Adbusters, how i love thee.
June 13, 2001 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Adbusters, how i love thee. A twist on celebrating the 4th of July, courtesy of the Culture Jammers Network. This is the type of non-destructive activism i can support.
posted by th3ph17 (31 comments total)
I wonder what proportion of the citizens of this country could name all of the companies represented by those logos, as compared to those who could name all 50 states represented by the stars on the real flag.
posted by harmful at 1:44 PM on June 13, 2001

As much as we (americans) love to romanticize the birth of America as being about independence and freedom and all that, wasn't a lot of that early colonization that led to the revolution motivated by greed? I seem to remember reading a lot about joint-stock companies, cash crops, The Massachusetts Bay Company, indentured servitude, slavery, the triangle trade, mercantilism, and other things like that being reasons for colonization and such.

While it could be argued that in some cases the American Revolution was fought to break away from these overly-powerful commercial interests (a good example would be the Boston Tea Party, I guess), but I don't think that stuff was the big issue.

"A blast of symbolic disobedience on this occasion will force America to think hard about the meaning of its original revolution, and its subservience to corporations today". Was the meaning of the original revolution really so anti-corporate? Weren't the founding fathers largely successful capitalists? Didn't a lot of the people who came here (the US) come to make a lot of money? Were we ever really less subservient to corporations? We have no formal slavery or indentured servitude now...
posted by jeb at 1:52 PM on June 13, 2001

CBS (a division of Viacom), Playboy Enterprises, Inc., Coca Cola USA, Inc., ABC (a subsidiary of Disney Enterprises, I think it is), Camel Cigarettes, Microsoft Windows.

Sprint Communications LP, Travelers Insurance, Apple Computer, Nike, AT&T, DaimlerChrysler.

Warner Brothers Communications, [can't place that W...], Chase Bancorporation, Intel, Pizza Hut/Tricon Global, McDonalds.

Xerox, Adobe, IBM, General Electric, [don't recognize the E, either], The Phone Company (The old AT&T/Bell System Logo, long may it wave -- I believe this is *still* in use by AT&T Bell Laboratories and what's left of Western Electric; ISTR seeing the logo on a 5ESS remote that wasn't more than 10 years old).

United Airlines (subsidiary of parent UAL Corp), Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum, [Some insurance company... Prudential?], NBC (a subsidiary of General Electric), PepsiCo, and, finally, Compaq Computer Corporation.

Do I pass?
posted by baylink at 2:14 PM on June 13, 2001

I used to subscribe to Adbusters, but found myself growing tired of them. When their site compared their "cause" to the civil rights movement, I decided I'd had enough. Typical issue: Whine whine whine, but, for the love of god, don't offer any solutions! Just bitch and whine! Piss people off but don't tell them what to do about it!

I'm not seeing much of a difference with this latest stunt.
posted by mrbula at 2:20 PM on June 13, 2001

I have no problem in what they are trying to do but I usggest that they do it soon and this year because there is a bill that the more conservative members of congress are pushing through that would make desecration of the flag a crime.
In the meantime, who makes the computers and the software and the modems and the cables that are used to forward such a campagin on to others, who will also use phone copanies and cable and whatnot to further illuminate how bad is the stuff that we use daily? Why not simply refuse to use it. That would hit in the pocket. The rest is mere holloween antics.
posted by Postroad at 2:42 PM on June 13, 2001

I'm not seeing much of a difference with this latest stunt.

Generating awareness of one's cause is step number one in the long, winding road of bringing about change.

Don't get me wrong — I too have gotten a little tired of Adbusters' whining — but there actually is a point to campaigns like this beyond simply bitching more loudly than usual.
posted by drywall at 2:45 PM on June 13, 2001

I think the "W" is White Westinghouse.

There. And I can name all the states, their capitols, and spell them correctly (amazing what I retained from Fifth Grade). Now where's my prize?
posted by OneBallJay at 2:49 PM on June 13, 2001

The "E" is for Microsoft Internet Explorer.
posted by silusGROK at 2:58 PM on June 13, 2001

There really should be mouse ears on that poster. In fact if they wanted to kill two birds with one stone they should have just stuck 'em on the ABC logo.
posted by kindall at 3:03 PM on June 13, 2001

I was thinking Wienerschnitzel for the "W," but that didn't seem likely.
posted by Mrmuhnrmuh at 3:04 PM on June 13, 2001

A bit of trivia: The GE logo is known inside the company as "the meatball."
posted by kindall at 3:10 PM on June 13, 2001

I think the "W" is White Westinghouse.

Correct. And if you weren't aware, Westinghouse at one point owned [or still owns] CBS. I'm not sure if they still do after the CBS/Viacom merger.

posted by dincognito at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2001

I think the third from the left, bottom row, is not an insurance company, but the brand with the three stripes, Adidas. And I may have missed something obvious, but isn't Adidas Inc. German? If so, should it be on the flag?
posted by Hjorth at 3:21 PM on June 13, 2001

Hah. I just made this into a desktop picture for my PowerBook. I have on the desktop an alias to another machine which has an eyeball for its hard disk icon. When I put the desktop picture behind the icon, this eye-con happened to be right in front of... the CBS logo.
posted by kindall at 3:29 PM on June 13, 2001

Damn. I only know 28 out of 30 cold.

It's out of date, though: Citicorp (bottom, 2nd from left) and Travelers (2nd row, 2nd) have merged, and there's a Citicorp logo that incorporates a simplified umbrella with the "t" as the handle.

(Note that the flying-flag poster PDF uses slightly different logos, for instance, the old Westinghouse W.)

Damn. Why doesn't IE properly cache PDFs? For the sake of a double-check, I'm burning up my modem again. (For that matter, why won't the ijits in Redmond let me access my Internet cache anymore? No wonder nobody trusts them.)

Hoover's CBS capsule.

Westinghouse Electric bought the CBS network in 1995, split off the manufacturing, keeping its media properties (e.g. radio station network); it then changed its corporate name to CBS.

Viacom capsule. White Consolidated capsule (White-Westinghouse is just a brand nowadays; WCI is actually a subsidiary of Swedish firm Electrolux).
posted by dhartung at 3:30 PM on June 13, 2001

i agree that adbusters gets a bit heavy on the rhetoric, but the ads and parody ads are [usually] very well done and entertaining.

i definately don't think that anti-corporatism is nearly as important as the civil rights movement, amnesty international, the V-day movement, etc...but a stunt like this is a nice subtle reminder, without being manipulative or destructive, and is funny--i think.

Yes. big corporations make the computers we use, the clothes we wear [excuse the 'we'] the servers and backbones of the internet etc...but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be Aware of abuses, and it shouldn't mean that we can't poke fun and try and make people and the companies they own/work at/shop from just a tiny bit more aware that we are watching. Power should bring with it responsibility. Yeah, i know, i'm an idealist. I'm going to make that flag into a shirt to wear when i go see Ani Difranco play.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:37 PM on June 13, 2001

The Adbusters 'culture jammer' calendar is a big, big hit among admen, coolhunters, culture indutrialists -- all minions of the corporate antichrist that Adbusters purports to target. I hear it's a great source of mirth on Madison Avenue, because the whole gesture is both clever and impossible to take seriously.

Advertising has been about winking irony and its own staged asassination for so long that this sort of broad-stroke 'jamming' just reads like this week's top campaign at AdWeek.

Others have said Adbusters rarely suggests viable alternatives, but I see a far greater problem: just like the brainless Dilbert "critique" of the business world, it doesn't change anything, add anything, DO anything, other wag limp fingers, and tickle middlebrow liberal self-rightousness.
posted by textist at 4:40 PM on June 13, 2001

Accusing an organization of not offering solutions is a pretty cheap tactic in my opinion. The two do not necessarily go hand in hand, nor does the lack of an evident solution invalidate the problem. Case in point: Overpopulation will be the worst problem humanity has ever faced in about a century. I don't know how to solve it. That doesn't stop me from trying to convince people that we need to figure out how.

(And the argument that they're not "doing anything about it" is just as spurious -- what do you call publishing a magazine designed to bring attention to the issue? Or would you prefer that they skipped the public awareness part and went straight for bombing the Chrysler building?)
posted by tweebiscuit at 5:36 PM on June 13, 2001

I can name all fifty states (in alphabetical order, even) and their capitals and fill them in on a blank map, but I only know half of those symbols. so am I a good american or a bad american?
posted by rabi at 6:41 PM on June 13, 2001

Better than most, I'd say.
posted by harmful at 8:18 PM on June 13, 2001

They don't offer solutions because they're trying to get people to listen to them, and if they started offering solutions people would go deaf. The obvious answer to this is: stop buying crap from these monopolistic corporations. Stop allowing big business to have political power in the process through both public campaign financing and behind-closed-doors dealings. Stop allowing companies to 'merge' and therefore become so strong their power dwarfs that of the government. Insure that civil servants serve the civilians, and organizations which serve selfish corporate interests are kept in their place.

See? Who's gonna bother with that? In fact when you think about it, the alternative to what we have now is chaotic and unpleasant. Remember when Ma Bell was chopped into smaller pieces? The world is still in the process of bouncing back from that fiasco.

Perhaps all organizations like Adbusters really want is for the world to stop lying to itself. Call it like it is. No political correctness. No sugar-coating the obvious. No more hypocrisy. Disney owns ABC. We all know it. It's time to stop pretending it's not the Disney Channel. That sorta thing. The music industry has purposefully organized itself into a behemoth agency that treats musicians like cattle. It's high time they come forward and acknowledge that. I'm not saying the RIAA should apologize for it. "We're bad guys. Hate us. But don't expect us to change our tune cuz we're making money hand over fist over here and you guys are a bunch of suckers! Mua-hahaha!"

Instead of prettifying the obvious with smoke and mirrors and trying to get people to not pay attention to the dwarf behind the curtain, it's time for Toto to run up to the big Wizard of Oz machine and reveal the cretins for who they are. Warts and all. AdBusters is just Toto. Toto didn't offer solutions. He just showed Dorothy what was really going on.

I think this new american flag is a great idea. We should lobby Washington to retire the old flag and replace it with this one. But that request would fall on deaf ears. Which is AdBusters whole point.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:42 PM on June 13, 2001

posted by tweebiscuit at 10:13 PM on June 13, 2001

AdBusters is just Toto. Toto didn't offer solutions. He just showed Dorothy what was really going on.

A flaky metaphor illustrating a flaky point, just like Buy Nothing Day, or Turn Off TV Week, or, egad, the Fool's Fest.

But if that's what Adbusters does, pull back the curtain, it isn't to expose the hows and whys of corporate hegemony: essential knowledge for stinging the heart of its power and for ever having an effect on policy. Rather it is to point and say, "bad," which, I'll reiterate, does nothing, except make those already saying "bad" nod with a little more vigour.

I'd love to meet a single designer, for example, who changed a damn thing in his or her professional practice as a result of the First Things First remix.

Happily, there is an ocean of writing, in magazines such as In These Times, The Baffler and Dissent, by writers like Barbara Ehrenreich and Tom Frank, writing that is accessible, rigorous, thorough, and which has inspired a hundred times more shakeup of policy and true dissent than the disposable, impotent 'jamming' of Adbusters, which, again, merely preaches to the choir, adores its own reflection, informs nobody, and makes its targets chuckle.
posted by textist at 11:52 PM on June 13, 2001

So Textist, is your agenda to cause the extinction of the narcissists in our society? Or are you just pointing a finger chuckling, and not offering a solution?
posted by ZachsMind at 1:59 AM on June 14, 2001

As much as we (americans) love to romanticize the birth of America as being about independence and freedom and all that, wasn't a lot of that early colonization that led to the revolution motivated by greed?

As was all early colonial activity, American and otherwise, but particularly in those areas where there was a native culture to be subdued. Overseas commercial entities needed an infrastructure and a bureacracy. Eventually, it elided into colonial administration. Which is why I like to remind American MBA students that globalisation is proto-imperialism. Tcha.
posted by holgate at 6:33 AM on June 14, 2001

People should find/build/invent their own solutions (or work together as a means to that end). Or perhaps they prefer to discuss, dissect and debate the issues, ad nauseum. Either way, I suppose it helps raise awareness (whether or not that was the desired intent).

>I'd love to meet a single designer, for example, who
>changed a damn thing in his or her professional practice
>as a result of the First Things First remix.

Hi, I'm webchick. Nice to meet you.

FTF2000 didn't change anything for me because I had read and was familiar with the first one. But the re-manifesto did introduce many young designers to the concept, and serve as a reminder at an important time (foreshadowing the dot-com bust) when many designers had to re-evaluate their priorities.
posted by webchick at 7:37 AM on June 14, 2001

(link provided for convenience)

...and since I'm back on the line, here's another link for the Westinghouse/CBS thread...
posted by webchick at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2001

I'd love to meet a single designer, for example, who changed a damn thing in his or her professional practice as a result of the First Things First remix.

I quit my job as a full-time web designer and will be going to graduate school this fall to study corporatization of the mass media... I still haven't quite figured out how this program let me in with nothing more than a BFA in graphic design and some experience in advertising and web design, but that's beside the point.

First Things First wasn't the sole reason I decided to stop pimping my design skills out to the highest bidder, but it definitely played a part in giving me the courage to quit my job.

I hope you loved meeting me just now. :)
posted by drywall at 9:43 AM on June 14, 2001


Try this link or read the first FTF here if you can't get through to right now.

(Hopefully you can get in. And when you have some spare time, check out the rest of max bruinsma's site. It's worth it.)
posted by webchick at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2001

In re: the flag, is it really at all fair to lump perpetual (beloved) also-ran Apple in with the rest of those logos? I really don't think I buy that one.
posted by Dreama at 11:26 AM on June 14, 2001

And is it fair for Microsoft to get two of the spots?

One of my favorite logos isn't represented at all. That'd be the one for Northwest Airlines, which looks simultaneously like an italicized N with a tailfin and a W with a slice cut out of it. Simple, yet clever. I have respect for whoever created that one.
posted by kindall at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2001

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