We are a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society.So says the mission statement of Adbusters, the magazine most likely to be casually left on the Philippe Starck Vicieuse coffee-tables of ABC1 professionals who self-identify as members of the creative class. Members of other demographic groups are more likely to say that Adbusters and its readers are a bunch of tossers (ACNielsen data).
Evidence to support the latter viewpoint is emerging in the embers of the Chavs' Revolt. The considered response by Adbusters was to find a photograph of an oick in the edgelands and paste it above an opinion piece written by one Maria Hampton of Cambridge, "currently trying to hatch an escape plan to opt out of a frenetic modern life, but still eat." At least, she was so trying when she wrote the piece, back in 2007.
Look, it's just copy; it doesn't matter when it was written. You just drop it into InDesign, find a photo from a stock agency, make a copy for the website and you're done. You can get back to billables now. The readers' won't mind. They just need enough for the daily Two Minutes Outrage. They are busy people; they have clients too.
If they want more, they can have some Theory:
What Foucault and the Maoists were debating goes to the heart of how we imagine revolutionary change will take place. Will the revolution be an uncontrolled insurrection – whose symptoms include looting in the streets of London, for example – where the people's rage against consumerism is fully released and their judgements implicitly trusted? Or, will we fear the mob and act, more or less explicitly on the side of power and the status quo, to quell and control the released flows – grabbing a broom to keep the streets clean for the next day's ecocidal shopping?Foucault, d'accord; as interpreted by someone called Micah, someone for whom even the act of grabbing a broom is one of collaboration. I think we can safely assume that Micah has never had to push a broom in his life. Micah is also a Guardian contributor and an award-winning activist. Micah's contribution to the revolution is to coin its catchphrases: clictivism, Infoparasite, Eco-fascism, Altermodern. Micah has attended seminars with internationally renowned philosophers Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, Michael Hardt, Jacques Rancière, Avital Ronell, and Slavoj Žižek. Micah is critical of their Theory: they are hiding behind words. Micah is a bit of a prat.
He is in good company. After several years of promising the revolution in every glossy issue, Adbusters reached climax in January of this year with issue #93. Under the misleading title of Capitalism's Terminal Crisis (nothing to do with airports or railways, sadly) this issue developed a theme of revolutionary self-help and self-criticism. One Lawrence Morely asked "what would it take for you to take the plunge and get out into the streets?" Possibly less than Lawrence, who has achieved a state of inactivism:
I, as a Progressive Anarchist, want the complete overthrow of present societies, but not now, not immediately, not violently, but gradually and peacefully as ideas gradually seep through one’s mind. The intention of this revolutionary is to assault your mind and destroy your beliefs.Stick it up yer bum, Lawrence. It's not about you; it's about the Weariness of the Self: melancholia illustrated with some creepy models from Versace. Or it's about Lauren Alnwick-Pfund's dirty weekend:
Earlier today while he was showering I had similar thoughts and quickly got off through my clothes, taking cover behind a duffel bag and not bothering to close the curtains or stop when a maid walked past and glanced in the window. I finished as he did, just in time before the door opened.Note that, if you are too post-literate to read Lauren's adventure, you can listen to George Atherton reading it; the experience is quite unsettling. But what about the intellectuals?
The first two steps on that path are clearly laid out and are within the reach of every conscientious person. These are that people ruthlessly criticize the capitalist system “from top to bottom,” and that they include in this a consistent attack on the widespread belief that there can be no alternative to it. If one believes that capital is not only basically unjust but radically unsustainable as well, the prime obligation is to spread the news.Yes; tell the maid.
So, let us radically critique Adbusters. Is it a load of wank? Yes, of course, but it is very successful wank. Lauren Alnwick-Pfund is perfect for Adbusters. She doesn't care if the maid sees her getting off. The maid is not a person. The maid and her proletarian peers are not real; they exist only as part of the analysis. They are not creative; therefore they do not mattter.
What matters is producing a magazine, one which provokes in every issue the feeling that something is about to happen. Nothing does happen, of course, but in the next issue that simmer feeling will be back again. And again. It is exquisite marketing: there is always a promise - revolution - which always is about to be fulfilled. There is always an enemy - Capitalism - which always is about to fall. So the readers keep coming back for more, for more secrets, more signs of the coming anarchy.
If you are a permatemp Mac Operator in an agency, the promise of revolution is bliss. But that it could be achieved with the Adobe Creative Suite is very heaven. You might become one of the revolutionary vanguard, using your skill set to bring down Capitalism and replace it with something else, something that never is specified but probably involves Pantone swatches and a knowledge of type. And thus you might be a leader at last. And you will have your revenge on all those account executives and art directors who made you do all that degrading Illustrator work, when all along you knew that, deep down, you are an artist.