I was listening to an interview Caroline Casey (The Visionary Activist on KPfA) was doing with this “trickster” named Mike Bonnano. He and his group, The Yes Men, had created what I had been thinking for a while was so needed in our time: a new Jonathan Swift. I don’t mean the Swift of Gulliver, but rather the Swift of “A Modest Proposal,” generally considered the finest piece of satire in the English language. Bonnano and the Yes Men did something that doesn’t duplicate Swift, but reverberates with the same brilliant outrage.
They call their piece, Vivoleum, and it was actually presented at a conference of 300 oilmen at GO-EXPO, Canada’s largest oil conference, held this year at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta from June 7 through June 9. Posing as the “NPC rep” delivering the conclusions of a study commissioned by US Energy Secretary Bodman, ‘Shepard Wolff’ (allegedly an ex-Exxon exec, actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men) announced from the stage that despite the fact that current energy policies were increasing the chances of extensive global calamities, there was a perfect way to keep energy flowing: transform the billions of people who die into oil.
“We need something like whales,” he said, “but infinitely more abundant.”
That infinite abundance would be tapped by rendering newly-dead human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. ‘Wolff’ then showed a 3-D animation of the process. (see it and the whole hilarious story on http://theyesmen.org/hijinks/vivoleum).
“Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continual expansion of fossil fuel production,” noted “Exxon rep” ‘Florian Osenberg’ (Yes Man Mike Bonnano). “With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left.”
The “oilmen” then lit “commemorative candles” they said was made of Vivoleum obtained from the flesh of an “Exxon janitor” whose death resulted from his job cleaning up a toxic spill. The “reps” then showed a video tribute to the janitor selflessly announcing his desire to be transformed into candles after his death.
It was only at that point that Simon Mellor, Director for the company putting on the event, caught on to the hoax and forced the Yes Men from the stage. As he left, pursued by journalists, Bichlbaum, still in character as the NPC rep, said: “We’re not talking about killing anyone. We’re talking about using them after nature has done the hard work. After all, 150,000 people already die from climate-change related effects every year. That’s only going to go up—maybe way way up. Will it all go to waste? That would be cruel.”
I urge everyone to go to the Yes Men’s website. It carries descriptions of other brilliant satires, including one that actually pre-empted Chevron’s absolutely infuriating commercials, seen on PBS’s News Hour each night, in which sincere “teachers” and “engineers” urge us to “get serious” about finding renewable energy sources. Called their “We Agree” campaign, the commercials are supposed to “greenwash” the public into thinking that Chevron, one of the world’s great polluters, really cares about the environment and global warming when in fact they have been a major source of resistance to anything that would interfere with their obscene profits. What the Yes Men did was leak, just before Chevron’s campaign was launched, a press release from a spoof Chevron campaign. The Yes Men also created numerous posters mimicking the We Agree campaign, but carrying actual critiques of the company such as “Oil Companies Should End the Wars They Helped Start;” and “Oil Companies Should Kill Fewer People.” At the end of each is the mocking “WE AGREE” in red ink over the signatures of oil companyy CEOs. See the posters at http://theyesmen.org/hijinks/chevron. The posters and many others are downloadable.
Thank god for the Yes Men. We need many more tricksters like them in several other arenas, including politics. Satire and ridicule may be our last, best hope of laughing the evil profiteers and charlatans who now control our world out of existence.