Will The Real WTO Please Stand Up?
By Jerry Useem

(FORTUNE Magazine) – If you see a World Trade Organization spokesman behaving oddly--saying strange things about trade or wearing an inflatable golden phallus--don't be confused. It's probably just Andy Bichlbaum, the WTO impostor.

An American living in France, Bichlbaum, 35, belongs to the Yes Men, an anti-globalization group devoted to "representing the WTO more honestly than they represent themselves." Two years ago the group took control of the Web address gatt.org, where it put up a home page nearly identical to the WTO's. Because it is easily mistaken for the real thing, the Yes Men receive a steady stream of e-mails intended for the WTO--including speaking invitations. Bichlbaum is only too happy to oblige.

Last summer, for instance, he was invited to speak at a textiles conference in Tampere, Finland. Presenting himself as the WTO's Dr. Hank Hardy Unruh, he praised slavery, decried Ghandi, and called the American Civil War "the least profitable war" in U.S. history. Then he stripped down to reveal a skin-tight body suit, pulled a ripcord, and inflated a three-foot-long phallus. This was the "Employee Visualization Appendage," he explained, a device to allow managers to control workers through electronic impulses. Bichlbaum has also "represented" the WTO at an international law conference in Salzburg, Austria, and on CNBC Europe last summer, advocating "justice vouchers" for "countries that commit heinous human rights violations, but want to stop." He says he plans to strike again this spring, "somewhere in Oceania."

Fed up, the WTO recently demanded the Yes Men remove "deceptive" copyrighted materials from its Website. But when the WTO posted a warning about the hoax on its home page, a tweaked version soon appeared on gatt.org. "A fake WTO Website--www.wto.org--has been created to deceive Internet users," it read. "The only official WTO site is www.gatt.org."

--Jerry Useem