The Yes Men are some of the most well-known and loved activists in the world. As their website states, they specialize in “Identity Correction.” Specifically: “Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.”
They have pulled off some of the largest activist pranks I’m aware of, fooling people at some of the largest conferences in the world, major business meetings, and in the mass media.
Now, they, Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, are apparently helping to coach young activists with spirit. “The revolution will not be led. But it will be mentored,” the Washington Post writes, leading into a story about a training they were giving in New York. Here’s more:
“On their latest and craziest mission of all, the Yes Men propose to catch the new creative spark of revolution — from Tunisia to Wall Street to Washington — and coach it into bigger headlines and better buzz. Like radical Johnny Appleseeds, their goal is to sow the land with scores of activists schooled in how to practice what Servin calls ‘using humor to attack the powerful.’” I wouldn’t call it their craziest mission, but maybe the reporter got a little excited being their presence.
“We’ll first do a full group brainstorm for Occupy Wall Street and come up with a list of actions they can do to enjoy themselves and keep themselves busy,” Servin tells the lab participants.
“There’s a danger of overthinking,” Servin counsels. “It’s more important to do something and enjoy it and have fun and meet people and get the word out there by any stupid means possible. And just do it.”
More from the Washington Post:
…after a career of infiltrating institutions and videotaping the results, the Yes Men have gained admittance to the ivory tower without any subterfuge at all. Servin is stepping into the real role of “visiting associate arts professor” in the performance studies department at NYU.
Today’s seven-hour workshop is the opening session of the Yes Lab, a weekly extracurricular practicum where activists will hatch Yes Men-inspired protest stunts, and then go out and do them. The theme for the first batch of actions in the coming months will be the problem of income disparity.
Servin and Vamos have been professors before. Servin taught at Parsons the New School for Design, and Vamos is on the art faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Next semester at NYU, Servin will teach a graduate seminar on revolution and an undergraduate course on “the design principles for activism.”
What’s novel is the Yes Lab, which formalizes and institutionalizes their mentoring of young activists. It’s just one notable new example of seasoned left-wing activists systematically trying to propagate a creative, arts-inflected style of subversion. Several groups, including the Yes Men, are collaborating on “Beautiful Trouble: Toolbox for the Next Revolution,” a printed manual and Web site.
For more on what the Yes Men are doing and have done, I recommend checking out the full Washington Post article (despite a journalistic failure of quoting someone from the Competitive Enterprise Institute) and/or the Yes Men’s site.