Yes Men say 'No'

‘The World Trade Organization’, the website of an Australian accountancy association reported last month, ‘is to be disbanded and reformed based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. Questions were asked in the Canadian parliament. There can only be one possible explanation for this dramatic about-face by the WTO. The Yes Men have hit again. The worlds’ wittiest activists have for three years been the proprieters of the shadowy website that spoofs that of the WTO’s. Several times they have been invited to speak on behalf of the global trade institution. Each time they have pushed their free-trade satire further – arguing for selling votes to the highest corporate bidder, or making the poor ‘recycle’ hamburgers to cure endemic hunger – only to be met with applause from their unsuspecting audiences. This time, they gave a speech to eager accountants in Australia and declared the dissolution of the WTO altogether. ‘It isn’t humour 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.’ After overcoming their initial shock, the idea seemed to grow on the audience of accountants who began to offer suggestions for how world trade could benefit the poor. These included moving the headquarters from Switzerland to a Third World country. ‘I’m as right-wing as the next fellow,’ said one, ‘but it’s time we gave something back to the countries we’ve been doing so well from.’ After the events in Sydney, the Yes Men are 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 Mike Bonanno who helped prepare the speech. ‘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.’

New Internationalist issue 347 magazine cover This article is from the July 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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