ELKINS: How did you find out about the Yes Men?
OSTERTAG: Well, I never really "found out" about The Yes Men. They have been friends of mine since before the so-called Yes Men were formed.
ELKINS: How did they form The Yes Men?
OSTERTAG: Well, there's not an organization called The Yes Men, but there are these two guys, Mike and Andy, who are good friends of mine, and they have been involved in various kinds of activities like this. One was the guy who created the Barbie Liberation Front several years ago. He took a bunch of Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe dolls, swapped the voice boxes, and put them back on store shelves. It was a pretty successful thing, because they packaged them up to look like they hadn't been tampered with, but they added a piece of paper that said, "If you have problems with your doll, call this number," and the number was the local television news. So when kids would open the package, and their Barbie doll would say, "Kill, kill, kill," or their G.I. Joe said, "Let's go shopping," or something like that, then they would call this number to complain, and it would be the television news. Mike did this at Christmas, so it got a lot of media coverage.
Andy had been running a website called RTMark.com, which was a website of coporate sabotage that was set up like a mutual fund. You could invest in, or perform, coporate sabotage, and there were ways you could document what you had done so you could get paid the money.
So before they knew each other, they were both doing a lot of this sort of thing, and then once they met, they become The Yes Men.
ELKINS: What is your role in The Yes Men?
OSTERTAG: I don't give the speeches, but I help with the writing, and just thinking things through. There's a book on The Yes Men that I co-wrote. And specific projects like a petition asking Bush to accelerate global warming, (which a lot of people signed).
ELKINS: What do you think has been the most "successful" media prank, or activity conducted by The Yes Men?
OSTERTAG: Well, driving DOW's stock down 3 billion dollars was probably right up there. Though there have been other things. Mike and Andy did a thing in Australia where they spoke on behalf of the World Trade Organization, and announced that the WTO was going to close down and reopen as an aid organization based in Africa. The conference believed it, and put out a press release saying that this was happening, which resulted in an MP in the Canadian Parliament taking the floor to demand that the economic minister of Canada explain what the end of the WTO was going to mean for Canada.