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the yes men

a paper i turned in yesterday:

Ethics In The Yes Men

In the film The Yes Men, several men attend functions representing World Trade Organization officials. Each time they receive an invitation to a function, the men give an absurd speech (usually involving an authentic-looking PowerPoint presentation) that should offend and make vocal their audiences. One such speech suggested recycling McDonald's hamburgers to prevent hunger. This method would take people's waste and transform it into 'new', ready-to-eat burgers ten times over. A brand new burger would be called the '#1', and any meal number would indicate the number of times a burger was recycled. Clearly such a process where Americans enjoy the first and best-tasting burgers is an example of ethnocentrism at its worst, therefore I do not consider it ethical. However, the way that the men delivered the speech was ethical, as they attempted to make their spectators think critically about the WTO and its purpose. Some might say that the men should not have posed as officials, and that they wasted their audience's time, but I believe that their situation warrants an exception. The Yes Men emphasized and exaggerated what they believed was wrong with the WTO to gain their audience's attention; they simply exercised their freedom of speech. While some audience members might have felt cheated, I am convinced that in a few years most of these people will probably laugh, and remember how fortunate we are to have the first amendment.

One media ethic presented here is the situational ethic, meaning that depending on the situation, some rules can bend. This ethic is understandably subjective. The Yes Men blatantly lied about their identity and accepted several times invitations into official meetings, yet in my view they deserve a high five for their dedication.

Another ethic that involves the men's mischief is Mill's Principle of Utility. This principle seeks the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Though the men only spoke to a few crowds, their presentation was unforgettable. With this film, they can reach an even larger audience. The more we know about the WTO's flaws, the more we can try to improve it, so the Yes Men are ultimately doing us a service.

- Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2006


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