Alice Foley on 1 Dec 2000 02:45:35 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: Happy news

Dear Mr. Brinkman,

Thank you for writing! We appreciate the feedback and will attempt to
answer you as best we can.

>While I must admit that your stunt was indeed impressive in terms of sheer gall,
>in the end I'm afraid you and your colleagues have proved very little other than
>your general ignorance of the important trade issues on which you profess to
>care, and cemented your well-deserved reputation as "protestors in Nike tennis

Who has called us that? Who is us? Perhaps you mean by "you and your
colleagues" all those protesters you described in Salzburg, at the
lunch following Dr. Bichlbauer's lecture, as just protesting for the
sake of it, because they need something to do, and despite any real
commitment to any cause (there are no real issues worth fighting for
these days, you said; when asked what might be a real cause, you
suggested "perhaps another Milosevic"). If that's what you mean by us
and our colleagues, then by "reputation" you must mean among *your*
colleagues, and among readers of Forbes and the like. We do not really
care about "our" reputation in those arena, if I may be so bold as to
speak for "us and our colleagues."

> Why the stunts?  What did you set out to accomplish?

To illustrate amusingly, through example and some exaggeration, the
motives and aims of the WTO and its colleagues. The point wasn't to
illustrate this to *you*, in the audience there in Salzburg, but
rather to others, in other audiences--of greater number, and more

>  Do you really not
>believe in anything?

I beg your pardon? There is a severe disjunction either in your
text or my understanding of it. I will ask Drs. Funk and Daitz
whether they understand it any better.

>  In my day, protestors cared deeply about their views and
>were not afraid to debate them.

But you said (also at lunch) that the protesters of "your day" (a
strange expression; for many, political activism can extend beyond
their early twenties) were by and large protesting apartheid in South
Africa more because they enjoyed the fun, the group feeling, etc.,
than because they really cared about the issues.

And although there may conceivably be some protesters "afraid to
debate," I don't think that is the rule by any means. Are you seeking
a debate opponent? I'm sure, given a forum, an appropriate party could
easily be found.

>  By cleverly sneaking into the conference, you
>had a grand opportunity to make a point if you had something to say.   No one
>would have thrown you out of the room once you got up to speak.  You could have
>made an empassioned speech against globalism and trade and started a lively

As I said, the point was not to appeal directly to you and your
colleagues to change your mind; rather it was to illuminate, through
exaggeration and strange humor, the actual speech of the WTO and its
colleagues, to other audiences. Based on our preliminary research, we
are on the right track.

> Believe it or not, there is a lot of academic work on both
sides of the
>globalization issue, and the lawyers in the room were not nearly as close minded
>as you think.  

You are certainly right about the lawyers in the room not all being
squarely on the side of corporate freedoms at any (human) cost, as
attested to by the outrage expressed by two of those present to what
Dr. Bichlbauer said about the Italians and Dutch. We could certainly
have sparked an interesting debate, and this would perhaps have been
useful to those present in some way, though of course none of the
lawyers would have likely changed their minds one way or the
other--far too much to hope for, really, and at the same time a more
modest goal than ours.
>   Instead, your Dr. Bichlbauer came across as an uneducated boob
>who failed to make any real point.  You wasted both your own time and ours.

But Mr. Brinkman, you were reading the newspaper during Dr.
Bichlbauer's talk, almost the whole way through! I believe it was USA
Today, but I could be wrong. In any case, you cannot say whether he
made any real point, because you were not listening. If you would
like, I could send you the speaker notes to his Powerpoint
presentation, or even footage of the speech, and give you a second
chance to listen to it, so you could see whether or not he makes the
following points, and some others:

* The quest to eliminate barriers to free trade at all costs would, if
carried to its logical conclusion, result in some very unfortunate
situations.  In other words, the "rational" pursuit of economic
efficiency at all costs is barbaric. 

* The WTO's quest to prevent governments from making economic
decisions based on morality and emotion, as in the "honest bananas"
case, is berserk, as berserk as the "joke" Dr. Bichlbauer made: "It is
not possible to kill a person by hitting that person over the head
with a banana. It is, however, possible to kill a person over bananas
by hitting that person over the head with a machete."

* The idea of a "consumer democracy" is ridiculous. Calling citizens
"consumers" is demeaning and disgusting, and also frightening.

* Privatization is not always a good thing at all. (Realizing this,
many (former) champions of free trade have come out against imposing
privatization on developing nations, though it is still considered a
good thing in the developed world, despite examples from the British
train system to the state of American health care.)

These points and others are extremely clear to those who view the
speech on video monitors. To make sure, we have even quizzed viewers
and received satisfactory answers. In the room, live, these points may
admittedly not have come across quite as clearly, even if one wasn't
reading the paper, because who would expect the WTO representative to
be making them? This is why all present will be invited to view it
from home, with new hindsight.

(Also, perhaps you did not get the point that Dr. Bichlbauer made, at
lunch, when he said to you that Haider, despite being "a bit of a
nazi," was really quite ok, because he was all for free trade, and in
fact modeled his party's goals on those of the US Republican
party's... and that in fact (Dr. Bichlbauer continued) the nazis
themselves were really ok, more or less, because of their interest in
trade.... I believe you got up at that point and moved to another
table, after announcing that this wasn't your "realm of expertise.")

>Then you demean yourselves further with juvenile talk of pies and infections.

The pies and infections were our attempt to get some information about
delegates' response, or lack of response, to Dr. Bichlbauer's talk
about private enterprise solutions to the big mess that is democracy.
The offensiveness of those remarks we felt to be much greater than
those about the Italians and Dutch, but no one mentioned them.

Finally we achieved our aim, albeit at the cost of good taste and some

>The sad thing is that you're hurting your own cause.

We are sorry to have offended you and made you think even less of us
and our colleagues than before.

Best wishes,
Alice Foley

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