See the project description for the impossibly roundabout story of this, the Yes Men's first project and first video. (Well, actually our third, but the earlier two are even harder to describe.)
[A Horribly Stupid Stunt (Which Has Resulted in His Untimely Death)]
[This is a true story. Almost everything in this video happened exactly as shown.]
[Lawyers and economists much like those you are about to meet are thoughtfully planning our futures, in the WTO and elsewhere]
[With foresight and clarity, they insure that freedom of trade will not give way to the selfish timid aims of so-called democracies]
[These are the shapers of our children’s tomorrows.]
“Andreas Bichlbauer, J.D.”: Now we all know what democracy is—it’s the participation of the greatest number of consumers possible in the direct functioning of a government and of the economy. It follows almost necessarily that free trade is the other side of the democracy coin. And so consumerism is the ultimate form of democracy and citizenry in the modern world
Mustache: I was the moderator on the panel that he spoke on, and he basically spoke to a group of people, all of whom are internationalists by nature, otherwise they wouldn’t be at this conference. It was about what role the WTO plays. It wasn’t a controversial speech. I suspect he wasn’t pied simply because he said something outrageous. It’s more that he is a spokesperson for the WTO, and he was available.
Man: Are you Deutche speaking?
"Andreas”: Ah, yes.
Narrator: The wonderful world of global trade. A high flying playground for multinational corporations. An exciting field of endeavor for many a top-flight lawyer. And an important challenge to agencies like the World trade Organization, which work hard to ensure global freedom for corporate commerce.
“Andreas”: I represent it anywhere that it needs to be represented. Whenever it requires someone to speak on broad policy matters.
Narrator: But wait a second. Does this guy really look like he should be representing the WTO?
Andy: So, we’re this group called The Yes Men. And we run this website called GATT.ORG. Those are the old initials of the WTO. Sometimes people think that we’re the WTO and they come to GATT.ORG and they write us messages intended for, say, the director-general of the WTO, Mike Moore.
Narrator: Dear Mr. Moore. I am professor Dennis Campbell, director of the Center for International Legal Studies, the C.I.L.S., in Salzburg, Austria. The CILS is hosting a conference on international services in Salzburg. Would you be interested in serving as a speaker in the session on international trade? Thank you for your time and consideration. Dennis Campbell.
Mike: So we got this invitation and we’re faced with an ethical dilemma.
Andy: The honorable and ethical thing to do is to accept and do our best.
"Mike Moore": Dear Mr. Campbell, Thank you very much for your kind invitation. I may not be able to attend personally, but I would very much like to send a substitute. Thank you. Mike Moore."
Andy: Well, how could welook like Mike Moore? I mean, he’s really big. We didn’t have enough makeup.
Mike: So we’ll have to send somebody else. Who could it be? Well, perhaps Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer could go.
"Alice Foley": Dear Professor Campbell, We have confirmed with a speaker, Dr. Andreas Bichbauer. Here is his fax number. Best wishes, Alice Foley, secretary to Mike Moore.
Andy: We are going to Salzburg!
[Andy and Mike shopping at Goodwill: Men's sport coats: $9.99]
Mike: So here we are at the Sound of Music. We arrive in Salzburg and we’d been nervous for weeks about this.
Andy: We have no idea what’s going to happen. We’re sure they’re going to catch us. They are going to immediately see us and say, "this is clearly not Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer," but we decide to go ahead with it anyway.
Mike: We walk straight in the door and sure enough we’re on the roster. Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer is on the roster.
Andy: The whole thing turns out to be REAL. We don’t know what to do, but we walk in… and we do it. We basically speak to them about a bunch of international trade matters. Ha!
"Andreas": Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m Andy. Andy Bichlbauer. Hello.
Organizer: We need to talk. I need to get some information about you.
"Andreas": Let us talk!
Organizer: Do you have a short summary or bio?
"Andreas": Not really, but I can write one down here quickly if you’d like.
Organizer: That would be wonderful. Just so that you know who I am, I’m a professor of law at John Marshall Law School in Chicago. I’ve been there for 18 years. I founded the International Business Law Center School, and the only international economic law masters program in the midwest.
"Andreas": Wow. That’s terrific.
Organizer: It’s considered the best in the country for a while now.
"Andreas": Well I’m afraid my own credentials are going to not quite measure up to yours.
Organizer: I teach what you do, essentially.
"Andreas": All right.
[Andy scribbles on a paper: 1988 Columbia – 1989 Went to New York]
"Andreas": Columbia University is my Alma Mater
Organizer: Would that be the JD (Juris Doctorate)?
"Andreas": Yes. That’s right... J.D.
Mike: So while Bichlbauer is doing his tightrope act, I go over to the conference room, and I explain that the reason why Brian has a camera is in case of a pie attack we can identify the assailant.
Brian: I set up the camera and started taping. I’m nervous already, and to make matters worse, they’re talking about us!
Speaker: If you create what I call an indifference curve about language—if you can find more than one way to acceptably say the same thing—then, if you cannot reach agreement on one set of words, one phrase, you can reach agreement on another and effectively say the same thing, and it will mean what the parties need it to mean, and they will have the same meaning. A mediator never says no.
Organizer: So, our concluding speaker is a distinguished gentleman, Mr. Andreas Bichlbauer from Vienna. He is Austrian by birth, American by training, and Austrian by habitation so he has come full circle. He got his Juris Doctorate from Columbia University in New York, where he was a legal scholar.
[Andy reading a book: "How to Prepare a Legally Valid Will"]
Organizer: And he is here as a representative of the WTO. He has been a representative of the WTO since 1998, speaking on trade matters before a variety of fora, and is one of the authorized voices within the public relations sector of the WTO. Without further ado, Mr. Bichlbauer?
[Powerpoint Slide: “Trade Regulation: Relaxation from 1970 to the present”]
[Attempt #1: The obvious approach]
"Andreas": Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure to be here in Salzburg, and I’d like to thank the organizers, the other hosts, and everybody who has taken the time, even for an hour, to listen to the messages of the WTO. We’ll be talking about impediments to trade, free trade, and progress and development and so on and so forth. Our primary focus to begin with will be on a form of trade restrictions simply called Tariff trade Barriers …and the most notorious case is the so-called the “honest bananas case.”
You all know the joke: “It’s not possible to kill a person by hitting them over the head with a banana, it is however possible to kill a person over bananas by hitting them over the head with a machete.” Non-Tariff Trade barriers are a little more complicated. Customs or simply the history and personality of locales takes the place of government in restricting the free flow of goods and money. Not long ago KLM and ALITALIA attempted to merge. Now in Holland and in most Northern Countries people sleep at night…
[Email from Deren Garius, J.D., Conference Participant]
Deren: Dear Alice Foley…I do not believe that any of Dr. Bichlbauers comments led to the assault…I would note however that if I were Italian I would have been very insulted by his comments.
“Andreas”: In Italy on the other hand you have a totally different situation in which sleep is done during the day as much as at night almost…
Deren: He basically stated that the KLM and ALITALIA merger was foiled because the Dutch were hard working and the Italians were too lazy and slept all day.
"Andreas": there’s hilarity, conviviality…
Deren: This insult was compounded by the slide he showed of a sleeping Italian worker.
"Andreas": And all of these delightful dishes that end up basically getting in the way of work. So we’re faced with a situation in which everything is quite serious. What is a basic solution to a situation in which local variations in culture conspire to impede the free flow of progress? A mystery! Finally we’d like to talk about the most mysterious but strangely the most likely to be solved of all three of these kinds of barriers. And as in many cases we can look to the private sector to see emerging solutions to the vast inefficiencies of “so-called” democratic institutions. One possible solution that is being tested in the field of American politics…to streamline the grotesquely inefficient system of elections. Elections being of course at the core of a consumer democracy. Let us first look at elections as they currently unroll with all of their inefficiencies in place.
At the top you have a number of corporations. Let’s call them corporations A. From the corporation goes a great deal of money to a campaign. From the Campaign goes a great deal of money to a public relations agency. From a public relations agency goes a great deal of money to TV stations who then finally relay the information to the consumer with no transfer of money…of course.
Now, on the other hand, another model, in this case you have the corporations paying one entity…vote auction.com who in turn employs only four people to transmit not merely information, but actual money directly to the consuming voter. It’s a forum for people to voluntarily offer their votes to the highest bidder.
[Email from Herman Magidson, J.D. – Conference Participant]
Herman: My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Doctor Bichlbauer. The only reference in his talk to voting was in the context of making markets more efficient.
“Andreas”: Everything works out basically to the benefit of the consumers. As well as the originating corporations. So, to sum up…barriers that we’d like to see put in the past, permanently, right away...are the tariff based problems. Bananas. Requiring a bit more finesse and a little more care in dealing with people based oppositions is the second type, non-tariff trade barriers. Really present problems in Europe and everywhere, different working habits, siestas, etc. All of this has to be standardized, and this is a very long process. Finally we have, most complicated of all systemic trade barriers which are problems at the core of modern democracy, and yet which could be solved by allowing the free functioning of a very competent marketplace. A free marketplace. And I like markets. I think this is what markets are for. Thank you.
Dennis: As promised, at this point we’re going to open the floor for any discussion.
[Paul Brinkman, J.D. Conference Participant]
Paul: There’s this growing cadre of protestors…what’s disturbing to me…as a person involved day to day in international trade and the lessening of restrictions...because I don’t think these people understand what they are protesting...but I don’t see a dialog coming from the WTO Secretariat or the member countries. What are you guys doing at the WTO to address these people, because these are just people who are energetic and want something to protest, at least that’s how I see most of them.
“Andreas”: Yes…in fact..I think you are completely right as we do at the WTO. Most of us agree with your perspective. What is the WTO doing about this? The WTO is so loaded with hatred (errrr) the other way around…the name of the WTO is so loaded that you can’t really project a friendly image if you’re the WTO to many sectors of the population. It’s the same problems faced by Chevron and other corporations. What we’re looking to do is to learn from the corporate example…as usual, and perform grassroots actions, grassroots dissemination of information without identifying ourselves in the equation so much, so as to provide a more objective view of our activities
[Note: six months after Bichlbauer’s “outrageous” answer, the WTO was discovered to be secretly marketing its ideas to teenagers.]
Dennis: At this point I note we are out of time… and there is a luncheon…lest our other speaker, John Tulac feel neglected…I was hoping we’d have time to find out how he would mediate between KLM and Alitalia. Thank you all for your attention. I’ll enjoy seeing you the rest of the conference.
Andy: So…we’re a little puzzled. There was no reaction whatsoever to the crazy things that Dr. Bichlbauer said.
Mike: Did we accurately represent the World Trade Organizations’ position? Maybe they were just being polite? Maybe over lunch with a little food and liquor…
[Attempt # 2-The Casual Approach]
“Andreas”: Mmmm…solid Austrian food…how’s this plate for you?
“Andreas”: Okay…I will put it at your table. [Sees man at table] Oh, hello!
Madeira Man: Hello, are you an expert on Bananas in the WTO?
Madeira man: Because I come from a place which producesbananas.
“Andreas”: Ahh…you do?
Madeira man: Yes..[It is its’ main agricultural production]
“Andreas”: Ahhh..I see…
Madeira man: Madeira Island.
“Andreas”: Ahhh..yes..of course…let me get a cutlery…and I’ll just sit right down…I’m looking for fork and knife… that’s what” I’m looking for…
[This is not an “artistic” shot. The camera was put on the table so that the camera person could eat a free lunch]
[Overheard dialogue between Andreas (Andy), Ravi Bhaticharaya (Mike), Paul Brinkman, and Madeira Man:
“Ravi”: Last night they closed down a big street for a protest.
Paul: Oh..against Haider?
Paul: That’s a good thing- that keeps people busy too.
“Andreas”: Mm hmm.
Paul: The WTO:…the fear I have is that as these disputes with all the people coming out in the street—it’s one thing when it’s just a bunch of kids but if the labor Unions and environmentalists start joining in, there actually will be a lot of effect. It becomes more acceptable for Americans who don’t really care one way or the other. To start thinking “Oh, maybe the WTO isn’t a good thing. Maybe it is bad for poor people and the debate sort of gets lost.
Paul: But now there’s not a lot to protest. You need something to protest, to vent. It’s nice…
“Ravi”: What would be good for them to rally around instead?
Paul: I don’t know. Gotta have a new Milosevic that people really care about, or something.
“Andreas”: Oh yeah, like a dictator, Yeah. No, we need a Milosevic in this country-well, in the United States or Austria. But the Haider example is interesting. We sort of see Haider as perhaps somebody with a tainted past. Nazi parents or whatever, and some ideas that aren’t quite up-to-date. But essentially he’s enacting a very liberal economy, in a way his predecessors didn’t and he’s right in claiming it resembles that of the United States. You know he had a contract with Austria and so on. So even though he’s a bit of a Nazi, his approach to trade is completely up to snuff. I mean, so were the Nazis.
Madeira man: Economists say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch!
“Andreas”: Right. There isn’t. Hahaha!
Madeira Man: Somebody has to lose.
“Andreas”: [to camera] Should we stay or should we go? How hard can you push it? There’s really no limit as to what you can do ..no matter what you say it doesn’t really seem to sink in. What would actually communicating to these people do?]
[Attempt # 3 – The direct approach]
“Andreas”: How do you say barber? (Frezeur?…)
Mike: Brian is going to go back to the law conference, Center for International Legal Studies…as a completely new person.
Andy: The WTO is speaking…THE WTO. What’s this talk about why anyone would be offended by the WTO??
[Back at the conference]
Brian: I just heard that there was a WTO member here this morning who was hit in the face with a pie on his way out. Have you heard anything about this?
Delegate: I haven’t heard anything…No…Maybe the other folks may have heard something. They’re all waiting for a bus….
Brian: Who was this representative?
Dennis: This was an individual named Andreas Bichlbauer who is with the press office or the public relations office of the WTO, a reasonable fellow, didn’t seem like he was a natural target other than his affiliation, he talked about transparency and the fact you can go to the WTO website and see any decision and any opinion, and any rule the WTO has, and that it’s possible to pressure through national governments for changes of those rules.
Brian: I also heard that there was something about a voting scheme…
Bowtie guy: No...
Brian: Did he speak anything about this?
Bowtie guy: Ummmm. No, there was nothing...voting scheme? I don’t recall anything about a voting scheme. Good day.
Brian: Thank you.
[Attempt # 4 – The violent approach]
“Alice Foley”: Dear Delegates …we apologize for interrupting your holiday season with this most unpleasant announcement. Andreas Bichlbauer who spoke on behalf of the WTO in Salzburg has succumbed to the infection he caught from the pie which was hurled in his face after his lecture. The pie which upon forensic analysis turned out to contain an active bacillus agent. Our only lead is the voter fraud angle. It seems that the subject of voter fraud may have impelled someone to commit this masterpiece of cowardice that has deleted Dr. Bichlbauer from our midsts in the prime of his usefulness. We are certain that you understand the urgency with which we beg you to cooperate. A memorial service for Dr. Bichlbauer will be held at 4pm this Sunday at St. Ruprect in Vienna. Alice Foley, secretary to Mike Moore.
[Jon Tulac, J.D. – Co Panelist]
Jon: In light of the horribly stupid stunt… which has resulted in his utimely death, I’ve racked my brains to provide details in response to your requests. Dr. Bichlbauers presentation was peculiar to say the least….but hardly offensive.
[Email from Donald Looper, LL.D. – conference participant]
I do not believe that any of Dr. Bichlbauer's comments at the conference led to the assault. The only remarkable improper thing he said was when he blamed the Italian poor work ethic as the reason why a merger between KLM and Alitalia could not work out.
[Email from Herbert Jordan, LL.D. – Conference Participant]
My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr Bichlbauer. The only reference in his talk to voting was in the context of making markets more efficient. I do not recall any questions from the audience on that point afterward.
Mike: So it turned out that people were really disturbed by Bichlbauer's death.
“Andreas”: It felt really bad…It felt like we’d taken advantage of these people..
Mike: We meant to kill him but we didn’t want to hurt anyone...
[oh well – Graceful exit after failure]
“Alice Foley”: Dear Delegates. We are pleased and disturbed to relate a strange new development. One which fortunately does not spate the dark hues of the last. Dr. Bichlbauer was an impostor. He was only by self falsification a WTO employee. It seems that the infection and death were in fact orchestrated by a fraudulent investigator so that we would ask you questions regarding voter fraud [vote-auction.com]…questions who’s wombs have proven so barren that none of you could remember a thing. So much for points made by death. The memorial service to have taken place at 4pm this Sunday at St. Ruprect in Vienna is of course cancelled. With very best wishes, Alice Foley, secretary to Mike Moore.
“Mike Moore”: Please let me know if there is anything else we can assist you with. Thank you, Mike Moore