Yes Men: Be Careful What You Ask For

Absurd as it may seem, the the Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, are regularly sought out, by way of their spoof “World Trade Organization” web site,, for their wisdom on free trade and international business.

Every day, deploying deadpan humor and ridiculous aliases, the two pranksters respond to legitimate email inquires on topics ranging from how to gain export rights to a country to details of WTO membership and jurisdiction.

Here’s a sampling of typical — and hilarious — email exchanges, kindly provided by the Yes Men to (If you can’t get enough here, look out for another Yes Men book currently in the works.)

Ever wonder why you never see Timberland boots in Egypt? The “WTO” explains it’s all for the sake of cultural preservation.

Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 04:13:22 -0500
From: Susanne Jacob
Subject: Re: egypt import ban on textiles

Dear Sir or Madam,

Timberland is currently inquiring about exporting to Egypt and has come across an import ban on ready-made garments. It also is stated that this import ban might be lifted by the GATT agreement by the end of 2001. However, nobody seems to know about the latest standings of these negotiations so that is what I would now like to inquire from you directly.

I appreciate any help from your side.

Thanks and best regards
Susanne Jacob

Date: Tue, 9 May 2000 11:03:18 -0500
From: Herri Crammelfirster-Baatasuna
To: Susanne Jacob
Subject: Re: egypt import ban on textiles

Dear Ms. Jacob,

We here ourselves really do not know about how these negotiations are proceeding, so I can not tell you just now an answer to your beleaguered self. However, that having been said, I might add that the last time I was in Egypt I myself saw someone wearing Timberlands. They are fine boots, the finest, you have a fine company, you know this I am sure. But if Egypt wants to preserve their culture and their economy without globalization, that is their business. And I myself am glad that I only saw one Egypt-person in Timberlands. In my own homeland, which hasn’t been such a stick-in-the-mud about import bans, everyone is wearing shoes of the United States (made in China) and it is beginning to look very depressing to our elders, who have the wise ways of time to reflect with, and certainly know better than we what is good for this global earth. So, in closing, I myself wish you the best of luck in your efforts. If we find the answer in your question soon, I will send along.


Herri Crammelfirster-Baatasuna

The Granwyth Hulatberi-Hulatberi-Smith of the “WTO” sets the Isle of Man straight on the trading rights of Gibraltar

Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 15:12:39 +0100
From: “Carse, Steve”
To: “‘'”
Subject: Gibraltar

Could you advise me of the relationship of Gibraltar to the WTO?

Stephen Carse
Government Economic Adviser
Economic Affairs Division
The Treasury
Isle of Man

Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 15:23:24 -0400
From: The World Trade Organization
To: “Carse, Steve”
Subject: Re: Gibraltar

Yes. Gibraltar is a little plot of land at the tip of Spain, right across from Morocco, under the governorship of Britain. The WTO is the World Trade Organization, which was created to allow a greater freedom for corporate entities to engage in their activities unhampered by the protective strategies of democratically elected governments.

Why do you ask?

Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 16:12:35 +0100
From: “Carse, Steve”
To: ‘The World Trade Organization
Subject: RE: Gibraltar

My enquiry was to do with whether Gibraltar has a relationship with WTO that was similar to the one we, the Isle of Man, has. Your response does not help me on this. Can you say anything more e.g. is it free to have its own exemptions?

Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 19:58:05 -0400
From: The World Trade Organization
To: “Carse, Steve”
Subject: RE: Gibraltar

No land on earth may be considered free, if freedom means to engage in activities that endanger the well-being of corporate enterprise. So long as, and only so long as, nations understand their place on earth as being in service of, and at the beck of, the driving forces of economics, so shall these nations be afforded a place at the right hand of power. But let the tiniest nation–yea, even Gibraltar, even the Isle of Man–arise upon the poop-deck of declamation… let it wield for even a moment the baton of popular power against the furnace of progress… then, indeed, shall that nation see the full force of our petulance and our peevishness unleashed squarely upon its head, and all its head’s heads as well.

(Sorry for that rant–we have a bug on our shoulder since the latest round of dangerous-idea circulation masquerading as protest.)

Granwyth Hulatberi-Hulatberi-Smith

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 09:24:23 +0100
From: “Carse, Steve”
To: ‘The World Trade Organization’
Subject: RE: Gibraltar

I have absolutely no idea what your reply is all about. May I just repeat my simple request? Is Gibraltar a member of WTO in its own right or is it a member through the United Kingdom?

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 12:19:58 -0400
From: The World Trade Organization
To: “Carse, Steve”
Subject: RE: Gibraltar

Now Mr. Carse, there’s no reason to get uppity. We are on your side–you, the little man who plays by the rules. We are here to help you understand the exigencies of the global playground, so that you may understand the pathways through which you and your government MAY move and those through which you MAY NOT. Given this, it is hard to say why you would seek to endanger your standing through impatient words. If I were you, given the circumstances, I would question whether my nation (the Isle of Man, in your case) is really all that interested in benefiting from trade.

But to answer your question: Gibraltar’s business arrangements are not the affair of other governments, either yours or those of more populous lands. Gibraltar is free and sovereign to enter into trade arrangements with the enterprises that choose it, and it would be a violation of Gibraltar–and I mean that in the full sense–to suggest that the whim of the people–its own, or those of other lands–can impede those arrangements.

With very best wishes,
Granwyth Hulatberi-Hulatberi-Smith

p.s. Your question as phrased in your last mail, “Is Gibraltar etc. etc.”, is in no way the same as those of your first two mails. In fact, I am forced to conclude that your question keeps changing. If you can resolve upon a single question and stick to it, there is every chance that it can be answered appropriately, in spite of everything.

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 14:10:07 +0100
From: “Carse, Steve”
To: ‘The World Trade Organization’
Subject: RE: Gibraltar

On the contrary the question is exactly the same.

This has got to have been the most bizarre set of responses I have ever received from a world organisation.

The dangerous export of “bearings” might lead to “maulings.”

Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 12:39:00 +0100
From: Marion Benning
Subject: RE: Question regarding WTO/GATT

Dear Madam, Dear Sirs,

We are a young consulting office based in Brussels. One of our clients told us that there is a new Legislation which tells us that if we want to export “bearings” to Argentina we have to deliver the good with a certificate of fabrication. Could you help us finding if this information is correct? Maybe you can tell us where we can find this information.

We hope that you can help us and thank you in advance.

Sincerely yours,
M. Benning-Denoo

Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 16:18:26 -0500
From: Herri-Crammelfirster Baatasuna
To: Marion Benning
Subject: Re: Question regarding WTO/GATT

Dearest M. Benning-Denoo

Regarding your question regarding “bearings” we must warn you that the movement of wildlife from place to place is protected in most cases, so what you propose will certainly be illegal. In any case, I question the profitability: “bearings” can lead to “maulings” which lead to costly lawsuits–thus, bankruptcy.


Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 09:34:31 +0100
From: Marion Benning
To: Herri-Crammelfirster Baatasuna
Subject: RE: Question regarding WTO/GATT

Dear Madam, Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your quick reply, but I think that we have here a misunderstanding. With “bearings” we mean tools (ball-bearings) and certainly not wildlife.

Hope you can still help us with our question concerning the exportation to Argentina.

Thank you very much in advance.

Marion Benning-Denoo

Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 15:38:45 -0500
From: Herri-Crammelfirster Baatasuna
To: Marion Benning
Subject: RE: Question regarding WTO/GATT

Dearest Marion Benning-Denoo:

Thank you for your clarification. We did have a misunderstanding, yes, we did.

What a laugh!

I am glad you are not wild life smugglers. How unfortunate it is for cute furry things, or even for large, furry, ferocious bearings to be taken from their motherings while youngish and transported to lands foreign, far, and cold.

I remember even recently, while taking my own young person (and his mothering) to the zoo, a feeling of melancholia when witnessing even the most bloodthirsty of critter all pent up and full of rage. Such is the unfortunate plight of creatures great and small faced with what only the species Man can call “progressings.”

Indeed, tools (ball-bearings) are not alive, so I shall cast aside my former concerns about animals (bearings) and safety (maulings).

In the issue of import and export of (ball-bearings) it is your moral imperative to find out the source of all the raw materials, and trace, from the moment of extraction through the process of manufacturing, whether or not there has been any undue damage to the ecosystem or to the workers who produced these tools. Assuming all conditions are fair, and that the companies who extracted the steel and then manufactured with it did not cause undue harm to the environment and did not treat their workers unfairly, then there is no moral problem at all with (ball-bearings) and you can rest assured that you are conducting business in a fair manner.

Thank you for the clarification, and I apologize for my misunderstanding.

Herri-Crammelfirster Baatasuna

Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 11:51:45 +0100
From: Marion Benning
To: ‘Herri-Crammelfirster Baatasuna’
Subject: RE: Question regarding WTO/GATT

Dear Herri,

Thank you very much for your reply. Yes, we had a big laugh. Thank you for answering our question.

Greetings from Brussels

The WTO tries to recruit Southern Californians to infiltrate “left-leaning learning groups.”

Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2001 14:12:08 EST
From: Marla J. Noel

January 14, 2001

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a CPA with approximately 20 years of experience in both public accounting and the management of a small local company with 80 employees. I am not looking for employment, however, I am completing my Masters at Chapman University in Orange, California, USA this year. I am fascinated with International Business and how is has and will impact the future of the world and the lifestyle of the people affected by increased trade.
Some of the protesting that seems to evolve around the WTO meetings appears to be a result of a lack of understanding of the conditions that exist in other countries. The lack of understanding may be due to a lack of education relating to the environment of other countries, the importance of trade with those countries, the long-term result of trade and the WTO’s impact on trade in other countries. Some of the groups that are the most active in protests should be the target of an educational campaign to facilitate the understanding of the importance of trade and the positive changes that will eventually occur from trade.
I will be happy to facilitate any efforts that are needed. I am tremendously interested in the WTO, and believe that the future will be positively impacted by the success of your organization.

Marla J. Noel, CPA

Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2001 18:12:56 -0500
From: Générée Eleutherium
To: Marla J. Noel
Subject: Re: Can I help?

Dear Marla Noel,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. As you note, there are large segments of the population which are completely confused about the importance of trade in the modern world, who do not understand the objective, scientific reasons that unhampered trade–that is, the exchange of goods unimpeded by “moral” or “political” questions–is so undeniably essential to the continued material progress of humanity, and–in those parts of the world that suffer from backwardness, including those you mention–will bring about a rescue from disasters caused by the last two centuries of restrictions on unhampered industrio-colonial progress.

So in fact, your suggestions fall on receptive ears. We are already in the process of devising a sort of “grass roots” campaign series, aimed at the misguided protesters you mentioned, and also at those elements in developing nations–e.g. the so-called “Zapatistas” in Chiapas, Mexico–who do not understand that liberalization is a boon to *all* elements and strata of society.

Especially, we are interested in the kind of “stealth” campaigns that even more heavily image-soiled corporations–or those in the grip of more dangerous issues–have undertaken at various points, whereby information is released anonymously into the environment without revelation of author, so that the facts presented can be absorbed with fewer preconceptions by those who have already been inculcated with ridiculous notions by the Seattleites and their colleagues.

Does this sort of work interest you? Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience.

Best wishes,
Générée Eleutherium
Human Resources
The World Trade Organization: Making the World Safe For Effectiveness.

Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 12:38:47 EST
From: Marla J. Noel
Subject: Re: Can I help?

Dear Générée,

I would be very interested in working with your organization in a “grass roots” effort to educate the community. I have had the opportunity to speak with Chapman University in Orange, California, and have some resources that would facilitate a “grass roots” effort. I feel that a great deal can be accomplished with the resources that we have to develop and implement a plan that will be effective in improving the support of the United States in World Trade.

Marla J. Noel

Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 14:34:55 -0500
From: Générée Eleutherium
To:Marla J. Noel
Subject: Re: Can I help?

Dear Marla,

Well, this is good news! I related your interest to my superior, who is very interested in learning more about what you might bring us. May I ask you some questions?

1. What sort of resources, specifically, do you speak of when you say that you “have some resources that would facilitate a ‘grass roots’ effort”? Are these resources human? That is, do you know students who would be willing to infiltrate left-wing learning groups and provide WTO information incognito, i.e. so that it seemed to be coming from a left-wing perspective? If other, please also specify.

2. We do not yet have such a plan, but we are considering the necessity of the following elements, and are fairly convinced:

A. Any effort must be subterranean: The most interesting-to-us targets are primed to dislike the WTO, and so they cannot be consciously aware of our hand in the information they absorb.

B. Special diffusion mechanisms must be invented. The use of rock-and-roll teenagers, for example, to distribute leaflets among their age-mates, could be quite useful, especially if the leaflets are designed with that group in mind. Bright colors, sly appeals to budding sexual urges and insecurities, use of rock-and-roll words–these could go far to helping our cause among the “youth set.”

Please let us know your thoughts at your earliest convenience.

Best wishes,
Générée Eleutherium
Human Resources


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