Yes Yes Y'All

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Culture pranksters Mike Bobanno and Andy Bichlbaum, the "Yes Men," have been lurking around D.C. interviewing libertarians for a faux "follow-up" to Free to Choose. Here's the e-mail going around warning classical liberals about the hoax.

I wanted you to know that a British film crew representing themselves as being from the "Adam Smith Foundation" and Hill and Knowlton are interviewing their way around Washington's free-market think tanks this week, purportedly for a TV documentary… They are a fraud, evidently from an outfit called The Yes Men (see www.theyesmen.org)—a left-wing amalgam of Michael Moore and Sacha Baron Cohen. They have done long interviews with Ken Green and Ted Frank at AEI and with Fred Smith at the Competitive Enterprise Institute—long enough to permit them to extract footage making their subjects appear to be saying about anything they want.

And here's an example of the Yes Men in action.

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  1. Aw….now we’ll never get to see it produced.

  2. someone should kick ’em in the nuts.

    (I came up with that proposal after jettisoning my first instinct-to cut off their heads and make love to their neck stumps.)

  3. make love to their neck stumps.
    I can think of a few phrases I would have used to describe what you were going to do to their neck stumps, but “make love” was certainly not one of them.

  4. I can think of a few phrases I would have used to describe what you were going to do to their neck stumps, but “make love” was certainly not one of them.

    Put me in for that vote too.

  5. between ,”make love to their neck stumps” and “monster tard”, today is great for learning new stuff…

  6. It puts the lotion on the neck stumps…

  7. Wow, I thought Cohen was cool until about 30 seconds ago…

    On the other hand, Moore and Cohen would make a great Abbot-and-Costello-style comedy team!

  8. Am I the only one who didn’t think it was funny at all? As much as I hate Micheal Moore, I think he could’ve at least made it entertaining and funny.

  9. ed | July 11, 2007, 3:47pm | #
    It puts the lotion on the neck stumps…

    har! best. movie quote. ever.

  10. Contrary to the implication, Moore and Cohen have nothing to do with this. It’s just “like” what they do.

  11. new media’s a bitch, ain’t it?

  12. I couldn’t watch the whole video but let me guess – the candles were people fat, right?

  13. Contrary to the implication, Moore and Cohen have nothing to do with this. It’s just “like” what they do.

    So is Borat a socialist or what?

  14. From the wikipedia Yes Men site:

    On June 14, 2007, the Yes Men acted during Canada’s largest oil conference in Calgary, Alberta, posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC) representatives. In front of more than 300 oilmen, the NPC was expected to deliver the long-awaited conclusions of a study commissioned by U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. The NPC is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, who is also the chair of the study.[5]

    In the actual speech, the “NPC rep” announced that current U.S. and Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta’s oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could “keep fuel flowing” by transforming the billions of people who would die into oil.

    The project, called Vivoleum would work in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production. The oilmen listened to the lecture with attention, and then lit “commemorative candles” supposedly made of Vivoleum obtained from the flesh of an “Exxon janitor” who died as a result of cleaning up a toxic spill. The audience only reacted when the janitor, in a video tribute, announced that he wished to be transformed into candles after his death.

    Come on, that’s pretty funny. I’m sure even after the joke was exposed many of the oil executives were thinking, “hmm…what if we could turn people into oil?”

  15. “So is Borat a socialist or what?”

    if sexual harassment and social faux pas are socialism, then yes.

    i know i may regret offering that up to someone for whom most nearly everything is socialism, but i stand by my answer.

  16. Kind of reminds me of some the goofy stuff the “no nukes” crowd came up with during the cold war. The annoying part, is not so much how clever they think they are. It’s more how they think their cleverness trumps academic discourse.

  17. Anyone sitting for an interviewer without checking credentials is asking for trouble.

    And anyone sitting for an interview should have their own camera rolling the entire time… cameras as cheap as they are, there’s no excuse.

  18. Hate to be a killjoy (actually love it) but these “gotcha” comedy teams deserve a solid punch in the dick.

  19. Wow, things change. Back when Borat first came out, I remember being roundly mocked for suggesting that he was an unfunny scumbag who takes advantage of people’s politeness and then makes fun of them.

  20. crap-action-jackson

    True that. Any corprate executive being asked for an interview by 60 min. et al should agree to do the interview, at his own conference room. He should agree to allow in one journalist and one cameraman. The conference room should be set up with three different cameras and the AV club in attendance. The reporter should have to answer a question for every one she asks.

  21. True that. Any corprate executive being asked for an interview by 60 min. et al should agree to do the interview, at his own conference room. He should agree to allow in one journalist and one cameraman. The conference room should be set up with three different cameras and the AV club in attendance. The reporter should have to answer a question for every one she asks.

    This is known as the “George W. Bush” style interview. You only forgot the part where the interview subject writes the questions.

  22. Dan T.: Thanks. That makes a lot more sense, and actually is funny. That video is shit though.

  23. Looks like we now face a long nightmare of unfunny people trying to copy the Daily Show, Colbert Report, and Borat.

    Borat says, “apr?s moi, le d?luge. Very nice!”

  24. these guys inspired me to actually auction off my vote next general election

  25. Anyone sitting for an interviewer without checking credentials is asking for trouble.

    Getting credentials doesn’t do much good when the credentials are faked. They fraudulently gave me the name of a legitimate journalist and a legitimate organization. And, yeah, my mistake for trusting that an interview set up by my employer’s media relations department had been appropriately screened by my employer’s media relations department.

    Nevertheless, the entire time, I was on guard for Borat-style tactics, which they avoided; they even avoided Daily-Show-style tactics. Anything they do to me, they’re going to do in the process of editing, inserting audio of fake questions, or manipulating the blue screen that was behind me, and the result is going to be about as funny and entertaining as drawing a mustache on a poster.

    NB that the Yes Men also go by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos and other names; somehow, Vamos has an academic job at RPI.

  26. Ted Frank-

    What topics did they want to discuss, if you don’t mind sharing?

  27. Warren:

    It’s more how they think their cleverness trumps academic discourse.

    There is actually quite a chasm between cleverness and intellect. Michael Moore, for instance, makes clever films.

  28. crimethink: you’ll be happy to know i still think it’s funny so long as it measures on the humorosity scale.

  29. I’m sure even after the joke was exposed many of the oil executives were thinking, “hmm…what if we could turn people into oil?

    No doubt. Cos that’s how oil execs think.

    Ted, how come they get to use the footage? Don’t they need your consent? (Do they have naked pictures of your dog or something?)

  30. IIRC, anything shot with a clearly visible camera is fair game.

  31. They asked questions such as “How can the free market help citizens evaluate risk in pharmaceuticals?” I gave a standard libertarian answer out of Milton Friedman with reference to the Abigail Alliance case, which they no doubt find hilarious in and of itself, given their extreme anti-free-market views. Someone complaining about thousands of people dead because of excessive government regulation is always funny, right?

    They asked me about whether IBM should be liable sixty years later for selling computers to the Nazis. I noted that that depended on whether one wanted a legal rule that one could never buy a product unless the seller did a full background check on the likelihood you would misuse the product for wrong, and gave the example of banks being sued for terrorist acts because of tertiary relationships of terrorists to someone who holds a checking account. Heck, I said that in the Wall Street Journal.

    They asked me about asbestos litigation; I didn’t say anything I haven’t said on my blog, at AEI, or in the book I’m writing.

    They asked me about the pending DBCP lawsuits against Dow. I said I didn’t know enough about the case to comment.

    Ted, how come they get to use the footage? Don’t they need your consent?

    They gave me a release before the interview. I signed it after checking to ensure that I wasn’t waiving the right to sue for fraud. Of course, it wouldn’t do me very much good to sue for fraud; these guys have no money, have no hopes of making money, and any lawsuit would give them more publicity than if I just shrug this off. My mistake: I was thinking of the HBO/Borat scenario, and not of the anarchic culture-jammer scenario, where the jammer doesn’t particularly care about staying within the law. In the future, I’ll refer a release to the media relations department and offer to sign later, but the lack of a release wouldn’t really affect these guys’ willingness to act if they’re going the YouTube route rather than the movie route. I may seek a declaratory judgment that the release is invalid; I haven’t decided whether that is worth my time. I’ll talk things over with Fred Smith and Ken Green and AEI and some lawyer friends.

  32. Gee, this is pretty funny:

    http://www.theyesmen.org/hijinks/dow/acceptablerisk.shtml

    On April 28, 2004, at a London banking conference to which they had accidentally been invited because of their satirical website, “Dow representative” “Erastus Hamm” unveiled “Acceptable Risk,” a Dow industry standard for determining how many deaths are acceptable when achieving large profits. The bankers enthusiastically applauded the lecture, which described several industrial crimes, including IBM’s sale of technology to the Nazis for use in identifying Jews, as “golden skeletons” – i.e. skeletons in the closet, but lucrative and therefore acceptable ones.

    Several of the bankers in attendance then signed up for licenses for the “Acceptable Risk Calculator” and even posed with Acceptable Risk mascot “Gilda, the golden skeleton in the closet,” for photos.

    The exercise was intended to illustrate the absurdity of depending on “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) to set limits to corporate behavior. If corporations were completely free to behave as the market demands – the logical extreme of CSR – then industrial catastrophes of huge magnitude, such as Bhopal, would not necessarily be disadvised.

  33. Hey, most of the posts that appear here also appear here:

    http://mrebman.info-blogs.com/

  34. The annoying part, is not so much how clever they think they are. It’s more how they think their cleverness trumps academic discourse.

    A la those “Truth.org” assholes…

  35. My friends call me “Monstard”

  36. If you work for AEI or CEI you got issues — I’m a libertarian but if you are a wonk at one of these places, you have the emotional intelligence of a single cell organism and get what you deserve. Plus if you believe a bastard like rothbard, freidman isn’t a libertarian anyways.

  37. Ok, I might not care for their politics, but give ’em points – as pranks go, that one was pretty good! I give them points just for having the balls to pull it off. Not only that, they managed to get the audience to totally buy into it. That’s gotta be worth something!

  38. spur:
    What, exactly, is wrong with you?

  39. I’ve seen the move. They are sometimes pretty funny and I’ll admit they can get away with some pretty shocking things but really that’s all they’re doing. Going to conferences, saying crazy things in a really dead pan manner and getting away with it. They annoying part about it a mentioned earlier is the fact that they think all their pranks really amount to something meaningful.

    It has been a while since I saw it but I remember the conclusions that these guys were so sure their stunts yielded annoyed me. For instance trying to suggest that corporate businessman were stupid and knew nothing because they were willing to sit through those bullshit presentations. Just because no one stood up and said ‘this is absurd!’ doesn’t mean they were being taken seriously. Most of their presentations I recall as being ridiculous but feasible. I could imagine sitting in an audience thinking ‘Ok this is insane and these guys are nuts’ but at the same time being able to fathom that these guys could be for real and just sitting it out and pretending to pay attention.

    Then they seemed to be trying to make a point at some university that the new generation shows promise because the young people questioned their proposals, PFFFT! first of all they were pitching the idea of selling the public human excrement as food. That was FAR beyond ANYTHING they had tried on the corporate guys. Secondly, it was more of an informal open forum so questioning it out loud would have been easier. Thirdly, most of the students while visibly outraged had one thing in common with the corporates: they didn’t realize they were being duped. No one knows how they would react to something like that until they’re put on the spot but still, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even bother arguing and realize it must just be a prank when it got to that kind of level.

    And at the end they do a thing where they make a bunch of people involved with the WTO beleiv that the organisation is closing down and the way they try and spin the reactions in to something really significant is incredibly stupid. Some people ended up thinking the WTO closing down would be a good thing. Well a lot of people think a lot of things. That didn’t prove anything. There are a lot of negative things that could come out of closing the WTO, it’s pretty childish to just say ‘hey look we duped some insiders in to thinking it was happening and some were optimistic about the higher ups decision! Oh we are so righteous!’ That’s just lazy, you’d have to wait and see what actually happened or at least analyze in depth all the things that would be likely to happen if the WTO shut down and weigh it all up before you can expect to be taken seriously, that really pissed me off.

    Man oh man i went on for too long…

  40. I wonder what would happen if a bunch of hoaxers set up a University Symposium on Stalin and then use it to claim that the purges were justified, the show trials were necessary and his actions during WW2 prove that he was one of the best leaders in history? And what would happen if they taped and later parodied the reactions of the audience?

  41. Maybe we need a libertarian version of ‘yes men’? Couple of guys pose as either extreme righties or lefties, go around, give presentations at conferences or make videos ala Michael Moore. At any rate, libertarians are way behind in the parody deparment (unless you count Huck Finn or Gullivers Travels as libertarianish parodies).

  42. *uh hem* south park…

  43. No Dupe,

    We already have that. It’s called University History Departments.

  44. I’m not sure about the technology, but last I knew we already have factories turning animal left-overs (such as from chicken processing) into oil, so it is not a stretch being able to do that with people.

    That said, I cannot think of anything being less efficient, as the fuel spent bringing the people to the plant would exceed whatever would be produced from their bodies. It works with the chicken waste because the plants co-locate just down the street from each other.

  45. Solution: Have the people processing just up the street from the vivoleum factory.

  46. It works with the chicken waste because the plants co-locate just down the street from each other.

    From what I can tell, it doesn’t work very well as a source of usable energy. It’s mostly a way to get back a portion of the energy required to dispose of a waste stream. It’s better than trucking it to a landfill, but might not be better than composting the waste for fertilizer.

    Of course, composting people for fertilizer would be only one step removed from Soylent Green. That might give folks the heebie-jeebies.

  47. BureauCrash have done several Crashes like that.
    http://youtube.com/user/bureaucrash

  48. “Come on, that’s pretty funny. I’m sure even after the joke was exposed many of the oil executives were thinking, ‘hmm…what if we could turn people into oil?'”

    Probably not. Probably oil executives actually know something about oil and energy.

    There are 6.5 billion people in the world…figuring a life expectancy of 65 years, that’s 100 million deaths each year.

    Now assume an average weight of 160 pounds, and a heat content of a human body (generously) at 5000 Btu/lb. (It’s actually probably less than 4000 Btu/lb, considering the high percentage of water in the body.)

    100 million people x 160 lbs/person x 5000 Btu/lb

    = 80 trillion Btus

    That’s less than 1/1000th of the energy use in the U.S. each year.

  49. Hell, I’m sure Michael Moore alone would supply enough biodiesel blubber to drive an 18-wheeler from New York to Los Angeles a dozen times.

    -jcr

  50. “Hell, I’m sure Michael Moore alone would supply enough biodiesel blubber to drive an 18-wheeler from New York to Los Angeles a dozen times.”

    Obviously, the Yes Men don’t watch Star Trek: the Next Generation. Otherwise, they’d know that human beings are “Ugly bags of mostly water.”

    Per the Science.Enotes.com website, the human body is about 62 percent water, 17 percent protein, 15 percent fat, and 3 percent nitrogen.

    Even if Michael Moore weighed 300 pounds (which seems possible, if I remember him correctly), and was 20 percent fat, the heating value of his body would probably be below 4000 Btu/lb, so he’d have about 1,200,000 Btu of heating value in his body. That’s about 10 gallons of gasoline.

  51. these two speakers are the best that I have ever heard. The world should listen

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