastic New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and declares HUD’s commitment to save a public-housing project that had been, post-Katrina, inexplicably turned over to private developers.The most disturbing aspect of The Yes Men Fix the World is the corporate media’s response when the truth comes out. The Bhopal hoax is labeled cruel and inhuman on the grounds that it gave “false hope.” So the Yes Men travel to India, where they’re heroes: A few hours of “false hope” was a small price to pay for getting the atrocity back in the spotlight (and playing havoc with Dow’s stock). Watch the jackass on local New Orleans TV gloat over figuring out the Yes Men don’t work for HUD: He really thinks he’s done his job as a journalist and served the common good. This movie is glorious testimony to the moral power of satire.