The Yes Men

“(Given the opportunity) a developing country will not vote itself into poverty.”

If there was a Punk’d (MTV’s juvenile prankster show) for graduate students, The Yes Men would be that show, er documentary. Two guys, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are educated liberal activists with a caustic sense of satire aimed straight at the Right. Previously infamous for their knock-off website GWBush.com before the election, they graduated to bigger targets: the World Trade Organization.

The WTO represents all that is evil and diabolical to activists like Bichlbaum, Bonanno, and Michael Moore (who makes a guest appearance). I don’t blame them. There’s much to easily hate. The WTO, while somewhat clandestine in their operations (Illuminati, anyone?), is in fact responsible for regulating how global corporations conduct their trade and coercing the cooperation from sponsoring and developing countries.

The part they don’t like — in a nutshell — is where none of the countries (especially the developing, poor ones) have a voice in the matter. There is no regulatory body that dictates fair representation, nor is there a democratic process for the populace to participate.

So, companies like Nike can offer dollar-a-month jobs to 10-year-olds to sell Westerners a corporate logo disguised as footwear. Wal-Mart can drive American competitors out of business by outsourcing everything to China to give us Low Everyday Prices.

The WTO sets up those relationships. But not if Andy and Mike have anything to say about it.

They started a parody website of the WTO’s website, and soon were mistakenly being invited to speak at conferences as representatives of the WTO. The invitations were unaware of their bluff.

Attending is precisely what they did. With their routine of fresh haircuts, cheap suits, and polished presentations, the camera was right there to catch every ridiculous antic. Only the results were more ludicrous than their mimicry.

Did you know:

  • The poorest 49 countries make up 10% of the world’s population, but account for only 0.4% of world trade. This disparity has been growing. (UNCTAD, Conference on Least Developed Countries 2001)
  • The Top 500 multinational corporations account for nearly 7% of the worldwide trade; this percentage has steadily increased over the past twenty years. (CorpWatch)
  • The U.N. estimates that poor countries lose about US$2 billion per day because of unjust trade rules, 14 times the amount they receive in aid. (UNCTAD, Conference on Least Developed Countries 2001)

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