By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 27 2011 - 9:56am Tagged:

The Yes Men wish to commend Mr. "Alessio Rastani" for his masterful performance as "trader" on BBC World yesterday. Mr. Rastani's real name is Granwyth Hulatberi; he once appeared on CNBC MarketWrap as a "representative" of the WTO. Well done, Granwyth! You're getting better and better.

Just kidding. We've never heard of Rastani. Despite widespread speculation, he isn't a Yes Man. He's a real trader who is, for one reason or another, being more honest than usual. Who in big banking doesn't bet against the interests of the poor and find themselves massively recompensed—if not by the market, then by humongous taxpayer bailouts? Rastani's approach has been completely mainstream for several years now; we must thank him for putting a human face on it yesterday.

If you'd like to see the human face of the human perspective—the perspective of the 99% victimized by our demented and out-of-control financial system—come join the occupation of Wall Street. Michael Moore did so  last night, and pointed out that in America, it's just 400 people who own as much as most of the rest of us put together—and that when we decide we really want to change the rules of the game, those 400 people won't be able to do squat about it.

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 21 2011 - 7:32pm Tagged:

Head to Liberty Plaza this Thursday at 8:30pm to hear Ivan Marovic!!

Midway through Ivan's 7pm talk this Thursday (RSVP's are closed, we're overbooked), we'll all take the R train a few stops down to Liberty Plaza and occupy Wall Street! There, around 8:30 or 9pm, Ivan will continue his talk for our very own here-and-now revolutionaries, who are doing some of the same things Ivan and his thousands of friends did to topple dictators from Milosevic to Mubarak!

And, of course, head to Liberty Plaza anytime you have a few free minutes, hours, or days to support these awesome folks!

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By Mike Bonanno on Sep 14 2011 - 8:51am Tagged: Project: Phone Story

An Android app of "Phone Story" was released this morning, less than a day after Apple pulled it from the iTunes store. By rejecting the app, Apple has made sure that this phone story isn't just about horrible labor conditions in the life-cycle of mobile phones, it's now also about censorship and the chilling effects Apple's policies have on content. There's a nice article on it, including interviews with the game developer Molleindustria, here in the Guardian.

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By Mike Bonanno on Sep 13 2011 - 1:09pm Tagged: Project: Phone Story

Hours after being publicized, after only 1000 downloads, the Phone Story app was removed from the iTunes store. There is some news about it... stay tuned for more!

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 13 2011 - 6:31am Tagged: Project: Phone Story

Sept. 13, 2011

iPhone App About Apple's Rotten Supply Chain Gets Past Censors
This and upcoming Yes Lab projects no hoax


To the great surprise of its creators, a funny new iPhone game critical of Apple's human rights record was accepted by the iTunes store and is being released today. The app, called Phone Story, teaches players about abuses in the life-cycle of the iPhone by putting them in the manufacturers' shoes. To win, players must enslave children in Congolese mines, catch suicidal workers jumping out of Chinese assembly plant windows, and conscript the poorest of the world's poor to dismantle toxic e-waste resulting from obsolete phones.

The seriously funny new game will sell for 99 cents on iTunes; all proceeds will go to organizations fighting to stop the horrors that smartphone production causes. Read more about Phone Story below. But first, a word from Phone Story's sponsors.

Yes Lab Fundraising Campaign a Shocking Success

Last week the Yes Lab sent you an appeal for support. We set aside forty days and forty nights to reach our goal on Kickstarter—but with your help we've gotten there in just five! (Note: if you haven't yet donated, don't let our success dissuade you! We'll use the extra money to fund more projects, and to develop tools and resources to help folks carry them out. And by the way, if you're a Drupal programmer and feel like helping to make those tools, please write to us!)

Since our fundraising appeal is doing so well, we're launching our very own curated page on Kickstarter, to support other cool projects—like Beautiful Trouble, an activism manual and website written by over forty troublemakers from around the world, including the Yes Men. Beautiful Trouble's goal is to put the best tactics for creative action in the hands of the next generation of change-makers. Support Beautiful Trouble!

So back to those phones....

Would you like to force an African child to mine for precious metals at gunpoint? "Phone Story," a new iPhone app produced by Molleindustria, puts the player in the unsavory shoes of a smartphone executive. Each level in the game explores a different real-life problem in the consumer electronics life cycle: slavery and abuse in Coltan mines, suicide-inducing manufacturing plants, and health-destroying e-waste processing are reduced to a cute, low-res aesthetic driven by simple, addictive game play. The game is available in the iTunes store for 99 cents.

"We wanted to get this story into the hands of consumers, on the shiny devices we love to use but are causing this depraved, destructive cycle," said game developers Paolo Pedercini and Michael Pineschi.

The site provides links to organizations with campaigns to hold phone makers accountable for their horrors, and 100% of proceeds go directly to such organizations.

Apple has a well-documented and controversial history of keeping apps that they don't agree with out of the hands of consumers, so it came as a big surprise to the creators when the iPhone store accepted this one. "If this simply slipped under their radar, we can't wait to see how they respond," said Pedercini. "If it's creative enough, we might have to build a whole other level."

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 12 2011 - 9:15am Tagged:

Got Drupal? Want to help the Yes Lab develop some cool online tools? We’re developing two tools to assist those carrying out Yes Lab projects, and to get everyone else more involved:

  • The “Actipedia,” an open, user-generated database of activist projects, a project of the Center for Artistic Activism and the Yes Lab. The basic framework has been built, but now needs to be fleshed out and many bells and whistles added.
  • An “action portal” (no real name yet) that will allow users to submit project proposals and solicit collaborators from the Yes Lab database.

If you’d like to help out with either of these projects, please write us!

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 7 2011 - 10:13am Tagged:

Please support the Yes Lab!

Dear Friends,

The Yes Men need your help.

For years, we’ve been tossing our little buckets of water on the blazes of social injustice. Last year, we decided to form a bucket brigade: a system (we’re calling it the Yes Lab) to help others do the kind of funny, headline-grabbing actions we’re known for.

It worked. In its embryonic first year, the Yes Lab helped launch nearly a dozen activist media campaigns (see below), garnering a total of 4.5 metric tons of media hype. It even attracted threatening legal letters (frames not included) from five coal companies, one oil transport company, one utility, France, and GE! (Seriously, GE, no one meant to knock $3.5 billion off your share price. But no one’s sorry, either.)

Given this proof of concept, the Yes Lab is now (almost) ready for prime time.

It’s got a brand-new home at New York University, complete with plenty of space, a big supportive crew, lots of eager collaborators, and a structure that will let it tackle five or so projects at once. (If you’re in New York, come to our launch Sept. 14 and see how you can get involved!) It’s also got a lovely new website that will soon have a number of fancy tools to help hundreds more carry out or join up with Yes Lab projects.

There’s only one hitch. We’ve got the venue, the participants, and (soon) the tools. But we’re short on cash for the projects themselves—which, of course, are the entire point of the Yes Lab. That’s why today, we’re asking for $10,000 on Kickstarter, to hire project managers and cover expenses for projects that don’t have other funding. It's all the Yes Lab needs to become a fully-functioning mischief machine.

OK, you got the point of this email: the Yes Lab needs money. So here, without further ado, is a summary of last year's mischief, accomplished by just a few dozen folks. Imagine what hundreds will be able to do!

General Electric Short-Circuited
Activists US Uncut, with a little help from the Yes Lab, sent out a press release announcing that General Electric would repay the $3.2 billion tax credit they received last year despite massive profits. The announcement was momentarily picked up as true by the AP, and the market, unable to leave a good deed unpunished, responded by knocking $3.5 billion off GE’s share price. The result was massive, enlightening coverage of GE’s tax-cheating ways on everything from local TV to CNN.

What the heck is an Asthmaze?
A small group of activists wondered how a big coal company might address the fact that coal causes childhood asthma. The result: “Coal Cares,” a faux greenwashing campaign in which Peabody Coal tried to “make asthma cool” with free themed inhalers to kids living within 200 miles of a coal plant. The site, taken as real by many, quickly went massively viral, which didn’t amuse Peabody one bit but did help publicize coal as a major public health issue. And as it happened, in the week following the launch of Coal Cares, a real-life attempt by the coal industry to mislead children was defeated by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Hooray!

Beat Up On Chevron? We Agree.
Chevron decided to launch a $90 million greenwashing campaign with a street-art aesthetic, and was stupid enough to approach street artists for help. One of them, Cesar Maxit, promptly leaked Chevron’s plans to Amazon Watch. The Yes Lab helped Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) release a much more honest version of Chevron’s campaign just hours ahead of the “real” McCoy, generating a deluge of media coverage. Hundreds of user submissions and some amazing videos from FunnyOrDie further derailed Chevron’s $90 million lie, infuriating Chevron even more—though not quite as much as the $18 billion judgment against them in Ecuador, which Chevron has vowed never to pay. The fight goes on.

Coal Burns Wealthy Neighborhood. Neighbors Nonplussed.
Students from Columbia College in Chicago came together with Greenpeace and the Yes Lab to create the illusion that a new coal plant was planned in their city—but that instead of going in a poor neighborhood (like the two coal plants that already exist in Chicago), this one would be built in a rich one. The plans got a rise out of residents and the media, and helped focus attention on Chicago’s much-needed Clean Power Ordinance.

Canada was the victim of two Yes-Lab-assisted actions, both targeting the Alberta Tar Sands, the England-sized mess that has made Canada the worst per-capita carbon emitter on earth.

Hair Clogs Pipeline
In the first Canadian action, a group of activists had Enbridge—who are aiming to build a massive pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands through pristine wilderness to the British Columbia coast—announce “My Hair Cares,” a crackpot plan to sop up inevitable spills along the pipeline route with the hair of volunteers. The resulting press publicized Enbridge’s botched spill cleanup in Michigan, and let Canadians know how stupid it can be to let oil flow through your watershed.

More and More Mordor
In the second Canada-centered action, a group of students, working with Greenpeace, launched a surreal campaign, complete with infomercials, cell phone videos, a tweeting campaign, a Facebook page, etc. to make folks in Canada think that the new Hobbit film was saving money on Mordor scenes by shooting them in the Tar Sands. The “news” went quickly viral and helped to cement the Canadian Government’s reputation as top-shelf planet-killing bastards.

Canadian War Room Defeated
Another Canadian action on the same subject took place way back in December 2009, before the Yes Lab really existed—but it happened according to the same model, so the Yes Lab is claiming it. Read about it here!

France Remains Offensive
An ad-hoc group called CRIME (Committee for the Reimbursement of Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti) announced, on France’s behalf, the repayment of €17 billion to Haiti in relief aid—a payment equal to that which France extorted from Haiti in 1804 as a condition for their independence. Because of France’s ham-fisted reaction, the story received global attention, alerting many to the deep colonial roots of Haiti’s problems. The media attention was also used to launch a campaign that further built pressure on France to do the right thing.

People Bite Apple
It’s a bummer that our shiny tech toys are made using the blood of people—or, more precisely, the “conflict minerals” that play a big role in the violence and instability of Central Africa. So a group of students, together with Friends of the Congo, produced a fake Apple ad campaign touting a “Conflict-Free iPhone,” and calling for the citizen’s arrest of John Paulson, whose company finances some of the worst extraction practices. The project received hundreds of media hits worldwide.

Unnatural Gas
Students and local activists launched a campaign to cover Manhattan with stickers warning residents that if a ban on hydraulic fracturing is not extended in New York State, they’ll soon need to test for their water’s safety by trying to light it on fire. The project communicated viscerally just what’s at stake if gas companies are allowed to drill in New York’s aquifer, as the companies are demanding.

Shell Game Uncovers Oil Slick
In the Hague, activists impersonated oil giant Shell and publicly apologized for devastating the Niger Delta each year with oil spills larger than that of the Exxon Valdez. The action generated hundreds of stories—all highlighting Shell’s atrocious record.

Phew. Not bad for something that still hasn’t launched!

Meanwhile, as long as we're writing a long breezy email, we have other news too:

Tim DeChristopher
Tim DeChristopher’s amazing story continues to inspire a movement. He’s currently living in a federal prison, in a tiny room he was offered in exchange for single-handedly saving hundreds of thousands of acres of gorgeous Utah wilderness from destruction at the hands of Big Oil and Gas. Listen to Tim speak about why he did what he did, and what he’s asking of you—and then make up your mind.

Speaking of small rooms, we are still, almost two years later, waiting for the judge to rule whether to throw out the US Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit against us. Meanwhile, the Chamber’s lawyers—the same ones who are apparently suing us—recently made big news for dirty tricks not seen since the days of CointelPro. We almost hope we have a chance to address these creeps in court. Meanwhile, we’ll have to be content trying to express our anger in other ways.

Yes Men Revolting
Our latest film, The Yes Men Fix the World, didn’t. It won the Berlin Audience Award and the UK’s most prestigious prize in documentary film, was released theatrically in the U.S. and 40 other countries, and was shown on HBO and all kinds of other TV. But it simply did not fix the world—which is why our new film will be called The Yes Men Are Revolting. It’ll feature many of the Yes-Lab-assisted actions above, as well as conversations with funny people who have overthrown tyrannies worldwide. It’ll be funny and watchable, and will use the word “revolution” quite a bit. Isn’t it time? The rich (except for Warren Buffett) are not getting nicer, and our leaders seem less and less able to think about us. So let’s say it: “re-vo-lu-tion.” Goooood.

Finally, huge, huge thanks to all of you who helped make the long list of Yes Lab-supported hijinks happen. We believe humor can have a role in shaking off tyranny, whether of one crazy dictator or of a whole bad idea. Please keep active in whatever way you can, and if you can, please pledge to our campaign. THANKS!!

Gratefully yours,
The Yes Men

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Aug 17 2011 - 10:45am Tagged:

Come drink wine, win prizes, watch videos, and watch the Aztec goddess Coatlicue battle a Survivaball. Also, hear about the Yes Lab's near past and future from the Yes Men and others. Free (but photo ID is required). 

When: Sept. 14, 2011, 6pm
Where: 20 Cooper Square, New York
RSVP: Click here.

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By Andy Bichlbaum on May 13 2011 - 12:13pm Tagged: Coal Cares, Peabody, legal threats Project: Coal Cares

The following letter has been sent by Coal Is Killing Kids to lawyers for Peabody Energy in response to their threat. (Several threats followed from other coal companies, but we did not bother to answer them.)

Dear Andrew Baum, Foley Lardner LLP, and Peabody Energy,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter demanding that we remove Peabody’s name from and cease falsely suggesting that Peabody cares about kids made sick by coal.

Your threat, although entirely baseless (see the EFF's response and blog post), did make us realize one thing: that Peabody, despite being our country's largest coal producer, and one of the largest lobbyists against common-sense policy, accounts for a mere 17% of U.S. coal production. The remaining 83% comes from 28 other companies, who are, every bit as much as Peabody, giving kids asthma attacks and other illnesses.

As even you may agree, the root of the problem is not Peabody, but rather our system of subsidies, regulations, and lobbying that lets your whole industry continue its lethal work. To make this clear, we have changed every instance of the word “Peabody” on to a rotating selection of the names of other large U.S. coal producers who, like Peabody, also need to be stopped from killing kids.

Very truly yours,
Coal is Killing Kids and the Yes Lab, (314) 472-5539

P.S. You suggest in your letter that “Peabody has a First Amendment right not to be involved with the dissemination of a message with which it does not agree,” a statement which, while completely untrue, does recall the World Resources Institute’s longstanding demand that you cease falsely attributing to them the nonsense statistic that “for every 10-fold increase in per-capita energy use, individuals live 10 years longer.” As the WRI notes:

First, WRI has never made such an assertion and has never done analysis to that effect. Second, this conclusion ignores critical factors related to energy production and human health. WRI’s longstanding support for a global transition to cleaner, low-carbon energy is well-documented.

We would be grateful if you would stop misquoting WRI and issue a corrective statement within the next 24 hours.

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By Andy Bichlbaum on May 10 2011 - 1:53pm Tagged: Coal Cares, coal, asthma, public health, Peabody Coal, reveal release Project: Coal Cares

May 10, 2011

Tackling Childhood Asthma Not Coal Industry Priority After All
No more My Little Pony inhalers in stock

     Contact:, (314) 472-5539

A charitable initiative by the world's largest coal company to provide free “novelty-themed” inhalers to asthmatic children may have seemed for a moment like a (somewhat misguided) breath of fresh air, coming as it did from an industry whose emissions are directly linked to childhood asthma, and which is fighting to gut clean air legislation that would save children’s lives.

Coal Cares™ ( purported to “make asthma cool” with decorative and pop-culture inspired inhalers (“The Bieber,” “Harry Potter,” “My Little Pony,” and “My First Inhaler” were particular favorites). The site also announced that Peabody would offer $10 coupons towards asthma medication (about 5%-20% of the cost) for families living within 200 miles of a coal-fired plant. It featured a “Kidz Koal Korner” with asthma-related games for tots, an extensive asthma trivia section and FAQ (Peter the Great was asthmatic, who knew!), and a thorough condemnation of solar and wind alternatives.

It was, of course, a hoax, and it was aimed at Peabody Coal, which is lobbying ferociously against new pollution standards for power plants proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), standards the agency says will prevent 120,000 cases of childhood asthma each year in the United States. Peabody spent over $6 million lobbying Congress last year, and the industry has created a dizzying array of fake “grassroots” front groups to distort the public debate and fight legislation.

(Meanwhile, a new study by the American Lung Association notes that coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution in the United States than any other source, with the pollution killing 13,000 people a year. Coal-ash disposal alone increases risk of cancer, learning disabilities, birth defects and other illnesses due to exposure from heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury.)

The Coal Cares™ hoax was devised by a group called Coal is Killing Kids (CKK), a small environmental and public health group that aims to challenge Big Coal’s expensive lobbying against sensible updates to the Clean Air Act. “We don’t have their millions, but we do have a knack for incredibly tasteless jokes,” said Veronica Tomlinson, a pediatrician and member of CKK. CKK worked with the Yes Lab, which is a project of The Yes Men to help activist groups carry out media-savvy creative actions on their own.

"Sure, it’s kind of tasteless to say that ‘Bieber’ inhalers are a solution to childhood asthma," said Janet Bellamy, a spokesperson for CKK. "But it's a great deal more tasteless to cause that asthma in the first place, as coal-fired power plants have been proven to do." Added Justin V. Bond, another spokesperson for CKK: “It’s even more tasteless to disproportionately kill poor people.” Coal-fired power plants are very often built in areas populated by low-income citizens, who then bear the brunt of the health effects.

“People may laugh at our sick jokes,” said Bellamy, “but they also understand the real health impacts of burning coal. That’s exactly what the coal industry doesn’t want people to think about, because if enough of us were aware of it, we would shut these plants down once and for all.”


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