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Yes Men visit Swarthmore

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

A pair of activists who pull pranks on an international level will visit Swarthmore College Thursday and Friday to tell students how to do the same.

The pair – known as the Yes Men – attend conferences posing as spokesmen for corporations. They then give presentations that mock those corporations.

In 2004, Andy Bichlbaum posed as a spokesman for Dow Chemical on the BBC World News program to announce the company would spend $20 billion to compensate the victims of a major industrial accident in Bhopal, India.

“It’s 20 years since the disaster and today I’m very happy to announce that for the first time Dow is accepting full responsibility for the catastrophe,” Bichlbaum announced.

The announcement was seen by an estimated 300 million people, but to the dismay of Dow Chemical, the producers of BBC news, and some victims of the Bhopal accident, it was not true.

But that is what Dow should do, according to the Yes Men, as Bichlbaum and his partner Mike Bonano call themselves. Their antics have been made into a book, two documentary movies and countless YouTube clips. Bonano says appearances at colleges such as Swarthmore are their bread and butter.

“It’s a bit like the rock and roll business,” says Bonano. “In the old days people who made movies like our movies would sell DVDs to make money – but since nobody buys those anymore, we have to do public appearances.”

Bonano says their notoriety has not yet affected their ability to infiltrate corporate functions. The Yes Men have launched the Yes Lab, where they teach their stunts as forms of creative activism.

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