The Yes Men Punk Davos Man

Davos is a small resort town in Switzerland best known for hosting the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual meeting of global political and business elites. Every year the biggest boosters of the "neoliberal" economic policy agenda of deregulation, unfettered global trade and strict International Monetary Fund (IMF) rules for poor countries, convene at Davos to pat each other on the back.

Now that these policies have almost brought the world to ruin, one would expect these global titans to be self-reflective and perhaps even apologetic. Mostly they were absent.

According to Slate: "JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who was slated to headline a panel about restoring corporate trust, didn't make it. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein stayed away. A few years ago, Citigroup owned Davos. Now its presence is spectral. Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, former mainstays of the gathering, are bad memories."

But their European brethren were there to pick up the slack: "We should stop the blame game and we should start looking forward," Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Josef Ackermann said Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the bankers that were there met behind closed doors with finance ministers, central bankers and regulators from major economies over the weekend in an attempt to "build bridges." One wonders if Obama’s chief economic advisor, Larry Summers, was in the room. Summers, of course, aided and abetted the high-flying financiers in keeping derivatives unregulated, allowing the U.S. to sell its toxic mortgages around the globe and thus collapse the global economy, not just its own.

Yes Men Lend a Hand

Fortunately, the famous pranksters, the Yes Men, were tracking events at Davos and jumped in to help with some of the "we have changed our ways" analysis the world was anxious to hear. They unveiled a fake WEF Webpage accompanied by paper and video press releases from some of the luminaries that frequently attend the forum.

For instance, they issued an apology in the form of a press release for Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein. "It is by now universally understood that many of our institutions were directly responsible for the collapse of housing value, not to mention massive unemployment and misery, in the United States and much of the rich world," said Lloyd Blanfein, Chair of the New York Financial Caucus, and current Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs.

The press release, which deliberately misspelled Blankfein’s name (in a signature tip off to reporters) was just the beginning of the fun. The lip-dubbed web videos of various corporate spokespeople and political leaders is particularly hilarious. My favorite was Archer Daniels Midland CEO and president Patricia Woertz, overdubbed to appear as if she's saying, "As a co-chair of the annual meeting, part of my focus will be on agriculture's role in today's economic savagery, and the broader, long-term issue of robbing whole groups for the greed of the food industry."

A Serious Message

In the past, the Yes Men have picked on other bastions of neoliberal policies including the World Trade Organization (WTO). They did such a good job copying the WTO's Website that it fooled people around the globe for many days until the the global trading institution started issuing press releases such as "WTO Announces Formalized Slavery System for Africa."

Why pick on Davos? Co-conspirator and film director Philippe Diaz, explained: "We did this out of frustration with the fact that each year in Davos, the wealthy and powerful figure out ways the global economy can continue to benefit them," said Diaz, who directed The End of Poverty?, a film opening this week in New York. "Despite the WEF's annual posturing, neoliberal policies have proven to be a massive failure for the vast majority of the poor," said Diaz. "When a disaster strikes a poor country like Haiti, our culpability becomes graphically clear."

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.