Satire and humor have limits

There are times when a single humorous action can spread important ideas much further than anything else can. Like when apartheid-era zombies communicated that nothing substantial has changed in Cape Town, or McDonald's offered free Happy Meals to victims of NYPD racial profiling, or (especially) when revolutionaries made regimes look like idiots with one wacky image or a series of jokes.

But humor has limits. "Stop and Frisk" was overturned by a sustained campaign, not humor. Milosevic and Mubarak were toppled by mass action in which humor played a role but that's all. And to really overcome the new kind of apartheid that's in power in Cape Town, it's going to take a whole lot more than some zombies running around.

Most poignantly for us Yes Men, whereas before the 2016 election we had a decent "success" rate (i.e. our actions tended to communicate stuff and get covered pretty well), most of the US projects we engaged in between 2016 and 2020 fell flat. When in 2017 we spoke as the DNC and announced a much-needed populist platform, nobody noticed—was it just too obvious that this is what needed to happen? When in 2018 we issued a paper announcing Trump's departure from office, it got lots of press... but the paper's main message (basically, "rise up!") hardly resonated, with other messages (basically, "Democrats get on the ball!") so buried that few people noticed. Other projects we attempted also fell flat, so flat we haven't (yet) put them onto our website....

Is a rising autocracy just not funny? Is the rictus of the racial-crime monster not one to compete with? Or does using tricks to expose hidden facts to the light of reason not work when the value of reason is in dispute? Fortunately, when our own tools seem to fall flat, there are other creative ways to attack monstrous power—sometimes by making creative campaign ads, sometimes by burning a police station, sometimes by going door-to-door during an election....

Instances in which we learned this lesson

In August of 2017, we were given a speaking spot by Politicon, a conference at which we'd previously brought Ed Snowden back to US soil, to enormous…
Back in 2011, a small brainstorm around the NYPD's racial profiling ("Stop and Frisk") led to an idea that everyone laughed and cringed at…
Two hundred apartheid-party zombies descend on the Cape Town City Hall to celebrate their return to power. Whaaaaaa?