The slogan “corporate consulting for the twenty-first century” conjures images of hip, industrious young executives crafting media-savvy branding campaigns, dreaming up ingenious new products, and using the word partner as a verb. And indeed, the strategists behind RTMark – the six-year-old organization to which the motto belongs – do specialize in such activities, albeit in an incendiary, subversive fashion.
Most recently, RTMark (officially spelled ®™ark and pronounced “art mark,” the name is a play on registered trademark) launched YesRudy.com, a viciously clever spoof of the mayor’s actual campaign Website, RudyYes.com. But YesRudy’s jibes about the would-be junior senator’s oligarchic leanings are merely the tip of the giddily anarchic RTMark iceberg. Founded as a pre-Internet computer bulletin board by a half-dozen like-minded friends to fight corporate interests through “worker-based sabotage” and other guerrilla tactics, the company has sponsored the copyright-flouting CD Deconstructing Beck; bankrolled the Barbie Liberation Organization, a band of pranksters who switched the voice boxes in 300 talking G.I. Joe and Barbie dolls and slipped them back onto store shelves; and paid off a programmer at Panasonic to rig the company’s type-and-speak computer program so that users’ machines talked like Tourette’s-afflicted longshoremen. RTMark’s slick, 40-minute corporate promo video boasts that the outfit is “the industry leader in bringing subversive and blacklisted cultural productions into the marketplace.”
RTMark’s fight-fire-with-fire approach goes beyond aesthetics. “We’re incorporated, in Delaware, as an S-corporation,” says CFO Frank Guerrero, 34. “Our investors are protected by the same limited-liability status that lets officers of other corporations avoid responsibility for their companies’ wrongdoing.” Further mimicking the legitimate business world, RTMark has established thirteen “mutual funds,” which allow visitors to the group’s Website to invest anonymously under the stewardship of celebrity fund managers like NPR’s Andrei Codrescu and D.J. Spooky, who in turn select new acts of anticorporate mayhem for the money to be channeled into. Guerrero, who holds down a day job as an Albany-area banking consultant, adds, “We are a for-profit organization – although we don’t see capital as profit; our profits are cultural dividends. Which makes our tax returns kind of interesting.” (Such intangible rewards are also the only payoff the mutual funds offer.)
Clearly, the enterprise smacks of the absurd. “A corporation that engages in anticorporate activity is an oxymoron,” Guerrero happily admits. But RTMark’s five officers (most of whom prefer to remain anonymous) mean business: Their objective is to overturn century-old U.S. laws treating corporations as citizens – a cornerstone of the modern economy, they argue, that has diluted the Bill of Rights itself. Hence, explains Guerrero, “the ultimate goal of RTMark is to be sued, and to use that case to put corporate rights on trial. And lose.”