A story that ran late last month in the National Post shows how the Occupy Wall Street crowd is turning its eyes to Canadian politics:
“Lately, a lot of people have phoned me up and said, ‘Hey Kalle, what the f— are you doing? You never do anything in Canada,'” he said from his home in Vancouver. “So we decided … we’re also going to try to swing this election in autumn.”
“He is like a side dish for us to eat.”
That was Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters, a Vancouver based anti-capitalist magazine. Lasn was widely credited with inspiring the Occupy Wall Street movement in late 2011. Now he wants to defeat the Harper government with what he calls a "mind bomb". The group is currently soliciting donations to help "continue to wage the meme war".
As part of that "war" earlier this week Adbusters launched an anti-Harper attack ad. A crowd sourcing campaign scrapped together $35,000 to have the ad played on the CBC during an NHL playoff game. The rather amateurish sixteen second spot features two oil drenched sunbathers emerging from the sea, while in the background a radio announcer declares that "the Harper government has proclaimed all of our beaches clean again".
This not so subtle line of attack has earned Lasn and his group a fair amount of coverage in the mainstream media with articles in the National Post, the Globe and Mail and Canada.com. Nor was this week the first time that Kalle Lasn has been featured on the CBC. Back in 2012 Canada's state broadcaster gave a rather sympathetic interview to the Adbusters co-founder.
It might be easy to dismiss Kalle Lasn as a mere anti-Harper partisan, or run of the mill Leftist taking cheap shots at a Conservative government. Lasn, however, has developed a highly detailed anti-capitalist philosophy which he laid out in his 2000 book Culture Jam: How to Reverse America's Suicidal Consumer Binge, And Why We Must. The Wikipedia entry for Adbusters has this helpful explanation of culture jamming:
Culture jamming is heavily influenced by the Situationist International and the tactic of détournement. The goal is to interrupt the normal consumerist experience in order to reveal the underlying ideology of an advertisement, media message, or consumer artifact. Adbusters believe large corporations control mainstream media and the flow of information, and culture jamming aims to challenge this as a form of protest. The term "jam" contains more than one meaning, including improvising, by re-situating an image or idea already in existence, and interrupting, by attempting to stop the workings of a machine.
In other words they're attempting to stop capitalism by being mildly obnoxious. Their tactics, at least until Occupy Wall Street took off, consisted mostly of slightly imaginative parodies of popular ad campaigns and common symbols. Their degree of cleverness can be gauged by this version of the American flag where the stars have been replaced by corporate logos. These are Stephen Harper's new mortal enemies.
The interesting aspect isn't that some silly and otherwise unemployable people don't like the Conservative government. That's par for the course. What's interesting is that a movement which is supported by only a tiny segment of the population - Adbusters claims a circulation of about 60,000 - gets so much media coverage. When was the last time a pro-life magazine or rally attracted this much positive ink and broadcast time?
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