Culture Jam: How to Reverse America's Suicidal Consumer Binge - and Why We Must

The book culture jam carries a message that your first instinct will be to distrust. That message is, We can change the world. It's risky these days to 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 do it," "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," and so on.

But it's true. We're serious. We call ourselves culture jammers. We're a loose global network of media activists who see ourselves as the advance shock troops of the most significant social movement of the next twenty years. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge major adjustments to the way we will live in the twenty-first century. We believe culture jamming will become to our era what civil rights was to the 60s, what feminism was to the 70s, what environmental activism was to the 80s. It will alter the way we live and think. It will change the way information flows, the way institutions wield power, the way TV stations are run, the way the food, fashion, automobile, sports, music and culture industries set their agendas. Above all, it will change the way we interact with the mass media and the way in which meaning is produced in our society.

Then we had an idea. Maybe if we banged together the heads of all these activists and reconfigured the fragmented forces of identity politics into a new, empowered movement, we could start winning again.

America is no longer a country. It's a multitrillion-dollar brand. America TM is essentially no different from McDonald's, Marlboro or General Motors. It's an image "sold" not only to the citizens of the U.S.A., but to consumers worldwide. The American brand is associated with catchwords such as "democracy," "opportunity" and "freedom." But like cigarettes that are sold as symbols of vitality and youthful rebellion, the American reality is very different from its brand image. America Tm has been subverted by corporate agendas. Its elected officials bow before corporate power as a condition of their survival in office. A collective sense of powerlessness and disillusionment has set in. A deeply felt sense of betrayal is brewing.


American culture is no longer created by the people. Our stories, once passed from one generation to the next by parents, neighbors and teachers, 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 we have heard and seen, to buy.


A free, authentic life is no longer possible in America TM today. We are being manipulated in the most insidious way. Our emotions, personalities and core values are under siege from media and cultural forces too complex to decode. A continuous product message has woven itself into the very fabric of our existence. Most North Americans now live designer lives - sleep, eat, sit in car, work, shop, watch TV, sleep again. I doubt there's more than a handful of free, spontaneous minutes anywhere in that cycle.

We ourselves have been branded. The human spirit of prideful contrariness and fierce independence has been oddly tamed. We have evolved into a smile-button culture. We wear the trendiest fashions, drive the best cars industry can produce and project an image of incredible affluence-cool people living life to the hilt. But behind that happy mask is a face so ugly it invariably shocks the hell out of my friends from developing countries who come to visit, expecting the giddy Americana depicted on TV and finding instead a horror show of disconnection and anomie.
 

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