I really enjoyed The Yes Men Are Revolting and was really excited for their visit to Pitzer campus. Their Q&A with Laura Nix brought up interesting points about the reach of media and the use of media for activism. Laura Nix used a great term to describe both a benefit and limit of pervasive media: it’s a “crowded cultural market” and activism can get lost. That’s why she and the Yes Men take a comedic approach to their cause. Humor is a tool to reach a wider audience – people are more likely to forward a video or link of a Yes Men’s media stunt if it is silly. Laura also suggested that humor can serve as a safeguard against certain legal consequences.
The Yes Men and Laura’s discussion about their social media presence was interesting. While Laura explained that they were consciously present and active in social media dialogue, Jacques Servin suggested it’s “maybe more of a monologue”. Interesting! They do seem to want to engage a larger the community of activists – or to create one, really – through such works of theirs as actionswitchproject.net.
They advocate for collective action, but on an individual basis – a stance that contrasts with the anxiety and myth that individual action doesn’t have much effect on large issues. In the Q&A Igor Vamos urged people to just do something. Be a part of a culture of resistance. Resist the fear of not being able to evoke “real” change. This “real” change is not what it’s about, he says. It’s about building connections with like-minded, conscious people. It’s about sharing and connecting long term, gathering around issues people care about. Even as the Yes Men were winding down and students were packing up, they called out to anyone interesting in collaborating with them.
One question from an audience member stuck with me afterwards though. She referenced the Black Lives Matter movement in her question regarding the Yes Men’s privilege helping in their activism. She pointed out that their call to everyone to do what they do, to not be afraid, may not be as safe for all bodies. This question of how privilege plays into their activism was so interesting and their answer left me unsatisfied. Ironically, their mission is to critique privilege in these corporate worlds, but they were resistant to acknowledge their own privilege in this community setting.