Culture Jamm

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Culture Jam HOW TO R E V E R S E AMERICA'S SUICIDAL CONSUMER B I N G E — A N D WHY W E MUST Kalle Lasn An Imprint of HiipaCoUinsPubliihm For my beloved mother. Leida Lasn. and for Masako Lasn. my partner in life my teachers Kristjan Lasn. A hardcover edition of this book was published in 1999 by Eagle Brook, an imprint of William Morrow and Company, Inc. Fritz Schumacher. Marshall McLuhan. Guy Debord CULTURE IAM. Copyright © 1999 by Kalle Lasn. All rights reserved. Printed in the United
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  Culture Jam HOW TO REVERSE AMERICA'S SUICIDAL CONSUMERBINGE—AND WHY WE MUST Kalle Lasn  An Imprint of HiipaCoUinsPubliihm  A hardcover edition of this book was published in 1999 by Eagle Brook, an imprint of William Morrow and Company, Inc. CULTURE IAM . Copyright © 1999 by Kalle Lasn. All rights reserved. Printed in the United Statesof America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoeverwithout written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53rd Street,New York, NY 10022.HarperCollins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales promotional use.For information please write: Special Markets Department, HarperCollins Publishers Inc.,10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.First Quill edition published 2000.  Designed by Chris Dixon at Adbusters Media foundation and Michael Mendelsohn at MM  Design 2000, Inc. The Library of Congress has catalogued the hardcover edition as follows: Lasn, Kalle. Culture jam : the uncooling of America / Kalle I.asn. — 1st ed.p- cm.Includes bibliographical references.ISBN 0-688-15656-81. Mass media and culture. 2. Mass media—Influence. 3. Mass media and theenvironment. 4. Mass media criticism. 5. Popular culture. 6. Social movements.7. Intcrcultural communication. I. Title.P94.6.L37 1999 99-18409302.23—dc21 QpISBN 0-688-17805-7 (pbk.)03 04 05*/RRD 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 For my beloved mother. Leida Lasn.and for Masako Lasn. my partner in lifemy teachers Kristjan Lasn.Fritz Schumacher. Marshall McLuhan.Guy Debordmy friends Ron Coxhead. Bill SchmaLz.Geoff Rogers. Hideo Iso. Doug Tompkins.Tadao and Hanae Tominagaand for my mortal enemy. Philip Morris Inc..which I vow to take down  INTRODUCTION:(CULTURE]AMMI^ The book you're holding carries a message that your first instinct will beto distrust. That message is, We can change the world. It's risky these daysto make such a promise because it sounds like one of those meaningless awaken the inner giant -type bromides: If you can dream it, you can doBut it's true. We're serious. We call ourselves culture jammers.We're a loose global network of media activists who see ourselves as theadvance shock troops of the most significant social movement of thenext twenty years. Our aim is to topple existing power structures andforge major adjustments to the way we will live in the twenty-first century. /We believe culture jamming will become to our era what civilrights was to the '60s, what feminism was to the '70s, what environmental activism was to the '80s. It will alter the way we live and think. It willchange the way information flows, the way institutions wield power, theway TV stations are run, the way the food, fashion, automobile, sports,music and culture industries set their agendas. Above all, it will changethe way we interact with the mass media and the way in which meaningit, The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and so on.  xii Introduction We are a very diverse tribe. Our people range from born-againLefties to Green entrepreneurs to fundamentalist Christians whodon't like what television is doing to their kids; from punk anarchiststo communications professors to advertising executives searching fora new role in life. Many of us are longtime activists who in the midstof our best efforts suddenly felt spiritually winded. For us feminismhad run out of steam, the environmental movement no longer excited,the fire no longer burned in the belly of the Left, and youth rebellionwas looking more and more like an empty gesture inspired by Nike.We were losing.Then we had an idea. Maybe if we banged together the heads of all these activists and reconfigured the fragmented forces of identitypolitics into a new, empowered movement, we could start winning again. We weren't looking for it necessarily, but each one of us in ourown way has had a political awakening; a series of very personal moments of truth about ourselves and how the world works. Forsome, these insights have come on like powerful, secular epiphanies.Sometimes they have been triggered by things we overheard or read orstumbled upon. Sometimes they have involved things we thought weknew but now, suddenly, felt. These truths have left us shaken; it's noexaggeration to say they have changed our lives. I'd like to share withyou some of the insights that have occurred to me over the last decadeor so.  America is no longer a country. It's a multitrillion-dolktrbrand. America™ is essentially no different from McDonald's, Marlboro or GeneralMotors. It's an image sold not only to the citizens of the U.S.A., but toconsumers worldwide. The American brand is associated with catchwords such as democracy, opportunity and freedom. But like cigarettes that are sold as symbols of vitality and youthful rebellion, theAmerican reality is very different from its brand image. America™ hasbeen subverted by corporate agendas. Its elected officials bow beforecorporate power as a condition of their survival in office. A collective 'rw, to, f? ttW- Introduction xiii sense of powerlessness and disillusionment has set in. A deeply feltsense of betrayal is brewing.  American culture is no longer created by the people. Our  stories, oncepassed from one generation to the next by parents, neighbors andteachers, are now told by distant corporations with something to sell as \ >well as to tell. Brands, products, fashions, celebrities, entertainments— ~^the spectacles that surround the production of culture— are our  culture ^now. Our role is mostly to listen and watch—and then, based on what r ^we have heard and seen, to buy.  A free, authentic life is no longer possible in America™joday.We arebeing manipulated in the most insidious way. Our emotions, personalities and core values are under siege from media and cultural forces toocomplex to decode. A continuous product message has woven itself intothe very fabric of our existence. Most North Americans now livedesigner lives—sleep, eat, sit in car, work, shop, watch TV, sleep again. Idoubt there's more than a handful of free, spontaneous minutes anywhere in that cycle. Weourselyes have been braqdsd- The human spirit of «iprideful contrariness and fierce independence has been oddly tamed.We have evolved into a smile-button culture. We wear the trendiest .^vi fashions, drive the best cars industry can produce and project an image ^of incredible affluence—cool people living life to the hilt. But behindthat happy mask is a face so ugly it invariably shocks the hell out of myfriends from developing countries who come to visit, expecting thegiddy Americana depicted on TV and finding instead a horror show of disconnection and anomie. ^ Our mass media dispense _qjdnd of Huxley an soma. The most -i.powerful narcotic in the world is the promise of belonging. And belong-ing is best achieved by conforming to the prescriptions of America™. Inthis way a perverted sense of cool takes hold of the imaginations of ourchildren. And thus a heavily manipulative corporate ethos drives our £ CTt> culture. Cool is indispensable—and readily, endlessly dispensed. You ^can get it on every corner (for the right price), though it's highly addic- .\ tive and its effects are short-lived. If you're here for cool today, you'llalmost certainly be back for more tomorrow.
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