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Culturejammers' WTO Spoof Taken Seriously by Australian Parliament

The culturejammers known as the Yes Men continue to harass the WTO by brilliant spoofing and impersonation.
May 28, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: mailto: representatives@theyesmen.org

ANNOUNCEMENT OF WTO CLOSURE GOES FROM SYDNEY TO CANADA'S PARLIAMENT
Latest in series of WTO pesterings by The Yes Men

On Tuesday, May 21, a representative of the World Trade Organization
announced the dissolution of his organization to a shocked but
supportive Sydney audience (  http://theyesmen.org/tro/disband.rtf,
 http://theyesmen.org/tro/cpa.html ). He stated the WTO would
reconstitute as a new organization dedicated to assisting the world's
poor instead of the rich ( http://gatt.org/trastat_e.html).

The bombshell announcement has had worldwide repercussions, sparking
debate on the floor of the Canadian Parliament, where MP John Duncan
took the floor to ask "what impact this will have on our appeals on
lumber, agriculture and other ongoing trade disputes"
( http://www.nationalpost.com/home/story.html?f=/stories/20020525/338502.html).

At that point, WTO headquarters in Geneva denounced the
"representative" as an impostor. "While we can appreciate [the
impostors'] sense of humour, we would not wish for reputable news
organizations like yours to be counted among those duped."

"It isn't humor this time," said Andy Bichlbaum, who "represented" the
WTO in Sydney. "We really do want to dissolve the WTO and rewrite its
charter so that the poor benefit rather than suffer from trade
policy." The group he belongs to, The Yes Men, have previously
represented the WTO at two international conferences (
 http://theyesmen.org/wto/,  http://theyesmen.org/finland/ ) and on
mainstream TV ( http://theyesmen.org/tv.html). Each time, they have
been invited by people who mistook a Yes Men parody website
( http://gatt.org/) for the official WTO site ( http://www.wto.org/).
The WTO reacted to previous appearances with outrage and attempts to
shut GATT.org down.

After overcoming their initial shock, the audience of Australian
accountants expressed enthusiasm for the change, and offered many
thoughtful suggestions for how world trade could benefit the
poor--moving the headquarters from Switzerland to a Third World
country, for example.

"I'm as right-wing as the next fellow," said one of the accountants,
"but it's time we gave something back to the countries we've been
doing so well from."

In past appearances, the Yes Men hoped to horrify audiences by taking
free-trade ideas to their logical conclusions. They argued for selling
votes to the highest corporate bidder ( http://theyesmen.org/wto/ppt/),
making the poor "recycle" hamburgers to cure endemic hunger
( http://theyesmen.org/hamburger/), allowing countries to commit human
rights abuses with a system of "justice vouchers" modelled after
pollution vouchers, and even enabling managers to administer electric
shocks to sweatshop workers from afar by using a futuristic
telepresence technology embedded in a three-foot-long golden phallus
( http://theyesmen.org/finland/photos.html).

The joke was on the Yes Men, however, when these proposals failed to
shock audiences, who repeatedly found it credible that such ideas
would come from the WTO.

Finally, the Yes Men decided to say "no."

"We've already demonstrated that audiences of experts will accept
anything whatsoever so long as it comes from the mouth of the WTO,"
said Mike Bonanno, a Yes Man who helped to prepare the lecture in
Sydney. "This time, we decided to use the WTO's authority to lead
people on a useful exercise that could actually produce something
positive."

"It really is possible to dissolve and remake the WTO," said
Bichlbaum. "The WTO, after all, was put together from a bunch of
wishful thinking and previous agreements one day in 1994. It can just
as quickly and easily be replaced by something much better, based on
other agreements--the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for
example."

After the events in Sydney, the Yes Men are even more optimistic. "The
accountants offered us all kinds of useful suggestions on how to make
sure the new version of the WTO benefits the poor," said Bonanno. "We
feel kind of bad for misleading them, but they came up with much
better plans for the future than we could. We hope they'll accept our
apologies and keep working with us."


CONTACTS:
The Yes Men: mailto: representatives@theyesmen.org
CPA Australia: mailto: barbara.magee@cpaaustralia.com.au,
mailto: rhonda.traversi@cpaaustralia.com.au
 http://www.cpaonline.com.au/
WTO Public Relations (current): mailto: enquiries@wto.org
WTO Public Relations (previous): mailto: jean-guy.carrier@wto.org

The WTO representative's speech in Sydney:
 http://theyesmen.org/tro/disband.rtf
CPA Australia:  http://cpaonline.com.au/
The CPA's press release:  http://theyesmen.org/tro/cpa.html
WTO dissolution announcement:  http://gatt.org/irelease.html
Statistics about trade liberalization's effects on the poor:
 http://www.gatt.org/trastat_e/
World Development Movement:  http://www.wdm.org.uk/
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
 http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html


The primary goal of RTMark ( http://rtmark.com/) is to publicize
corporate subversion of the democratic process. It has helped to
sponsor three of the Yes Men's appearances.

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