How to invent a conservative talking point

A drop in the bucket, and at dinky-ass Newsmax — but hey, it's not about individual actions anyhow. War can be over, if we all want it.

On August 21, 2021, NewsmaxTV's Tom Basile wanted to book his old friend Paul Wolfowitz for a show called “America Right Now,” to talk about Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan. He ended up with the Yes Men instead. (Listen to Andy discuss it with the brilliant Douglas Rushkoff.)

Andy's plan was to switch “Wolfowitz” with a “colleague” from the American Enterprise Institute at the last minute — and that would be Andy under an assumed name, wearing big silly glasses like all of the guests on Basile's show seem to do.

But when, two minutes before the 12:04pm EST Saturday slot, Andy logged on and told producers that Wolfowitz was having internet trouble and wanted him to do it instead, the producers refused, and suggested just patching Wolfowitz through on the phone — which is how this became the very first time the Yes Men impersonated an actual person, rather than simply inventing one

In the 11-minute live broadcast (video and full transcript here), Andy as Wolfowitz offered Basile's viewers a brand-new "conservative angle" for criticizing Biden's withdrawal: that without a war — even a doomed and failing 20-year war — Americans have nothing to be proud of, since we lag so far behind other rich nations on health care, infrastructure, education, elder care, food options, income, social mobility, and so on.

"A sitting presidentin the office of president, unnecessarily ended a war — leaving Americans with nothing else to be proud of," said Andy. "That's the real crime, Tom."

Basile lapped it up without batting an eye — for 11 full minutes.

Near the end, Andy offered Basile's viewers a suggestion: next time we think of spending $2.4 trillion on war, let's spend it on something we can be proud of instead — infrastructure, health care, social mobility, education, etc.

Throughout the interview, Basile kept trying to steer his “old friend” back from domestic policy to the question of what to do now in Afghanistan. Andy admitted that we should certainly evacuate "every single Afghan man, woman, and child" from Afghanistan, but that it would be impossible to make things right after a 20-year failure of a war. Andy then pivoted back to the ways we could have spent $2.4 trillion.

One weird thing: Tom Basile actually knows Wolfowitz, as he mentioned during the broadcast. Andy hadn't planned to impersonate him, so he didn't bother listening to his voice — and we're pretty sure he sounds nothing like him. Yet Basile never noticed. Could Basile's complete lack of observational ability have anything to do with his horrible politics?

Then, Sept. 11, Newsmax yet again reached out to "Wolfowitz" — and this time we made sure they'd never call us again.

Listen to Andy discuss this with the wonderful Douglas Rushkoff on the Team Human podcast.