Move over Ashton Kutcher. The Yes Men are punking brands, as shown in the above trailer for The Yes Men Fix the World movie about Bhopal in 2009.
After it emerged that GE paid no federal taxes last year, a website popped up last week with a URL similar to GE’s press domain, (genewscenter.com) posted a fake press release titled, "GE Responds to Public Outcry – Will Donate Entire $3.2 Billion Tax Refund to Help Offset Cuts and Save American Jobs." The AP fell for it, and reported the story as news.
The Yes Men’s Mike Bonanno told Fox they issued the release "to apply more pressure to the administration to make some laws that make sense for Americans instead of making laws for big businesses that are hiding their profits offshore.”
They even faux-quoted GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt as saying, "We didn't write the laws that let us legally avoid paying taxes. Congress did. But we benefit from those laws, and now we'd like to share those benefits. We are proud to be giving something back to America, and we are proud to set an example for all industry to follow."
GE became a prime target after The New York Times revealed that the corporate giant claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion in 2010 despite global profits of $14.2 billion, including $5.1 billion just in the U.S.
As for criticism of their tactics, Bonanno said, “This method is one that we’ve come to because we’ve found no other way to get a word in edgewise. I’m sure there are better ways of doing it but this way is working for us.”
Other major targets by The Yes Men's brand of media monkeywrenching include Chevron, Dow Chemical and the World Trade Organization.
In their two films to date, The Yes Men Fix the World (2009), and The Yes Men (2003), the activist duo impersonate executives they dislike and call it "identity correction."
Mike Bonanno and his partner Andy Bichlbaum are following in a school of "culture-jamming" (some would call it vandalism of billboards, logos and signage) pioneered by the likes of Adbusters and the likes of Banksy and even, as revealed recently by the star himself, Ted Danson.
But in a world where brands are more worried about Wikileaks' exposure through whistleblowing and leaked documents, the Yes Men's pranks seem like Trickyleaks — college stunt-level "fooled ya!"s — in comparison.