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Do we not feel as helpless as a hamster in the modern world, crushed by pompous politicians, bullied by bosses and force-fed Frankenfood by multinationals gone mad with power? And when we climb off our little exercise wheel to protest, are we not doused with pepper spray and our inert bodies dragged away by police officers disguised as Daleks?

The entartistes have a solution. It began decades ago in the fevered mind of a Belgian named Noel Godin as "a match jammed in a Yale lock, an error in the accounts, a bomb threat, a drop of tar in a surveillance camera." In the intervening years, it mutated into pastry. The cream pies multiplied until the Internationale des Anarcho-patisseurs, or International Pie Anarchists, was born, its dream to gently press cream pies into the faces of the pompous and the authoritarian around the world.

Quebec leads the nation this time. In the past two years, its cream-pie anarchists "entarted" (basically, flanned) Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque, former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau and Montreal mayoral candidate Jacques Duchesneau. Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion was flanned last year as he handed out pieces of cake at a homeless shelter.

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And just over a week ago, Quebec Finance Minister Bernard Landry got it, only to be forced to explain why the Quebec government, in its blind keenness to throw money at anything that sounds like French culture, had just given $112,000 to Symfolium, a Montreal symposium of international comic activists that included the demon seed himself, Noel Godin, and was run by François Gourd, the chief Quebec entartiste.

Gourd, the 49-year-old co-founder of the defunct Rhinoceros Party, is into entartisme big-time. After a lifetime of creative anarchy, he has found his niche, even if he shares it with a ragtag bunch of people who rarely agree or even meet.

The entartistes, marginal types all, are just like the rest of us in one respect. They form factions, and the faction that flanned Landry immediately declared it had boycotted the Symfolium, "which was organized by a former member of our disorganization." Not only would it not take bribes to flan, it sniffed, but it would not accept handouts from the flannable. So there.

Most of the pastried accept their fate and slink away. As the entartistes point out, they are monied people who can afford dry-cleaning. And besides, with the entartistes' Web site now giving citizens a vote on whom they most wish to see entarted, it has sunk in that being creamed is not necessarily a one-time-only event.

Jean Charest leads with 44 votes and Conrad Black has 10, only one less than had the pitiable Landry. Once you're flanned, your tally goes back to zero but Dion is back up there now in third place.

It cannot be pleasant to be photographed being blinded by pie in public. It is as shocking to one's system as slipping on ice and sitting on the sidewalk with the breath knocked out of you while people stare. It is profoundly humiliating. But of all the pied, only Dion (no relation to Celine, who's also on the list) and Parizeau have filed criminal charges. This is proof, say the entartistes, that the federalists and the sovereignists " sont comme cul et chemise" ("cut from the same cloth").

They say Dion was targeted for "making political capital on the backs of the poor," but it must be said that the soup kitchen had been happy to have him that day. "These pie throwers are really bullies, and not funny at all," said Christine Fortin, a volunteer at the kitchen. The commentator Pierre Bourgault called them "germs." Two men, Patrick (Pop Tart) Robert and Benoît (D'Artagnan) Foisy, have been charged.

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Nevertheless, charges against entartistes haven't fared well in other courts. In Belgium, one entartiste was acquitted after he claimed he was following an "ancient Belgian tradition." Parizeau's pie man, Bruno Caron, 19, showed up in court wearing a red rubber nose and pleaded not guilty to "assault with a pastry." Even if Parizeau wins, he may end up looking even more petulant than he usually does.

Entartisme has a history, though not necessarily a glorious one. It is part of a tradition that began with the Feast of Fools, a clerical saturnalia popular in the Middle Ages that was stamped out by the Reformation. The central feature was the ass. The mass would be burlesqued and the responses would be brayed. Dirty songs were sung, that sort of thing.

Basically, it's anarchy, which did very well for itself during the Industrial Revolution when working people became the pawns of brand-new industrial elites. Some have suggested that if today's Information Revolution allied to globalization is indeed as significant as was the Industrial Revolution -- as disruptive to workers' lives and as the basis for a pervasive feeling of helplessness among citizens -- then we are ripe for a new wave of anarchy.

That means organized protests disrupting the 1997 APEC summit in Vancouver, the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last November, and this week's World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington. It means hackers thumbing their noses at Internet monoliths. It means a resurgence in fringe humour and pointless installation art. Why would a man seal himself in a see-through coffin under a New York sidewalk for a week? Why would Canadian comedian Tom Green hump a dead moose by the side of the road? It makes no sense. But what else makes sense these days? Bill Gates having a personal worth of $75-billion (U.S.)?

Squeezing a pie into Gates's face in 1998 was Noel Godin's proudest moment.

Flanning is the modern equivalent of the Dadaist tactic of sending abusive letters to worthless celebrities, says Godin, 54. "If I sent Gates a letter, only he would see it," Godin told Britain's The Observer. "Instead I communicate via tarts, in a sort of visual Esperanto."

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Why would Noel Godin have flanned a French philosopher named Bernard-Henri Levy more than five times?

Well, why not? Levy, who wears his white silk shirts unbuttoned to the navel to display his chest hair, once said he disliked seeing women pay in restaurants. "I think that money does not suit a woman, or rather that I would not fall in love with such a woman." He rates himself as so clever that his talents form "a landscape which does not have a fixed place in the classic topography of culture."

Levy, who boasts of his reasonableness and tolerance, was forced to endure film being repeatedly shown on French TV of himself, post-pie in Nice, trying to strangle Godin and shouting, "Get up, or I'll kick your head in." Godin cackles as he watches films of his agents flanning Levy point-blank in Liège while another agent decorates Levy's snooty girlfriend with a layered chocolate gâteau topped with crème chantilly.

"Levy was flanned in Reims by a mysterious splinter group," Godin reports, "and recently he also ran into difficulties in a bakery at Montpellier." Godin, whose autobiography is titled Cream and Punishment, now plans to use performing dogs to bear pies. "I like the thought of Levy experiencing a feeling of slight unease every times he sees a dog at a public function."

As The Observer points out, this is no longer Godin and Levy, it is Herbert Lom trying to trap his bête noire, Inspector Clouseau.

The trick is to flan only those whose pomposity is widely known, lest the victim garner public sympathy. As the cream "gloup gloups" (as well as being a characteristic of cream, this is also the battle cry of the entartistes) from the victim's face, his true character emerges. At Cannes, Jean-Luc Godard took out his cigar, tasted the cream and praised Godin's homage to silent film. The entartistes like Godard now.

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As the visitor to will see, pie-throwing goes way back. It was a staple in Laurel and Hardy films, a glorious but discarded scene in Kubrick's Doctor Strangelove, a favourite of the Keystone Kops, Three Stooges, Wile E. Coyote, the Marx Brothers and that famous comedian beloved of the French, Jerry Lewis. It has international appeal, which is why there are branches of the Internationale des Anarcho-patisseurs in Melbourne, New York, Holland and Quebec, among other places. For some reason, it has not caught on in English Canada -- it may be that Anglos wince at watching public humiliation -- though this may change.

In San Francisco, they call themselves the Biotic Baking Brigade, and their pies are vegan: Tofu cream, organic cherry and pumpkin are favoured. They, along with their previous incarnation, the Yippies, have creamed the CEOs of Monsanto and Novartis (two kings of genetically modified food), economist Milton Friedman, anti-abortionist Randall Terry, Sylvester Stallone, the late Andy Warhol and many many others since the 1960s.

What does an entartiste do if he doesn't have a pie to hand? Godin is a filmmaker and one of his three short films (strangely, not the one called Strike and Farts) won a Belgian national film competition. The award was presented by a mayor, and Godin detests mayors on principle. "I said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you, my mayor.' " He kissed him and licked him, pushed him over and rolled around the stage with him with their legs intertwined. "Every time he tried to get up, I hauled him back by the buttocks."

It seems considerably worse than getting a cream pie in the face, especially since there is a strict code of ethics for flanning posted on the Web site, and it doesn't mention buttock-fondling.

Entartistes must not throw the pie, but must deposit it lovingly. They must appear ridiculous i.e, red-nosed, so as to distinguish themselves from CIA hitmen. The cream must be of good quality and the plate cannot injure. The flanning must be filmed or photographed. It cannot be partisan. "Please, no pies that are separatist, federalist, communist, sexist, racist, etc. We are against all power, whether economic, political or media, but we are definitely in favour of free human beings."

The irony is that as flanning becomes more frequent, the entartistes, no matter how disorganized and disparate they are, gain a power of their own. Will Quebec, already eccentric in its language laws, become an even more anarchic place when it is run by the pastry terrorists?

THE PIEWORTHY

Faites attention, all those listed below. You have been voted by visitors to the Entartistes Web site as most deserving of a pie (or in some cases, another pie) in the face. Jean Charest Jean Chrétien Stéphane Dion Celine Dion Lucien Bouchard Normand Braithwaite Guy Bertrand André Arthur Véronique Cloutier Louise Beaudoin Monseigneur Turcotte Pauline Marois Richard Martineau Pierre Trudeau Conrad Black Sheila Copps Bernard Landry René Angélil Julie Snyder Preston Manning

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