Management Leisure Suit


Year: August 2001

Type: Identity Correction [prank & movie scene]

Location: University of Technology, Tampere, Finland

Creators: The Yes Men (website, twitter)

Availability: Movie scene (Vimeo, free; YouTube free), Movie (Amazon £4.99, US$12.99)

Page reference: Best, T., Gibson, T., Massey, B., Rees, C., Ross, K. & Sherman, J. (2019) Employee Visualisation Appendage. ( last accessed <insert date here>)

LEGO re-creation

[click image to watch footage]


Before the cloud, there was another technology for remote management: the management leisure suit (Source: @MariaAlford 2011, np link).

The audience at the ‘Textiles of the Future’ conference in Tampere, Finland, listen intently as the man in the golden leotard talks them through his costume (Source: McNamara 2005, np link).

[P]resenting to the assembled delegates from the textile industry in a lavish conference hall[, WTO official Hank Hardy Unruh] begins by outlining what the WTO perceives to be two key management problems of the day: how to manage a remote workforce, while simultaneously remaining comfortable (Source: Kenny 2009, p.222).

… he describes how the US Civil War - fought over the textile, cotton - was a great waste of money, because slavery would have been replaced by its infinitely more efficient version: remote sweatshop labor, such as we have today … the only problem still remaining with the efficiency of today’s sweatshops, Andy continues, is a lack of control over workers (Source: TheYesMen 2001, np link).

[He] suggests turning the Third World into a pool of slave labour (Source: Russell 2005, np link).

[He] convinces attendees that the only way to maximize profits in modern-day sweatshops is constant surveillance of workers abroad (Source: Gupta 2009, np link).

During the presentation, animations … are used to demonstrate the possibilities (Source: jerome_horwitz 2005, np link).

Unruh's assistant … [then] helps him further the presentation by yanking off his breakaway business attire to reveal a skin-tight gold lame jumpsuit. The conference-goers gasp (Source: Davies 2004, np).

Unruh gives … a demonstration of the ‘Management leisure suit’ - a telematic outfit designed for employee surveillance via a built in wireless communication unit (Source: Dzuverovic-Russell 2003, p.153).

‘This is the management leisure suit,’ Unruh proudly proclaims. With another tug at his groin, a large phallus with a mock television screen at its tip inflates from his waist (Source: Davies 2004, np).

[He] then models the ‘Employee Visualization Appendage’ - … a three-foot-long phallus with a video screen at the end (Source: Gupta 2009, np link).

[It] springs from the crotch, with a little television monitor sitting on the end level with [his] head (Source: Kenny 2009, p.229).

[This is] a new management suit for corporate executives to exercise real-time control over their labour force (Source: Battle4cry 2009, np link).

... to watch and control far-off workers while engaging in healthful leisure activities (Source: TheYesMen 2001, np link).

The … large phallus shaped groin attachment … has a TV screen on it so a manager can monitor employees and stimulate them as necessary, all while doing leisure (aka ‘freedom’) time activities (Source: jerome_horwitz 2005, np link).

[A] manager, no matter where they were in the world, could administer electric shocks to workers in sweatshops in the Third World. … this took care of what [Unruh] called the `remote management problem’ (Source: Davies 2004, np).

As Dr Unruh enumerated the uses of the EVA – to monitor distant factory workers and administer electric shocks when necessary, to assure leisure time for a grossly encumbered managerial class, to keep tabs on the severity of protests the audience’s attention was riveted. The WTO stood there with its enormous golden phallus, controlling the Third World and parts of the First, and the audience felt nothing but love (Source: The Yes Men 2003a, p.246 link)

… the audience listened politely, applauded, and had no questions (Source: Ebert 2004, np link).

Mr Unruh proceeds to give several interviews to members of the press and poses for photos in his state of the art wireless communication outfit (Source: Dzuverovic-Russell 2003, p.153).

Several key Finnish papers publish coverage of Unruh’s presentation accompanied by photos (Source: Dzuverovic-Russell 2003, p.153).

One of the first big jokes [in ‘The Yes Men’ movie] centers around a presentation made in Finland about a ridiculous phallic employee monitoring device (Source: JohnSelf 2005, np link).

[It] was one of my favourite scenes from the movie, I laughed my ass off (Source: Di Lucido 2013, np link).

Inspiration / Process / Technique / Methodology

The Yes Men are a group of culture jammers who have been described by Naomi Klein as the ‘Jonathan Swift for the Jackass Generation’ … They take the free market logic to its extreme and ironizes over it in order to create awareness, although their pranks do not get recognised as such every time. The Yes Men see themselves as a part of a cumulative movement fighting the neoliberal economic system and ruthless corporations and organisations (Source: Vinthagen 2010, np link).

[They] are a culture jamming activist duo and network of supporters created by Jacques Servin [movie alias Andy Bichlbaum] and Igor Vamos [Yes Men alias Mike Bonnano]. Through actions of tactical media, The Yes Men primarily aim to raise awareness about what they consider problematic social issues (Source: Geography Video 2012, np link).

[They] are a genderless, world- wide, loose-knit association of impostors whose Internet enabled actions combine a wide range of tactics which all ultimately point to the enormity of the potential to manipulate the media (Source: Dzuverovic-Russell 2003, p.153).

[They are a] duo of radical activists inspiring awareness about corporate misconduct through their famous media stunts (Source: Austin Film Society 2015, np link).

In the war of ideas, they are the fifth columnists infiltrators, ‘trying to create public spectacles that, in some kind of poetic way, reveal something about our culture that’s profoundly a problem’ (Source: The Yes Men in Demoss 2005, np link).

Their … pranks consistently underscore instances of political and socioeconomic oppression targeting the world’s most vulnerable communities (Source: Shields 2016, np link).

According to the Yes Men website, the main reasons for their actions include: ‘[...] (a) ... to demonstrate some of the mechanisms that keep bad people and ideas in power, and (b) because it’s absurdly fun. Their main goal is to focus attention on the dangers of economic policies that place the rights of capital before the needs of people and the environment' (Source: Vinthagen 2010, np link).

To make their point The Yes Men produce totally absurd concepts and presentations (Source: jerome_horwitz 2005, np link).

They have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate (Source: Casati 2016, np link).

… the artist-activist duo's politically charged pranks … typically involve impersonating corporate CEOs and spokesmen in a practice they call ‘identity correction’ (Source: Britt 2010, np link).

[They] use cheap suits and fake websites to carry out … identity correction. In their own words, identity correction is all about ‘[i]mpersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else’ (Source: Bichlbaum & Bonanno in Vinthagen 2005, np link).

[They] are engaging in sophisticated infiltration of international conferences and organisations. No one is safe from their subversive creativity (Source: TTIP - Aktionsbündnis - Österreich 2015, np link).

[They] lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate targets in ever more extreme ways – basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run our world (Source: Casati 2016, np link).

Their appalling presentations [are] often met with applause by world business leaders (Source: the_segue 2004, np link).

Neither Bonanno, a wired and wiry East Coast native, nor Bichlbaum, the pop-eyed Continental type, have any formal training in economics, political science or acting, though both did stints at CalArts. ‘It’s actually the reverse of acting,’ says Bichlbaum. The people you’re speaking in front of believe you are the person you’re pretending to be, and they convince you of it. They suspend your disbelief.’ ... Imagine what professional actors could do. There’s all kind of opportunities, on both the right and left, of sincere, dedicated groups of people working to bring about political change. And it’s easy to meet them and learn from them and maybe affect how they think. If they accept you (Source: Harvey 2004, np link).

The involuntary servitude of imported labour, which is what slavery amounts to, has been replaced in our times by the much more efficient system of exporting jobs to countries that are poor to begin with, and thus have lower maintenance costs for labour. The new ‘remote labour system,’ enforced by the World Trade Organization through its system of loans and regulations for poor countries, is much more efficient for First World capitalism. It exports manufacturing and assembly jobs to Third World countries where athletic shoes, clothing, home appliances, tools, computers and toys are assembled by labour forces paid only pennies an hour. On the[se] statements above we can all agree, right? Or was there a point at which you realized I was making an outrageous and immoral argument, and you were offended? I ask because when a fake ‘spokesman’ for the World Trade Organization made the same argument before a WTO trade forum in Finland, the audience listened politely, applauded, and had no questions (Source: Ebert 2004, np link).

The Yes Men had been invited by conference organizers, who, on visiting the activists' Web site believed they were contacting the real World Trade Organization. The opening pages on both groAugust ebsites look identical, and none of the Finnish organizers bothered to vet the phony W.T.O. (Source: Dargis 2004, np link).

Well, we set up a Web site at the domain And GATT is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the predecessor to the World Trade Organization. And some people coming to the Web site in 1999 didn't realize that it wasn't the actual WTO Website. Even though the satire was, we thought, fairly clear and it was put up in support of the 1999 Seattle protests and had a lot of links there to events happening in the protest, there were still people who didn't recognize that it was a fake Website. And they sent us e-mails asking us obscure trade questions, which we tried to answer as honestly and accurately as we could, given our limited knowledge of economics. But we found that after a while people thought so highly of us and thought that we were the WTO with such, I guess, clarity and conviction that they started inviting us to attend their conferences, fully thinking that we were the World Trade Organization. And we thought about it, and we were sort of faced with an ethical dilemma. You know, `What do we do?' And we decided the only ethical thing we could possibly do is go and represent the World Trade Organization more honestly than they represent themselves (Source: Bonanno in Davies 2004, np).

… this parody homepage has been so effective in spreading confusion and misapprehension that various groups around the world have invited the Yes Men's leading members, Andy Bichlbauer and Mike Bonanno, to speak at conferences in the belief that they really are from the WTO - a prankster's dream come true (Source: Hall 2005, np link).

[They also] create[d] a fictional WTO spokesman named Hank Hardy Unruh ... Real-world groups contact Hank Hardy, and he flies out to their meetings to deliver a speech at which he summarizes the anti-WTO argument (Source: Ebert 2004, np link).

... on 17 May 2000, an entirely new sort of emial arrived at It was addressed directly to WTO Director-General Michael Moore; the e-mail’s sender, under the impression he was emailing the real WTO, requested Moore’s presence in Salzburg, Austria to speak before a panel of international trade lawyers. After three months of deliberating the risks (prison, ending up much poorer) vs. the benefits (discovering the limits of people’s willingness to follow ‘free’ market theory) The Yes Men accepted. The mission was a complete success in that the impostors were not detected, and a total failure in that no one batted an eyelid at their enthusiasm for invented ‘free’ trade initiatives such as the privatization of national elections where US citizens could go to and sell their vote to the highest corporate bidder. They began to fear that consumers of neoliberal economic ideology might indeed believe anything, however insane or inhuman, provided it were presented as a logical part of the workings of the immutable law of the ‘free’ market. So for a subsequent appearance, they decided to pull out all the stops and deliver something extreme, aided by a PowerPoint presentation and stunningly clear visual effects, something any child could understand (Source: The Yes Men 2003b, p.246 link).

While their purpose may be to undermine the WTO - according to Bichlbaum the organisation ‘serves no one but the elite and its whole attitude to the Third World is colonial’ - it is done with a great deal of humour (Source: McNamara 2005, np link).

In an effort to show the absurdity of capitalism run amok, the pair enlisted some creative friends and created a complicated gold lame superhero costume that Bichlbaum wore under his thrift-store suit (Source: Reese 2004, 48).

Well, you know, we decided that we needed something a little more visual, something that would just hit people over the head, where they just couldn't avoid seeing our vision of ... the WTO. And so we had a golden suit made with a three-foot-long golden phallus, on the tip of which was a television monitor that we said was the 'employee visualization appendage' (Source: Bonanno in Davies 2004, np).

We're careful that our projects have no potential to harm anyone. The idea that we would wear golden phalluses and give electric shocks to workers in the Third World is less damaging than the actual practice, which is that the WTO rules are making these kinds of labor practices possible in the Third World (Source: Bichlbaum & Bonanno in Blank 2005, np). 

Their constant striving for the perfect euphemism is a pretty accurate description of what the Yes Men do - stretching reality through their sly mummery until their lies are big enough to reveal the truth. The yes men expose pitious truths about WTO (Source: San Diego State University 2004, np).

… armed with that shiny bodysuit and with a camera crew in tow, [they] traveled to Finland to unleash their mischief (Source: Dargis 2004, np link).

[Getting changed into the suit at the conference] We hoped nobody saw us darting together into the restroom next to the telephones. What would they think? That the WTO representative and the WTO representative’s assistant both have urgent bladder problems, simultaneously? And that they lie about it? More frantic than either of us had ever been, Mike pulled the thing out of his bag while Andy stripped down to his underwear. The suit was designed for simplicity, but there’s only so simple you can make a three-foot long inflatable phallus. '[We're] A f±!king hour late'” said Andy as he tried to jam his foot into the leg. 'Wait, wait, sh*t, go slow,' said Mike, as he bent down to untwist the golden fabric. 'F*±king time zone... Okay, push.' 'One f*±king hour,' said Andy as he pushed it in and frantically searched for an armhole to fill. After what seemed like an interminable amount of untwisting and zipping and fitting – straps, penis, baboon butt, CO2 cartridge, second CO2 cartridge (backup), breakaway pants, breakaway shirt, breakaway jacket – the Management Leisure Suit and its breakaway suit were on. Fully reassembled, Dr Hank Hardy Unruh emerged from the restroom and waddled into the conference hall as fast as he could without breaking his seams. Three hundred people were waiting (Source: The Yes Men 2003a, p.252-3 link).

[On Stage]... Andy [Bichlbaum playing Unruh] gets away with making outrageous statements (always delivered in deadpan, serious mode), and even pulling off appearing in his soft porn spacesuit getup before audiences of professional accountants, corporate officers and government ministry types (Source: roland-104 2005, np link).

Dr Peretti Nousiainen, the president of the university and primary organiser of the conference ... A week later [was]informed by a reporter that Dr Unruh had been a fake ... [and] refused to believe it. 'But he was so polite!' he said. 'And he had such a very large presentation!' (Source: The Yes Men 2003a, p.252-3 link).

With the use of their phallic leisure suit … , they start getting people to think; they really stir the pot at times … They send out false views of the WTO, showing people how flawed and corrupted the WTO is (Source: nobbytatoes 2005, np link).

The goal of this performance … is to clarify how dangerous it is to equate human freedom with a free market. Demonstrating visually the logical conclusion of neoliberalism, Mike and Andy hope to make their audience think twice (Source: The Yes Men 2001, np link).

We advocate that citizens be able to decide their own futures rather than let big corporations do it … We’re not saying we need to do away with it [capitalism] entirely; we’re not ideologists. What we’ve been doing is trying to say, let’s just have a saner approach (Source: Bichlbaum in Austen 2009, np link).

The Yes Men make reality visible - and questionable- by portraying its extreme or opposite. The purpose of such reversals, as curator Astria Suparak argues … , is to ‘hold a mirror up to faceless, corporate power’ and to ‘rouse to action the individuals who uphold this structure - that is, all of us.’ The intent of identity correction is not only for corporations to be held publicly accountable but also for viewers to reflect upon the ‘forgetting’ of incidents like the Bhopal disaster … The message of The Yes Men’s work, although delivered with humor, is clear: corporations do not police themselves (Source: Golden-McNerney 2010, np link).

… this spectacle is not a local one designed for just the people who are actually present during the performance (Source: Kenny 2009, p.223).

When was the last time you guys got high watching a movie alone? Me, a couple of days ago, with the ‘yes men’ documentaries (Source: Platypus 2017, np link).

Andy bich and Mike Bon are not only … activists [but] movie heroes (Killing 2016, np link).

Imagine - you are a formidable investor, sitting on a Mahogany chair in your chambers and listening to the proposition of two young entrepreneurs to mass market a suit that looks like a star trek outfit with a tv-extension that is located in a very specific area of the body that IMDB reviewers tend to replace its name with signs like : *#@@$%. What would you do? Ask them politely to leave? Call security? Refer them to a Doctor? Well, if you're one of the economic elite and those two young guys were representatives of the WTO, you would probably clap enthusiastically or, if you're a movie buff that realizes that what he watches really happened, you'd clinch your abdomen so it won't burst from laughing (Source: Philippsborn 2004, np link).

In the conference: Discussion / Responses / Outcomes / Impacts

Any hippie worth his pachooli stink can Take it To the Streets … but taking it to the boardroom is a much subtler tactic. It takes a hippie of unquestionable fortitude to shave off all that hair, don a constricting suit, and deliver a speech from inside the belly of the Beast Itself … The Yes Men, by contrast, utilize the bureaucratic and institutional expectations of their targets (i.e., any greedheaded institutions stupid enough to invite them to speak) and proceed to conspicuously mock everything their targets stand for … ‘globalization’, ‘free trade’, ‘unrestrained markets’ (Source: Demoss 2005, np link).

These anti-corporate activists show the world what goes on behind closed doors and demonstrate how little these organisations care about the little man through shocking disgusting presentations designed to appeal but instead get little reaction or even approval [from their audiences] (Source: Platypuschow 2017, np link).

If I was a member of this Yes Men group, one of the first goals would be to make an impact. [But] ..., an impact was hardly made. Rather, the audiences were kind of lost with what the Yes Men were trying to convey. Were they joking around or kind of serious? Is their speech engaging at all or is it just a bore? Did their messages even make sense at all (Source: Hodgdon 2010, np link)?

What is incredible in the film is the lengths to which a trade audience can be pushed without realizing it is the butt of a joke … Do the audience members laugh uproariously or walk out in anger? No, they just sit there. They have lost all ability to apply reality to the ideological construction they inhabit (Source: Ebert 2004, np link).

… you expect some type of extra-heavy reaction to the sight of a man with a giant, inflatable TV/dong … any decent folk would give you one (Source: Demoss 2005, np link).

The audience is puzzled yet intrigued by this (Source: Dzuverovic-Russell 2003, p.153).

The two aren’t arrested or thrown out as they expected (Source: Beringer 2004, p.9 link).

The business people don't throw [Unruh] out: They love it (Source: Anon 2003, np link)!

What the actual … they applauded (Source: Ngawang 2015, np link)??

There is a gasp and a ripple of amusement from the conferees but no indication that they realize they are being had (Source: Richards 2005, np link).

This creation is received with polite titters by the Finnish audience, presumably as a fair example of WTO humour (Source: Hall 2005, np link).

[The] camera wanders over the glazed faces of conference goers (Source: O’Hagan 2004, np link).

… most of the time, you feel that the general torpor of the conference circuit may have dulled the senses of the participants to the point where they have simply zoned out (Source: O’Hagan 2004, np link).

The assembled Finnish business execs basically shrug off the entire thing (Source: Anon 2004a, np link).

… no one clicks that these outrageous policies are made up (Source: Russell 2005, np link).

It's like this is completely normal (Source: jerome_horwitz 2005, np link).

… the multinational business elite doesn’t think it’s such a crazy idea to turn workers into Orwellian wage slaves (Source: Anon 2004a, np link).

… people can’t sniff out the hoax. The Yes Men don’t know whether to laugh or cry (Source: Anon 2004a, np link).

To their utter horror, most of the recipients they duped responded by actually considering their wild and frequently inhumane suggestions (Source: San Diego State University 2004, np).

The Yes Men are such sophisticated, wonky parodists that their biggest problem is that no one in their audience gets that it's a joke. It just seems like the WTO being more frank than usual (Source: Edelstein 2004, np link).

… these ‘Textile’s of the Future’ sheeple don’t even bother to speak up during their designated question time (Source: Demoss 2005, np link).

Now when a performance is plagued with technical difficulties before it even begins, there are two ways the audience can react. They can sympathize with the performer, proffering increased attentiveness, applause, and big smiles to make her feel better. Alternately, they can manifest petulance – remaining passive, stone-faced, as if to show that their money would have been better spent elsewhere. Our audience was the latter sort; we were relieved when it was time for the climax (Source: The Yes Men 2003a, p.252-3 link).

The audience rewards Andy with a healthy round of applause, but no questions. A reporter takes photos. The conference leader thanks the WTO for its presentation three times in public, and seats Andy at the table of honor, right across from his daughter. All day, in fact, Mike and Andy come up again and again against a blank wall: a couple of people admit being mystified by the appendage, but no one is bothered by the content of the speech, including when they’re reminded about the slavery issue. Finally they find one woman who admits being terribly offended -because Andy’s ‘Appendage’ implies that only men can be factory managers too (Source: Keil 2018, no link).

MIKE: Can I ask you what that point was, for you? WOMAN: Just the point. How to remote-control factories in the Far East, from Europe, the U.S., wherever from a different culture. ANDY: So the point was clear. Just the shape was unfortunate. WOMAN: A penis is a nice shape. I’m only speaking of what it meant. MIKE: What did it mean? WOMAN: Male perspective. Too much (Source: The Yes Men 2001, np link).

Andy [Bichlbaum] said, 'Well, what if we change it around a little bit?’ And he gestured around his chest as if to, you know, make a different kind of employee visualization appendage. And she said, `Yeah, that would be fine’ (Source: Bonanno in Davies 2004, np).

She wasn't bothered that workers could be given electric shocks through it (Source: Bichlbaum in McNamara 2005, np link).

The Yes Men don't rage, rant or spray statistics at you. They arrange elaborate hoaxes then declare themselves horrified - in a wry sort of way - at the fact that so few people realise they're being fooled (Source: Hall 2005, np link).

'Nothing surprises me about business people any more,' says Bichlbaum wearily. 'It's fascinating how gullible they are, and quite fantastic in a way. That's why theatre and film work, after all, and it's certainly why politics and corporate power works. People will believe anything if it is told by someone in authority’ (Source: O’Hagan 2004, np link).

… those who support the tenets of the WTO were willing to support anything it said, no matter how outlandish (Source: Boyd 2005, np link).

What, indeed, is the audience supposed to think after realizing they have been fooled into believing the phony WTO presentation? They are more likely to marvel or perhaps be angered at being hoodwinked, rather than to ponder the deeper issues of globalization (Source: Jones 2006, p.150).

That audience and local newspaper were totally fooled up. Excellent evidence of how naiive finnish people can be. People of other nations. Don't be like us (Source: Perkele 2007, np link).

Maybe Finnish executives are super-polite, the ultimate yes men and women. Or maybe the authentic World Trade Organization is so surreal that nobody notices when it's lampooned. If you're not up on multinational trade it is hard to know what to believe, because no one in ‘The Yes Men’ [movie] really explains what's wrong with the trade body; it's simply a given that, like globalization, it stinks (Source: Dargis 2004, np link).

Neither Bichlbaum and Bonanno nor the film-makers, for example, seem to consider for a moment the possibility that those whom they believe themselves to have fooled actually think them idiots - as of course they are pretending to be idiots - and are only too polite to say so. … But I think he doesn’t really believe that he has duped any of those whose views he so blatantly caricatures and falsifies into believing that he agrees with them. And if not, then he must also be aware at some level that the real dupes are those in the cinema audience who allow themselves to believe that these people whom they oppose politically must all be either knaves or fools (Source: Bowman 2004, np link).

The pained expressions of members of the audience suggest that they, like me, were just hoping that it would be over as soon as possible. The Yes Men take the silence of the audience as a sign of stupidity. It does not occur to them that maybe the prank is just not funny. We are not told who were those people in Finland, but one thing is clear: they were not top trade negotiators. If they were, they would not go to a conference whose organizers confuse the Yes Men with the WTO. But there is a deeper problem: according to the Yes Men's lecture, the WTO is devoted to developing gadgets. Now here is the Catch-22: if the audience were taken in, then they do not know anything about the WTO; if they were not taken in, then the Yes Men made fools of themselves (Source: SnorriGodhi 2006, np link).

I suppose we were supposed to find humor in the fact that the Finns failed to react. I think it showed more about the ignorance and stupidity of the Yes Men than the audience ... Even if they hadn't pulled out the giant penis thing, I'm sure the audience wouldn't have asked any questions about the WTO's plan to monitor employees. No doubt the audience knew that the WTO would never become involved in something like that, and I can imagine it would be fairly typical for a group of Europeans to remain quiet about an American making an ass of himself in public. The most frustrating thing I found was that all the pranks that were meant to satire the WTO missed the mark completely. ... The Yes Men seemed to be completely uninformed about what the WTO does. I'm not sure how you can satirize something if you don't understand it (Source: JohnSelf 2005, np link).

The goal should be to make knowledge of the WTO and the benefits of trade widespread enough so that there will be always be someone in the Yes Men’s target audience who can stand up and say, ‘Wait, that’s ridiculous, the WTO is not what you say it say it is at all, you must be phonies’ (Source: Jones 2006, p.151).

I thought their … farce with the body suit was really bad and lost on everyone who viewed it (Source: Hodgdon 2010, np link).

After the joke has run its course, there is no opportunity for the pranksters to drive home any lasting anti-trade message (Source: Jones 2006, p.151).

Not only is no effort made to elucidate the issues of world trade problems, there isn't even an attempt at coherent presentation of the anti-WTO position (Source: roland-104 2005, np link).

Have we lost all balance, all critical ability, all the instincts that should warn an intelligent person that a joke is being played? Is satire possible in a world where nobody gets it? Have modern forms of corporate speak so depersonalized language that no one expects it to mean anything (Source: Ebert 2004, np link)?

The Yes Men’s emphasis lies ultimately on pulling off the scam and getting publicity for it, not in showing the evils of globalization (Source: Jones 2006, p.150).

How can two freaks from the East (along with their video-camera adept friends) possibly alter the course of human events?  The Yes Men’s answer is, inevitably, one big joke at a time, because satire is (as of this writing) still legal throughout the civilized world … and that is the Yes Men’s chosen battlefield (Source: Demoss 2005, np link).

At the Tampere conference, for example, the serious WTO becomes a ‘site of laughter’ (Source: Kenny 2009, p.230).

The Yes Men have not only shown that there's room for humor in the world of activism, but that satire itself can be a powerful tool of social and political change (Source: Ivanov 2015, np link).

It seems more likely that satire in general is just not effective at producing change (Source: McGonagle 2017, np link).

Satire is a great pressure relief valve. Enjoying some satire can feel like actually doing something about the problem, and that's a problem (Source: Fiero 2017, np link).

Great and tragic point. Although I think satire can also be a gateway (Source: Spillard 2017, np link).

… this nonsense would hardly be worthy of anyone’s attention in the trade policy community, except for the fact that it reveals the serious gap in public knowledge about the WTO, even among educated professionals (Source: Jones 2006, p.151).

Maybe you have no idea what the WTO is. Perhaps you don’t believe the very institutions of modern capitalism … institutions that are slowly but surely destroying the human race. I genuinely don’t care whether or not you do: the point is, the Yes Men believe it to be so, and they believe it with enough force to commit acts like these … on camera … and then sell the footage directly to you, in the hope (infinitesimal as it may seem) that you might actually agree with their belief … or at least derive some enjoyment from their antics (Source: Demoss 2005, np link).

The goal of this performance, of course, is to clarify how dangerous it is to equate human freedom with a free market. Demonstrating visually the logical conclusion of neoliberalism, Mike and Andy hope to make their audience think twice. Instead, the audience rewards Andy with a healthy round of applause, but no questions. A reporter takes photos. The conference leader thanks the WTO for its presentation three times in public, and seats Andy at the table of honor, right across from his daughter. All day, in fact, Mike and Andy come up again and again against a blank wall: a couple of people admit being mystified by the appendage, but no one is bothered by the content of the speech, including when they're reminded about the slavery issue (Source: TheYesMen 2001, np link).

Andy, fully Dr Unruh, was as happy as Dr Unruh would have been to be receiving the adulation of such a respectable audience. But when he saw Mike’s face – clearly very depressed – Andy snapped out of his bliss. Something was wrong. And what was wrong was exactly what had seemed right: the triumph of Unruh was the failure of Andy and Mike. As we waddled to lunch, the air slowly leaking out of Andy’s EVA, our spirits sagged along with it. We had pulled out all the stops, and we had gotten nothing by way of reaction. We had spent the last three weeks anticipating an extremely dramatic, even dangerous situation, and nothing but applause had resulted. By the time we got to the cafeteria, our cheer picked up slightly. We became certain that someone in the audience must have been violently appalled by the WTO’s metre-long member and what it signified. We resolved to find that person. On the way we spoke to a fellow from Dow (“Interesting lecture!”); a German chemist (“I enjoyed your lecture, but only wondered what was its point”); a fellow from British defence (“Your point was obviously that the market would have replaced slavery, given enough time”); the head of the textiles department at Ghent University, who insisted we read his position paper on the future of textiles; several assorted others who had enjoyed the lecture in various ways (Source: The Yes Men 2003a, p.254-5 link).

… every so often he gets carted off by the police. Bonanno himself admits to being surprised at just how rarely that happens … whenever their cover is blown, word of their exploits speeds through the internet so quickly that companies don’t dare file a lawsuit for fear of looking like a spoil sport (Source: Klawitter 2009, np).

The more outrageous you are, the more embarrassing it is for your target to pursue you (Source: Bichlbaum in McNamara 2005, np link).

The film contains no response from the WTO itself (Source: Hall 2005, np link).

[The WTO] wrote a press release about us when we first set up Neither we nor anyone else noticed, so they wrote to us directly and told us about it. They said ‘Hey, look what you made us do, you deplorable dimwits!’ So we told 20,000 of our closest friends. That got the WTO a bit of ridicule in the press, which they augmented by telling at least two reporters (from Transfert, and from the New York Times) that they ‘deplore’ us. ‘Deplore’! Well, we deplore them! (Source: Anon 2004b, np link).

In the movie: Discussion / Responses / Outcomes / Impacts

‘The Yes Men’ is not a great documentary, but I eat this kind of stuff right up because I find the concept of creative activism to be an intriguing one, and the way that these men are managing to infiltrate some of these organizations is not only amusing but really intelligent as well (Source: FilmOtaku 2005, np link).

The documentary is so funny I nearly had a coronary watching it (Source: walkenandtalken 2005, np link).

God, I loved this prank (Source: @causticjb 2009, np link).

So funny..but I'm covering my eyes and peeking through my fingers (Source: Hodgson 2009, np link).

It takes steel nerves to spring a giant golden phallus on a lecture hall full of lawyers (Source: San Diego State University 2004, np).

Old but gold! Definitely the movie I recommended in my life most of all! Yes Men embody brilliant disobedience and are nice (Source: Amira 2016, np link).

Coming on like the outcast offspring of Dom Joly and Naomi Klein, it's pant-wettingly funny … (Source: Russell 2005, np link).

Jonathan Swift, meet Ali G (Source: Burkeman 2004, np link).

This is anti-globalization protest as performance art (Source: Jones 2006, p.150).

Playing, creative, so simple and brave. Totally crazy. Nice guys! Just lovely! (Source: Tell 2015, np link).

… what the hell is this man on (Source: Serial Thrilla 2013, np link)?

WTF??? A golden rod (Source: Artren 2006, np link)????

hahahahahahaha! There's a tv on there (Source: @YessBrittneyy 2010, np link).

Leisure suit, bwhahaa (Source: Young 2009, np link).

You can joke while looking superficially very serious (Source: Lacrambe 2016, np link).

Does he laugh to himself at 2:04? I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face either whilst doing this (Source: Thezec 2012, np link).

Unusual approach to the future of communication between managers and their staff (Source: Dzuverovic-Russell 2003, p.153).

It's hilariously great and is something I could see being done in the future, sadly (Source: Artren 2006, np link).

The remote workers viewing device (phallus) had our festival audience in apoplexy and deserves to be shown widely especially the animated sections (Source: conannz 2004, np link).

I wanted feedback from the [conference] audience about this bold move by the WTO and see outrage in their eyes, but instead nobody seemed to care. ... I wanted, and honestly needed, something that showed that these activists were making riffs in the corporate eyes of the world, not just filling a time slot (Source: Andy 2005, np link).

When I initially heard about this documentary, I thought that it would be, first and foremost, really funny. However, I felt that almost all of the humor in this movie falls as flat as their body suit prank did (Source: Hodgdon 2010, np link).

… a pathetic attempt at a visual gag (Source: SnorriGodhi 2006, np link).

It isn't every movie that features a man in a gold lamé bodysuit with a three-foot gilt phallus that would make Superman blush or maybe just reconsider the whole Lois Lane thing (Source: Dargis 2004, np link).

Everyone needs a Management Leisure Suit (Source: @neontotem 2015, np link)!

My next Halloween costume (Source: Jsnriggs 2017, np link).

Intelligence, and humor are the best weapons against fascism. The chamber of commerce doesn't want the people to see this film. Watch it, and find out why. Then share with every thoughtful person you know (Source: Truth is Transcendent 2016, np link)!

The audience in Cornell Cinema’s theater laughed often during the video clips and afterward asked Bichlbauer if his group was worried about the legality of their actions. Bichlbauer said that they had spoken to friends who were lawyers, and that they said that they ‘can’t see that there’s anything illegal, I mean, somebody could sue us, which would be great …’, drawing laughs and applause from the audience (Source: wpengine 2003, np link).

Responding to a deepening legal dispute over a parody of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Web site, a loose-knit band of Internet activists has created software that will purportedly allow technically savvy users to spoof virtually any Web site in a matter of minutes … Called ‘YesIWill,’ the software is being made available to Internet users at no cost by The Yes Men, a self-described group of Internet satirists opposed to the ‘neo-liberal economic policies’ of the WTO and other organizations involved in facilitating broader global trade ... The YesIWill software will make it easy for activists to flood the Internet with sites that parody not only, but also a host of other commercial and political portals, a Yes Men spokesman using the alias Kimppa Kiva told Newsbytes today (Source: McGuire 2001, np).

All in all, I think that the Yes Men’s way of trying to change the world is very interesting. They do stir up some bad feeling among the press, authorities and quite often, I can imagine, among their viewers and readers. But in the end, if they have managed to get people to think twice about the system they criticise and maybe this time with a more critical eye, haven’t the Yes Men succeeded with what they set out to do, regardless what people may think of their methods (Source: Vinthagen 2005, np link)?

… it was refreshing to think that a few clever protests with careful thought and some talented execution can create ripples on the pond so wide that millions of people have now seen the echoes in a media format somewhere near them (Source: connanz 2004, np link).

Sources / Further reading

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@YesBrittneyy (2010) The Management Leisure Suit!..., 24 September ( last accessed 1 November 2017).

Amira (2016) Old but gold! Definitiv der Film, den ich in meinem Leben am aller meisten empfohlen habe!..., 30 August ( last accessed 4 November 2017, translated into English by Google Translate)

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Page compiled by Tom Best, Tom Gibson, Beth Massey, Chloe Rees, Kate Ross & Jemma Sherman, edited by Jemma Sherman, Beth Massey & Ian Cook (last updated August 2019). Page created for as part of the University of Exeter undergraduate Geographies of Material Culture module, and edited with the help of internship funding from the Kone Foundation.