On November 9, 2016, the morning after Donald Trump's electoral victory, a website and video appeared promoting a new Trump-brand voting machine, the TRD-3000, designed by suspiciously Russian-sounding scientists, that would replace all other U.S. voting machines, forever. The TRD-3000 was described as "quantum-encrypted… for up to one thousand years," and was promised to ensure "safe and reliable elections forever."
Over the next few days, the video on the Trump Election Reporting Devices Facebook page racked up hundreds of thousands of views, shares and positive comments.
Then, yesterday, the TRD-3000 was officially launched—but then photos were leaked of a TERD executive lying on the top floor of the Trump Soho Hotel in a huge pool of blood, with a small horde of security guards escorting visitors out.
It was a hoax: The Yes Men's strangest, goriest, most Dadaist project ever. In a statement, The Yes Men detailed their plan, how—like the election itself—it didn't turn out quite as expected and what they've been thinking might actually make sense to do:
A month or so ago, anticipating a Clinton win, we hatched a plan to convey three things: (1) the continued danger of Trump's new fascist party (Democrats mustn't rest on their laurels!); (2) the Republican voter suppression that was already undermining the vote, in the wake of the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act; and (3) some of the enormous problems with electronic voting machines: they're hackable, easily rigged, many have no paper trail, and, worst of all, they're manufactured and secretly programmed by private companies with a history of deceiving elections officials.
The Trump Election Reporting Devices gimmick would especially highlight this last problem, by pointing out that, due to America’s baffling use of privatized vote counting, someone like Donald Trump could actually manufacture his own voting machines, if he needed a back door to power.
As for the more analog version of Republican voter suppression, we would document it here in New York on election day, linking the footage back to our hoax in a longer documentary project commissioned by Field of Vision. (While filming, we saw ridiculously long lines, ballot scanners breaking down left and right, and one polling station shut down altogether—all in communities of color. These and other forms of voter suppression helped ensure Trump’s victory: new ID requirements meant 300,000 fewer voters cast ballots in Wisconsin alone, as found by a federal court; Trump won that state by only 27,000 votes. And many argue that similar suppression efforts in other states were equally effective.)
Late that night, in order to avoid influencing the vote with fake news—a hilarious scruple, given the sheer volume of malicious fictions spread by the "alt-right" (or, more straightforwardly, fascists)—we'd launch the TERD website, video, and announcement of the next morning's press conference just after polls closed... and Hillary had been declared the winner.
At 1 a.m., despair and sleep beckoned. But we couldn't just call it off. We'd put too much work into this project, we'd invited 40 friends to attend the next morning's press conference, and, most importantly, we needed to send a message—to ourselves, at least—that giving up wasn't an option.
So, over the next five hours, we recut the video, redid the website, and wrote a new press conference script. It would still be about Trump's "thousand-year voting machine," but would no longer be a mere warning that the new American fascists might one day seize power by any means possible; instead, it would be about how they already had.
The event had to jibe with the horror that was now ours to live. Or maybe we just wanted to trash a Trump hotel. In any case, our company spokesman, Tony Torn, would enact a scene like something out of American Psycho (whose main character, incidentally, idolized Donald Trump). He would tell the crowd that since electricity couldn't be counted on, this new voting machine would be fuelled by human blood. Two assistants (Andy and Mike) would then bring in a tub full of red liquid, and Tony would demonstrate, graphically and with increasing lunacy, how it worked. We would call security on ourselves, and the scene would devolve into chaos.
For perhaps obvious reasons, we decided not to invite any press after all.
At 11 a.m., after a bit less than two hours of sleep, we put on our show. It went according to plan, and produced some really weird images showing the Trump Soho awash with what looked like blood. Tony went completely berserk, turning the scene into a sort of Satanic blood ritual that reflected perfectly how our new country was feeling to us just then.
We called security and they came (see our video trailer). When they realized it was probably just a protest, they turned off the elevator to prevent the escape of the perpetrators, locking the entire audience in the hallway until the real police arrived. Unable to get the police to arrest anyone, hotel security finally let everyone go.
One week later—yesterday—we officially launched the project, complete with photos of the bloody press conference widely tweeted by friends who were in on the joke, retweeted by a half-dozen in-cahoots celebrities, and followed up with a paranoid TERD press release.
So, our little project is finally over. Now what?
Obviously, we all need to up our game. We definitely do. We tried, with this, and didn't quite manage—but hey, it's just the beginning. As promised in our trailer, we're going to be doing a whole lot of thinking in the hours, days, and weeks ahead about what we can really do.
So far, we've come up with a list of a few of the most promising campaigns, most of which well underway, that anyone (including us) can plug into:
- Take over the Democratic leadership!
- Stop Bannon!
- Take over the entire Democratic Party!
- Restore the Voting Rights Act!
- Aim high—at universal health care!
- Make your city or campus a sanctuary!
- Get rid of the electoral college
Also, let's call for an end to privatized electronic voting machines, and restore public oversight to our elections.
So, onwards! Just like the Vikings, we can come out ahead.