[By Austin, Eva, And Jenny]

Guerrilla activism is a form of culture jamming that empowers individuals, allowing marginalized voices to be heard, giving them a temporary platform to speak, and in turn empowers the collective with knowledge.

Ian Murphy is one individual who has helped inform the public and make them increasingly aware about America’s corrupt political ties to corporations, and particularly about the loss of collective bargaining rights by unions. The Yes Men work in a similar way of informing society with false knowledge to spread awareness of an injustice to have society change it while encouraging others to join their network and do alike. W. Lance Bennett elaborates on these ideas in New Media Power: The Internet and Global Activism and elaborates on these groups calling them “Global Activist Networks.”

Although they are unlike mobs and have “considerably more refined communication and deliberative capabilities,” they have been also referred to as “smart mobs,” a term coined by Howard Rheingold (22). We want to look at Guerrilla Activism and the tactics used by Ian Murphy, James O’Keefe, and the Yes Men. Then, we discuss how each create a scandal to get in to mainstream news, and talk about how videos can be manipulated in terms of O’Keefe, how O’Keefe seems to discredit the media, and how he is also more of a political strategist.


We want to compare the Yes Men who are less about perpetuating a lie, and more about spreading awareness by having the media pick up a story which is how Ian Murphy gathered attention with communication infrastructures changing in important ways, particularly enabling the convergence of the media system so that personal micro media content has more pathways through which to enter mass media channels.

Some the other questions we are considering:

1) How does Guerrilla Activism work and inform their viewers and readers? In a discussion about Global Activist Networks.

2) What is the role of new media through new platforms/technology and how effective is Guerilla Activism? in a discussion about communication infrastructures changing, and how these global activist networks use new media.

3) How Guerrilla Activism change to our news values? In a discussion about James O’Keefe and the Yes Men.

4) Should we invest our faith in the collective and/or technology to keep us informed? In a discussion with Jaron Lanier.

5) Does the truth even matter when the scandal already manipulates the opinion of the public? Looking at these case studies: Ian Murphy & James O’Keefe

6) Is impartiality a worthy and attainable aspiration of news media? Discussing new types of journalism.

I am going to work on the narration for the video or presentation we make, and give a through explanation of what events have occurred and what has been academically said about these global activist networks, and maybe expand on some of the questions we pose. Jenny will work on making the presentation, and gather information to answer those questions and help examine our case studies. Jenny will create video and analyze our case studies’ video.

5 Responses to “GUERRILLA Activism”

  1. Yuna Park says:

    This travelogue sounds very interesting and I think you have great set of questions to start. What you might want to add is either/or a participatory element (one of you getting involved with a project like this? probably on a smaller, more local scale) or interviews with people who have participated in Guerilla activism. These elements could help enrich your travelogue and give it a new dimension rather than it just being a study of existing activist groups.

  2. peternenov says:

    I think determining the effectiveness of Guerrilla Activism may be extremely challenging. Are the Yes Men successful just by getting their story on the air or are bigger goals such as getting the companies to actually change their policies what determines the effectiveness of the efforts? As Yuna said, it might be helpful to get involved with a project or at least speak to people that have been involved with such projects. Furthermore, it might be worthwhile to see how media outlets react to this form of activism. A network that features the Yes Men might want to quickly bury the story so that they do not seem to have loose journalistic standards. I think the scale of the travelogue may be a little too massive to cover the questions of interest effectively.

  3. mdeseriis says:

    Austin, I think the three of you made some significant progress from the previous proposal in that this topic is much more cogent and circumscribed than the previous one. Nevertheless, these groups/individuals (especially The Yes Men) have performed dozens of guerrilla-activism interventions so make sure to choose your case studies carefully in order to deliver your point. Once you have selected theme, explain (and show) how each of these interventions got into mainstream media and whether there were direct political consequences. For instance, O’Keefe claims to be responsible for the federal government’s defunding and disbanding of ACORN, which means that the effectiveness of his intervention is self-evident. In the case of the Yes Men, it is hard to say whether their stunts are equally effective. But is this due to the fact that The Yes Men’s techniques that are less effective that O’Keefe’s? Or could it be related to the fact that The Yes Men prefer to target big corporations, which by definition are less accountable to the general public than the government? In other words, the effectiveness of these tactics may not be strictly related to the techniques used by these activists but also by the different targets chosen and the complex political implications that each campaign or intervention has–many of which are not directly controllable by the activists themselves.

  4. I particularly like this travelouge! The Yes Men are so interesting and are constantly pulling stunts. I would suggest checking out the site http://www.nyc-dep.org it seems like something is going on there that might have to do with viral activism and or the Yes Men. Also the site has a lot to do with fracking and the movement surrounding it, such a movement would be great to jump on board especially because NYU students are particularly involved in it. Multiple rallies, groups, and clubs have been started against fracking and by talking to them you could find out how they are using viral activism as a way of getting their messages across.

  5. lizcullen says:

    I think it’s extremely relevant and effective to use the Yes Men as a prime example of mainstream culture jamming but perhaps it would also be interesting to view other examples even if on a small scale level. My good friend Abby who is a NYU student recently culture jammed a bunch of successful music blogs by making a fake song of a witch house band and distributing a press release with it in order to show the poor quality of fact checking that the blogosphere creates in order to get the fastest story. Would put her in touch with you guys if you wanted. I agree with everyone in how you would go about measuring the level of effectiveness that these guerrilla campaigns have had–long term success vs short term is something to think about.

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