By Culturekiosque Staff
NEW YORK, 14 November 2006—Satirical hoaxters "The Yes Men", whose real names are Jacques
Servin and Igor Vamos, are self-styled "culture jammers" best known for
posing as spokespeople for multinational corporations like Dow Chemical
Company and government institutions , as well as operating hoax web sites
like www.gwbush.com, during the 2000
United States Presidential Election, and www.gatt.org
, which spoofs the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
the years, lay audiences, government and corporate
officials, and major media outlets have been taken in by their pranks and poses, such as claiming that Dow
Chemical would take responsibility for cleaning up the consequences of
the Bhopal disaster, or that US oil companies would contribute their windfall
profits to help with post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction in New Orleans.
successful strike targeted a conference on business in Africa at the the
University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Supposed World Trade
Organization representative Hanniford Schmidt delivered an address whose
satirical spirit channels Jonathan Swift's "A modest proposal for
preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on
their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the
Announcing the re-institution of "compassionate slavery" for Africans, run by multinational corporations,
Servin and Vamos call attention to just how little
value is currently placed on African lives, as well as the
gullibility of conference organizers and attendees, who apparently, for the most part, swallowed
the hoax whole, down to the presence of Schmidt's
"stewardee", Thomas Bongani-Nkemdilim during the panel discussion.
at Penn: A little more attention, a little less
Dr. Laurie Ann Agama, Director
for African Affairs at the Office of the US Trade Representative, respectfully (defensively?)
claimed credit for similar thinking, saying that "the USTR view
adds details to the WTO's general approach."
The Yes Men marked the success of their hoax by
issuing (in character, of course) the following press release, which
will no doubt initially take in yet another wave of recipients. Watch for
a wave of indignant editorials in response to this one, from the same crew
raging against Borat
Philadelphia - At a Wharton Business School
conference on business in Africa, World Trade Organization
representative Hanniford Schmidt announced the creation of a WTO
initiative for "full private stewardry of labor" for the parts of Africa
that have been hardest hit by the 500 years of Africa's free trade with the West.
US Trade Representative
Laurie Ann Agama,
"Schmidt" and "Thomas"
The initiative will require Western companies doing business in some
parts of Africa to own their workers outright. Schmidt recounted how
private stewardship has been successfully applied to transport, power,
water, traditional knowledge, and even the human genome. The WTO's "full
private stewardry" program will extend these successes to (re)privatize
"Full, untrammelled stewardry is the best available solution
African poverty, and the inevitable result of free-market
Schmidt told more than 150 attendees. Schmidt
acknowledged that the stewardry program was similar in many ways to
slavery, but explained that just as "compassionate conservatism" has
polished the rough edges on labor relations in industrialized countries,
full stewardry, or "compassionate slavery," could be a similar boon to
The audience included Prof. Charles Soludo
(Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria), Dr. Laurie Ann Agama
(Director for African Affairs at the Office of the US Trade
Representative), and other notables. Agama prefaced her remarks by
thanking Scmidt for his macroscopic perspective, saying that the USTR
view adds details to the WTO's general approach. Nigerian Central Bank
Governor Soludo also acknowledged the WTO proposal, though he did not
seem to appreciate it as much as did Agama.
A system in which corporations own workers is
the only free-market solution to African poverty, Schmidt said. "Today,
in African factories, the only concern a company has for the worker is
for his or her productive hours, and within his or her productive
years," he said. "As soon as AIDS or pregnancy hits--out the door. Get
sick, get fired. If you extend the employer's obligation to a 24/7,
lifelong concern, you have an entirely different situation: get sick,
get care. With each life valuable from start to finish, the AIDS scourge
will be quickly contained via accords with drug manufacturers as a
profitable investment in human stewardees. And educating a child for
later might make more sense than working it to the bone right
To prove that human stewardry can work, Schmidt
cited a proposal by a free-market think tank to save whales by selling
them. "Those who don't like whaling can purchase rights to specific
whales or groups of whales in order to stop those particular whales from
getting whaled as much," he explained. Similarly, the market in
Third-World humans will "empower" caring First Worlders to help them,
One conference attendee asked what incentive
employers had to remain as stewards once their employees are too old to
work or reproduce. Schmidt responded that a large new biotech market
would answer that worry. He then reminded the audience that this was the
only possible solution under free-market theory.
There were no other questions from the audience
that took issue with Schmidt's proposal.
During his talk, Schmidt outlined the three phases of Africa's
year history of free trade with the West: slavery, colonialism,
post-colonial markets. Each time, he noted, the trade has
tremendous wealth to the West but catastrophe to
Africa, with poverty steadily deepening and ever more millions of
"So far there's a pattern: Good for business, bad for people. Good
for business, bad for people. Good for business, bad for people. That's
why we're so happy to announce this fourth phase for business between
Africa and the West: good for business--GOOD for people."
The conference took place on Saturday,
The panel on which Schmidt spoke was entitled "Trade in Africa:
Relationships to Improve Net Worth." Some of the
other panels in the conference were entitled "Re-Branding Africa" and
"Growing Africa's Appetite."
Throughout the comments by
Schmidt and his three co-panelists, which lasted 75 minutes, Schmidt's
stewardee, Thomas Bongani-Nkemdilim, remained standing at respectful
attention off to the side.
"This is what free trade's all about," said
Schmidt. "It's about the freedom to buy and sell anything--even people."