Salzburg

Overview

Unable to make it to Seattle for the November 1999 anti-WTO protests, Andy and Mike make a website, www.gatt.org, to make fun of the WTO. To their surprise, the WTO writes a press release about it, calling the website "deplorable" and saying it "undermines WTO transparency." Nobody sees the WTO's press release, so Andy and Mike forward it on to thousands of their best friends. As a result, gatt.org ends up in search engines, and people often accidentally send email to the fake site instead of the real one.

In May 2000, an organizer of a conference on international trade law in Salzburg, Austria writes to GATT.org inviting WTO Director-General Mike Moore to serve as a panelist. "Moore" politely declines but suggests a replacement, “Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer.”

Andy, Mike, and Brian set out to lecture as the most powerful trade organization in the history of the world. First, they scrape together the money for plane tickets to Vienna (cheaper than Salzburg); next, Brian borrows business suits from a friend; finally, Austrian friends Hans and Liz leave them the keys to their Vienna apartment and enough money to get them the rest of the way.

On October 27, “Andreas Bichlbauer” (Andy) arrives in Salzburg with security assistants “Ravi Bhaticharaya” (Mike) and “Brian McDaniels” (Ryan). Ryan sets up his camera in the conference hall while Mike explains to the organizers that a recent spate of pieings makes such video witnessing necessary. (Here is what was done with the tape.)

Andy delivers an alarming Powerpoint lecture about removing hindrances to free trade. He suggests that violence is acceptable in banana trade so long as prices stay low and trade is free; that the siesta in Spain and the long lunch in Italy should be outlawed in the name of standardized business hours; and that a “free market” in democracy should be encouraged by allowing the sale of votes directly to the highest bidder through Voteauction.com.

Some audience members are intrigued, and ask interesting questions; some, however, are dismayed by the insults to Italians, and Andy must explain that he is simply being more frank than the WTO usually is, and is presenting its message more clearly than normal. No one objects to Dr. Bichlbauer's scheme for American voting; perhaps they are just being polite?

Even after a luncheon in which Andy defends the free-market character of Hitler’s economic policy, there is no substantial response. Perhaps they simply don’t want to challenge the most powerful man in the room?

To elicit more sincere responses, Ryan returns as journalist after shaving off his beard and most of his hair; the idea is that the delegates will feel comfortable speaking frankly with him.

Ryan arrives back at the conference center and announces to various people he recognizes from the lecture that Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer was pied as he was leaving the conference. Ryan then asks if they remember anything odd about the lecture that might have merited such an attack. But even under cross examination of an “impartial journalist,” almost no one can remember anything weird about the lecture.

Andy and Mike continue the discovery efforts by e-mail. To trip more of the conference delegate’s memories, a WTO secretary, “Alice Foley” (Andy), announces to all the delegates that Dr. Bichlbauer has contracted a grave sickness from the pie. The only suspect was heard muttering "voter fraud, voter fraud": what can this mean? But even now, no one can remember a thing.

Finally, “Alice Foley” announces Dr. Bichlbauer’s death. Finally, at long last, now that the crime is one of murder, the memories of voting begin to flow. Now we can be fairly sure that no one minded the lecture, except perhaps its insults to the Italians.

To calm the excited delegates, Dr. Bichlbauer is unmasked, and things are explained to one angry fellow. The experience is deemed a success!

Go see the article about this in The New York Times. And if you're really ambitious, watch the videotape!