The Yes Men: Not Your Grandpa’s Activism

I'm an old fart—a curmudgeon and a crone—so I get to say things like "Back in my day…" 

Like: back in my day (which was the '60s), we knew how to protest. Back in my day, we did street theater to fight the war in Viet Nam. And back in my day, we marched the streets in the very first Gay Pride parades, and we said things like "We're just like you…" which went over well with people who wanted to think they were worth us wishing we were just like them. 

All these actions sort of worked back then… before the right wing conservative think tanks figured out how to counter us. Bad news: the right wing has succeeded in countering old-fashioned activisms. Good news: there are new forms of activism they don't know how to fight yet.

Ny times by yes men This evening, I saw the film The Yes Men Fix The World. Please go see this movie if you can. It's the face of a new activism. It's an activism that the right wing think tanks haven't got a hold on yet, and I find that exciting. 

What do The Yes Men do that works? They lie. They lie BIG. They lie in a way that makes us wish they were telling the truth, and the right wing think tanks don't know what to do with that. Like this phony issue of The New York Times. Click on it to see it big, or download the full PDF.

Am I saying that activism in the form of big protest marches and street theater and shouting "We're just like you" are bad actions? No. I'm saying that these are your grandpa's activisms and they're not as effective as you might like them to be. 

The right wing has learned how to carve up the radical left wing into virtually separatist groups working hard to achieve equity in ten seemingly disparate arenas: race, age, class, gender, sexuality, looks, ability, religion, citizenship, family status, and age. Any truly radical 21st century activism must effect a coalition of all ten vectors of activism.

The Yes Men are pointing the way to a new activism. Like Michael Moore, The Yes Men are pranksters. Like Stephen Colbert, The Yes Men tell great big lies. Like Jon Stewart, they're smart. The Yes Men throw wrenches into corporate America's well-oiled machine. They're not alone. My friend Andrew Boyd, founder of Billionaires for Bush makes us laugh, makes us cry and makes us get off our butts and actually do something. If you're looking for a new activism—one that has a chance of succeeding beyond your wildest dreams and the planet's deepest needs—check out the links on this page.

As an old fart activist, I'm asking you: please, create or contribute to a new activism that fights for equity across the boards—including whatever might be your own oppression, as well as the systems oppressing others. That would make your activist grandma and grandpa proud. I promise. 

And I promise to do whatever I can to help you make that happen. Really. Tweet me, and let's see how we can build a shiny new coalition of activists.

With curmudgeonly and cronely love, respect, gratitude, and best wishes for success, I remain…

Your Auntie Kate


  1. Thanks ever so for putting a name to what Billionaires for Bush where doing. God that was great! Also Billionaires Against Health Reform protesting at the Tea Parties. The baggers where flummoxed!! I’ll put on my thinking cap and try to come up with some street theatre of my own.

  2. OK. So you didn’t actually give the “new activism” a name unless new activism IS the name.
    I’m OK with that.

  3. Jane, thanks. And you’re right… no name yet for this new activism. Since I didn’t come up with it, I don’t think it’s my place to name it. I’ve heard it referred to as “culture jamming,” which term I truly enjoy. xo K

  4. Culture jamming is a good term as that’s just what it is. And it’s the kind of activism they can never effectively counter or corrupt. If we use humour and love as our main weapons they can never defeat us.
    Just a thought from another crone.

  5. Yknow, its seeing things like this that make me glad I dont live in the states (for the record, I’m in Scotland). Our government over the last 10 years or so has managed to change our society to be overly politcally correct. Which is great for us queer types, although it does piss off the right wing greatly. It just seems to me now, that America is just one big corporate enterprise. I sincerely hope you guys manage to find a turning point too.

  6. “Yes man is good movie for all ages above 15. I highly recommend this movie to all parents. This is a teen favorite. This movie has a good theme to it, and is great movie. I recommend it to any one.”

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