In the “Yes Men Fix The World” video Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are the two activists who expose “the wrongdoings of miscellaneous, mostly corporate evildoers” (Bilchlbaum, 2017). Although this video piece is anything but the standard form of investigative journalism, it appeals to the audience through the satire and comedy. As the two guys pull their deceptive stunts through the traditional channels of communication (newspaper and TV) the audience receives a clear message on how to make the difference, to revolt, to resist the heartless corporate evildoing, to make the change happen.
One of the first questions that Stern brings up in his article is their deception justifiable if used in the context of “raising awareness of large civic issues.” (Stern, 2009). In other words, does the end justifies the means.
In the Ethical Responsibility in Human Communication, Johannesen talks about inherency of potential ethical issues, avoiding the consideration of ethics all together may be due to the justifiable end result (Johannesen, 2017). The environmental issues and economic inequality appeal to the audience as the causes worth fighting for. The guys believe that the corporate greed and for-profit motives of the free enterprise are the elements of unsustainable economics and the only beneficiaries are those deceptive, manipulative and greedy profiteers are at the top of the food chain. The only motivating factor of this video is to resist those elements, for the benefit of society. The cause strongly can be argued to well worth fighting for.
Does the result of their performance actually raise the issue out to the public at large? Well, the families of the victims of Bhopal probably think so. Many people lost their lives in the horrible accident and the Dow did not do a thing to make amends or to help the families of the victims while profiting from its project. Arguably the audience associates with the victims of the crime and the joke are on the Dow when the truth is revealed through the hoax (what “is” and what “ought” to be). The end result, Dow loses millions in stock, although not as much damage but justifiably enough to make the citizens of Bhopal rejoice.
In regards to the “manipulation of news professionals in the film” Stern raises a question of the source checking and credibility. The truth of the matter is the Yes Men did tell what should have happened but did not. They did tell the truth from the stance of morality – accountability, and responsibility. The Yes Men tried to show how the companies could have behaved differently in a more ethically sustainable way.
Indeed, the journalists were complicit in the hoax broadcasting and later reporting about the hoax. Journalists are professionals who must reveal the truth when the “IS” is not what it “OUGHT” to be. Would those media outlets report the facts if the Yes Men were not in the picture? Arguably, the answer is no, but the Yes Men made the “ought” to be newsworthy.
The final set of questions by Stern is this video a documentary, or a strategic communication/persuasion. One may argue that art is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, it is a documentary, as it provides the facts and has a storyline, although the video is more of a mockumentary since the subjects of the video are heavily satirized.
Is this mockumentary a strategic communication piece? Indeed, it can be perceived as one. The Yes Men provide a set of concepts on how to promote the change in our society for the benefit of the many people, against the profit-driven corporate regimes, the inequalities, the greed, the pain, the status quo, etc.
The video is a persuasive piece as well. Throughout the timeline, the Yes Men demonstrate a set of beliefs that suggest a more egalitarian society, with equal rights and opportunities for all, where all things are considered for the safety of the public without discrimination of the public’s origin. The audience has a chance to participate in the conversation at the end of the video and one of the interviewees on the street says perhaps the most important phrase that leads to the conclusion of the video: “We can think of the different ways, that we can contribute to a movement that says business, as usual, is unacceptable because people are being hurt and we are not going to play the role. The subservient routine role that we usually play.”
“Make change happen, put your effort on the line to make something happen… if a few people at the top can make the bad news happen, why can’t all of us at the bottom and make the good news for a change” (the Yes Men).
Bilchlbaum, Andy. (2017). ABOUT. The Yes Men. Retrieved from http://theyesmen.org/index.php/about/.
Johannesen, R. L. (2002). Ethical Responsibility in Human Communication. Ethics in Human Communication (5th ed., pp. 1-19). Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press. [eReserve]
Stern, R. (2009). The Yes Men fix the world. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 24(4), 310-311.