Culture jamming, as defined in the text The Empire of Mind, by Michael Strangelove, can be described as “encompassing a large range of tactics across all mediums, (video, pirate radio, digital photography, billboards, websites, songs) is usually appropriative in that it uses corporate intellectual property without permission… it’s goal is to challenge or destroy all forms of intellectual property.” In other words, culture jamming is the act of defying and destroying public adverts.
Adbusters is the flagship representation of current culture jamming- an interesting term I learned of only earlier this week during my New Media class. I had always known the concept itself existed, as I have picked up a few copies of Adbusters in the past, but I did not know there was a name for this act of challenging and parodying corporate ads.
According to Strangelove’s text, the term itself was coined in 1984 by the audio-collage band Negitivland, with the phenomenon itself having roots early into the 20th century.
Interestingly, before the well-known Adbusters, there was Ballyhoo, which “reflected the reader’s disgust with advertising and high pressure sales tactics.” Ballyhoo originated in the early 1900’s, with great popularity during the 1930’s. Funny- that for an entire century, society has expressed disgust in the often-brute tactics of corporate advertising…and yet it still continues today.
A Sucker is Born Every Minute
With the ever-expanding Internet, culture jamming has become more prevalent and more accessible than ever before. Simply typing in the term “culture jamming” itself into the Google search engine, I am inundated with thousands of parodies, and manipulated advertisements.
We are torn between the corporate world of capitalism and the anti-establishment world of culture jammers.
Strangelove’s text, quotes Kalle Lasn (founder of Adbusters), who stated, “the next revolution will be, as media guru Marshall McLuhan predicted, ‘a guerrilla information war.’ It will be fought in the streets, with signs, slogans, banners and graffiti, but it will be won in newspapers, on the radio, on TV and in cyberspace…” It appears this war has already begun, we as society are force-fed thousands upon thousands of ads and propaganda telling us what to do, as well as what not to do. Everywhere we are exposed to ads- and it is often those ads supplied by mass-corporations that we are expected to follow.
Culture jamming serves as a great way to get the skinny on what we are not being told; an exposé on the dirty side of advertising. But shouldn’t telling the other side of the story be embraced and praised- why is culture jamming seen as such a bad thing, and in some cases illegal? Shouldn’t we as society be exposed to all aspects of the issues, be them in advertisements, or politics, or religion?
Culture jammers go forth. Spread your words.
Adbusters: Just Douche It