The Bichlbauer Spoof

GERMANY--A group of cyber-impostors called "The Yes Men" operate a fake website [] purporting to represent the World Trade Organization (WTO). Last year, an organizer for a conference of global trade lawyers visited the site and, without reading the text very closely, invited WTO Director-General Michael Moore to address their meeting. The Yes Men replied that "Mr. Moore" was unavailable but offered to send a substitute, one Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer.

"Bichlbauer" (who was actually a cyberprankster named Veshengo Phuridili) addressed the conference in late October. His lecture described the WTO's ultimate aims in terms that were "horrifyingly stark." At one point, Bichlbauer suggested replacing such "inefficient democratic institutions" as elections with private-sector solutions like, an Internet startup that sells votes to the highest corporate bidder.

None of the lawyers in attendance expressed any dismay at Bichlbauer's proposals. The Yes Men have posted the bogus speech online and have prepared a video of the lecture. European media reports on the spoof frequently mentioned that corporations already buy votes--exactly the point founder James Baumgartner hoped to make.

© Earth Island Journal, Summer 2001