Today is an exclusive live video interview with Mike Bonanno, for the interview series “Interviews with the Leading Edge.”
In this series of interviews, I engage with people who are on the leading edge of transformational change, doing work to further the consciousness revolution and how it is manifesting in culture, politics and spirituality, in order to help bring along a more enlightened society.
Mike Bonanno is one such person.
Mike, along with his colleague Andy Bichlbaum, is both a filmmaker and leader of an organization called The Yes Men. Their exploits have been chronicled in three documentary films: “The Yes Men”; “The Yes Men Fix the World”; and “The Yes Men Are Revolting.”
Mike, with his work with The Yes Men, is a social and political activist, a cultural jammer, and a satirist and comedian. Ultimately, he and The Yes Men are pranksters, and the object of their pranks are the corporations and organizations whose p.r. propaganda machine spin facts to such a degree that these entities would have you believe that they are reasonable and responsible corporate citizens, when in fact they are spewing toxic hypocrisy and their only goal is massive short-term profits at the expense of the greater good.
Mike and The Yes Men shed light on the hypocrisy with incredibly bold and courageous actions. They show up at various public events – conferences and trade shows – and in the media, pretending to be spokesmen for the same companies that they are shining a spotlight on.
One such action they did was when they appeared on the BBC as spokesmen for Dow Chemical on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, which was the worst industrial accident in history. For the 20th anniversary, they stated that Dow was finally taking full responsibility for the disaster and was setting up a multibillion dollar reparations fund for the victims of the disaster. That sent Dow’s stock price plummeting, because Dow has never taken responsibility nor has set up a multibillion dollar fund, and Wall Street saw that action as harming the bottom line of Dow. This episode forced Dow’s spin department to address why they never have taken responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.
They have done numerous other actions, many of which appear in the three Yes Men films, including:
***Pretending to be with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and giving a press conference where they stated that the Chamber had reversed their position on climate change and was now supporting a carbon tax – this immediately appeared on national news while the press conference was going on, leading to a real U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesman, in real time, appearing at the Yes Men press conference and telling the audience that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is doing no such thing. This made for a surreal scene as the real Chamber spokesman and the Yes Man Chamber spokesman each accused the other of being a fake, all in front of a confused and startled press contingent.
***At a U.S. Department of Homeland Security conference, they stated they were with the U.S. Department of Energy and to an audience of defense contractors, said they had a major announcement to make – that by 2030 the U.S. government will have phased out all reliance on fossil fuels and will only be reliant on renewable energy, and the entire renewable energy infrastructure would be set up on lands owned and operated by Native Americans. The audience of defense contractors took them seriously, and even seemed to be excited by this news.
***Right after Barack Obama was first elected president in 2008, they and a group of cohorts published a fake version of the NY Times dated six months in the future, and distributed it on the streets of New York City. The newspaper proclaimed many grand and wonderful things, such as that the war was over in Iraq, ExxonMobil was out of the fossil fuel industry, a maximum wage law bill was passed, the U.N. banned all weapons of mass destruction, and more.
I met with Mike at Rennsalaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, where he is a professor and teaches two days a week – the rest of the week he lives in New York City. There we talked about how the Yes Men began, what they exactly are, what motivates him to do what he does, and some of the actions The Yes Men have undertaken. Along with that, we discussed where we are going as a society in terms of the politics of our day, and how are we going to address such pressing issues as climate change.
In the tradition of great satirists, from Jonathan Swift, Voltaire and Mark Twain, to present day satirists such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher, Mike Bonanno and The Yes Men, using humor and entertainment, have given us the ability to see and understand the levels of hypocrisy and b.s. that comes spewing and spinning from corporations and various organizations. It allows all of us to stop and realize that what these entities say is not the truth, and that the truth is much simpler, saner, and oriented towards the common and greater good.
To learn more about Mike Bonanno and The Yes Men, you can go to Yeslab.org and also to actionswitchboard.net. To learn about their latest Yes Men movie, “The Yes Men Are Revolting,” you can go to theyesmenarerevolting.com.