Used to ride around here up on my high horse


Originally uploaded by Jeffery Simpson.

While blogging about Buy Nothing Day the other day [mbv] I had to stop myself from turning the post into a bit long rant about Adbusters and I wanted to seperate my rant about Adbusters from my general notion of being a bit perplexed that anyone really cares about Buy Nothing Day. What set me off on my anti-Adbusters rant, well their Blackspot Shoe brand.

No, wait, it’s not a brand it’s an anti-brand. Because if something is marketed by anarchists it’s not marketing or capitalism it’s Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Or something. I’m not quite clear on it, but apparently it’s the natural response to Nike buying Converse and nobody having anything socially acceptable to wear to watch Clash cover bands anymore. Sure it’s great to market an ethically constructed shoe, but didn’t Bono get mocked by the Converse wearing set for doing exactly the same thing [msnbc]? Aren’t there loads of non-sweat shop shoes on the market? Why does a magazine against consumerism need to become a company making consumer goods?

Probably the same reason that you can buy underpants with Batman on it. Which is where the money I used to spend on Adbusters has been diverted to, Batman underpants and comic books. Maybe you can only read so much Adbusters before it starts annoying you like a Hedley record, maybe it’s just made for those between 16 and 22 where the idea of a glossy magazine sold in Chapters holding some sort of secret to an alternate lifestyle seems at all plausible and when articles about how some middle class kid from a comfortable family trained in Texas for three weeks at anarchist camp all to be able to climb up some scaffolding and help unveil a banner making fun of the Gap.

What happened to Adbusters I think is that the world moved on and real things happened. Back when everyone thought that Francis Fukuyama [wp] was the shit and we were going to spend all of our time in a world where the most important thing happening was the O.J. Simpson trial. These days O.J. is still on trial, but at least some of us realize that there is more going on in the world. You know like the Iraq War. With real things going on, there’s real issues for politicians to debate and voting for Al Gore over George W. Bush suddenly matters in a way that Adbusters and people like Michael Moore did not realize that it would before September 11th, 2001. Moore later came around, Adbusters hasn’t really because it’s main issue is still about wearing the right sneakers.

Other things have happened, because we can’t blame everything wrong with Adbusters on GW Bush and the neo-conservatives. The first is that the internet happened, and suddenly Adbusters stopped being surprising. They didn’t adapt, they still haven’t and now instead of an overpriced pictorial magazine you can get much more insightful information from blogs like Truthdig [td] and newspapers from overseas like The Guardian [lg]. When the most recent Adbusters issue covers things like journalism’s failing to hold the powerful accountable, and OMG CLIMATE CHANGE then you have to wonder what world their writers and readers are living in where they haven’t noticed that these are issues that are widely discussed in the mainstream media.

Adbusters just has not kept up with this change. Their website is largely an ad for the magazine, and the only real content on it is old. Oh you can look at the funny parody ads, but come on they haven’t made a new one in nearly a decade. I’m not saying they need some lol cats [wp] there, though maybe if they’re short of other ideas it might be worth a shot. Taking all of their previous issue archives off line and forcing readers to buy dead tree versions perhaps is not in keeping with either their environmental stance, their anti-consumer stance or even in promoting their ideals.

When Adbusters has really tried to leave the 90s’ and deal with the world today they’ve done it in a really weird way that’s alternated between calling for terrorist attacks on shopping centres to blaming America’s Jewish population for the war on terror. The later, in an article by publisher Kalle Lasn titled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish” was done with a list of the fifty most influential neo-conservatives. Of the fifty twenty-six had black dots beside their names, indicating that they were Jewish. Perhaps Lasn misunderstood Schindler’s List, and figured that denoting people’s race in that instance was a good idea. The choice between him being an idiot or a bigot is not a great one.

Then of course was how he called for terrorist attacks on consumer targets.

In time we will learn to modulate our resistance — to raise it to the point where airport-type security systems are needed just to let customers into stores, until the daily pain and cost of doing business as usual becomes simply too high to bear.”


The global capital machine is now so finely tuned, so delicately balanced, that just one virus, one blackout, one bushfire, one mad cow, one hand-held rocket launcher, one gram of plutonium, has the potential to crash the whole deal. From now on, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to keep it together.

That’s the dirty, anarchic, kick-ass side of World War IV.

You know who also railed against big business and Jewish control of international affairs while trying to encourage civil disobedience? Are you going to be surprised when I say Hitler? No? Ah, damnit. I wanted some surprise. A Google search on the subject of Lasn’s list found that after a page and a half of negative comments on it, the first site supporting his thesis that Jews controlled everything is a site called Stormwatch, which is the sort of site that really likes itself some Hitler. Still wouldn’t it be kick-ass if someone had a rocket launcher and some plutonium? Isn’t violence cool?

I don’t know enough about Lasn beyond his writings to make the claim that he in anyway supports the Nazis. Truthfully he probably does not, though that he was too media tone deaf to understand how what he wrote could be perceived that he could allow himself to come off sounding like he wanted his own private Brownshirts should seriously make people question his ability as a media critic which is what Adbusters normally is best at.

Even giving Adbusters the benefit of the doubt and ignoring Lasn’s missteps I still have to wonder if they’re at all relevant anymore. Buying magazines in the store is so consumer orientated, and the fact that the magazine’s response to the trend towards free online media has been to restrict its own online presence and start marketing a line of sneakers seems to suggest that we’ve lost a good social critic to and poor business planning.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a powerful argument that Adbusters could be making, equating our consumerist way of life with the incredible poverty around the world that acts as fertilizer for terrorism. It’s just that Adbusters has long ago run out of interesting things to say, or any interesting ways of repeating what they’ve been saying all along.

So my money is going to comic books. At least when they’re trying to be political or deal with social issues they can be interesting.


3 Comments so far

  1. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 1:00 pm

    “The first is that the internet happened, and suddenly Adbusters stopped being surprising. They didn’t adapt, they still haven’t and now instead of an overpriced pictorial magazine you can get much more insightful information from blogs like Truthdig.”

    Exactly. Well, at least a few people are still reading it, anyway.

    By the way, with all due respect, Jeffery, your posts are just waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long. Interesting stuff, but on a blog, you might want to break it up into, say, a series of four to six posts? Am I wrong?

    What’s the optimal blog post size for a community blog, anyway? Any ideas, people?

    Great post, though. Really liked the Green Lantern/Green Arrow cover (I actually read that one back in the 1980s, I believe).

  2. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

    Well it was a tad long, but I left the bulk of it below the jump. Anyone not interested in it can just skip reading further, anyone who is hopefully will find it intereseting enough to pull them down to the bottom.

    As for optimal blog post lenght? I think pretty much anything works, depending on the content.

  3. Dustin (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

    You totally pwned adbusters here. Well said.

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