The Yes Men (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Andy and Mike, two smarmy nobodies, establish their credentials at the outset by revealing that they had a website,, to torpedo George Bush in his run for the Presidency in 2000. They then amplify their ideology by including a testimonial from Michael Moore, hardly a paragon of truth. Then they set up a parody of the World Trade Association website at the domain, that leads people to think they are dealing with the World Trade Organization.

Essentially, this is a documentary of two unctuous self-involved guys, viewing themselves as hotshots, who lie themselves into apparent positions with the World Trade Organization in order to destroy it. After creating their deceptive website that dupes people into thinking they actually are communicating with the WTO, they arrange and/or accept speaking invitations. When they arrive at the conferences at which they are scheduled to speak they speak gibberish. For example, at an international law conference in Austria they proposed a free-market solution to democracy, auctioning votes to the highest bidder, On the TV program CNBC Marketwrap Europe, they said there ought to be a market in human rights abuses. At a textiles conference in Finland, they unveiled a 3-foot phallus for administering electric socks to sweatshop employees. And so on.

When people are polite and accept the absurd things they say without castigating them, they assume they have fooled everyone.

These two guys are hateful beyond contempt. They have no compunction about wasting the time and money of people of good faith and better manners. We are told nothing about their backgrounds, but there is an inadvertent shot of the two of them eating a meal in which one has to use a fork. He uses it as if he had been raised in a barn by hogs. While this might seem irrelevant, their lack of manners and decorum is symptomatic of the mindset that could be as rude and inconsiderate as these two are throughout this film. Just as an example, near the end of the film a conference in Australia that had scheduled them to speak is cancelled. They impose upon the conference to exert exceptional efforts to get people together to hear their presentation, even though what they want to say, and do, is rubbish.

I saw this in a very small gathering of film critics. There were five of us. Two of the others laughed throughout, the kind of laugh that indicates agreement rather than humor.

At one point Andy and Mike indicate that Herb Alpert, who founded The Tijuana Brass, and parlayed that into a fortune by then founding A&M Records, financed them. If true, Herbie just lost a fan.

Andy and Mike are nothing more than nihilists, who really believe in nothing but destruction. They have their equivalent in the imbeciles who create computer viruses and spread them throughout the world. That anybody could think what they did in this film might be funny would be a sad commentary on society. If this film is true, as claimed, and not just scripted fiction, one wonders why they have not been  subjected to criminal prosecution. When asked if what they do is illegal, they responded, “Perhaps it is! And we don’t know!” Although I deplore what these two guys did, and didn’t think it was funny, I did find it interesting that they could pull it off.

August 11, 2004

The End