Uncooling of Corporate
New Global Boycott Targets Corporate Chic
By Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice 7/24/03
I missed the fourth of July this year. I don’t mean to say that I missed the fireworks. Or that I missed a cacophony of baton twirling tarts and an American Legion band. I didn’t miss an event or a celebration. I missed the day itself.
I wasn’t aware that the fourth had passed until some time
on the fifth when I made an earnest effort to study a calendar, figure out the
date and make plans to eventually snake my way up to
Meanwhile back in
“July 4th – Because my country has sold its soul to corporate power. Because consumerism has become our national religion. Because we’ve forgotten the true meaning of freedom. And because patriotism now means agreeing with the president. I pledge to do my duty … and to take my country back.”
The black spot had made its way to the heart of the
American corporate media and I missed it. I
knew it was coming. It crept its way
over here last spring, immediately after the Bush administration launched its
illegal invasion of
While the American corporate media, often with myriad connections to the arms industry, the oil industry and the Republican Party, extolled the supposed virtues of Bush’s attack, most of the world looked on in horror. To them, the globe’s sole superpower was acting out as a rouge state.
Coca Cola Cool
That’s when it began.
Spontaneously, people the world over started rethinking their
relationship with corporate
The London-based “Boycott
Kono Matsu, writing for the Canadian-based Adbusters
magazine, cites Mahatma Gandhi’s successful call to the people of
“We would have to adjust our lifestyle in sometimes painful ways; learn to live without foods and drinks we’ve loved since we were kids; find local alternative to brands we consume every day without thought; shut out corporations that we’ve dealt with for years. We have to politicize every purchase we make, constantly look for opportunities and take them, because our target is a power that surrounds us all the time. They call it American cool.”
Multinational corporations no longer produce products. They are now solely in the image business. Nike produces nothing. Their primary goal now is to maintain the swoosh as an archetypical symbol of cool – in essence, the branding of the entire concept of sports. They contract production out to third world sweatshops, dancing across the globe in search of the worst working conditions, which translates into the lowest wages and costs. Their products pop forth out of the same hellhole factories as their competitors’ products, except the Nike goods are swooshed with the coolest of logos.
Modern corporations have shed the precarious weight of factories and the liabilities associated with maintaining labor forces. Instead they’ve invested their energy in brand image development. They no longer build factories. Today they build advertising campaigns. Their capitol is not tied up in rusting machinery or weathered buildings. It’s tied up in images. They fire employees while cultivating consumers. It’s clearly unsustainable, but right now it’s the only model out there – driving down living conditions around the world. And it’s supported by consumers who have allowed their very bodies to be branded – emblazoned with names like “GAP” and “Abocrombie” ostentatiously printed across their chests and butts. The brand label, once a small mark to indicate who made the product, is now the product itself. Garments are mere vessels to carry the value-enhancing marks.
Coke and Pepsi typify the most successful of all the
branders. Their assets rest on the
sacred WTO protected synthesis of image and license.
Currently there is no place I know of on earth where at least one of
these logos isn’t present. The
formula is simple. Coke and Pepsi
own an image – one that ultimately represents American cool.
In nations around the world people manufacture their own Coke and Pepsi
under license, using their own water and bottles, often using their own sugar.
They then sell it to themselves, using their own distribution networks,
sending the profits off to
A black spot splattered on a Coke sign in
Culture Jamming Revolution
The black spot isn’t a revolution in the traditional sense – one that opposes a government. This revolution is about culture. It’s called “culture jamming.” It’s a fight against that culture which is poisoning us and killing our planet, leaving people anxious and depressed, overworked and mired in debt. It’s a revolution against consumer culture. It’s a movement whose revolutionaries hail from diverse backgrounds, representing conservative fundamentalist Christians, Pagan anarchist punks, Greens, union workers, liberation theologists and all sorts of folks in between.
But make no mistake about it – successful or not, this is a revolution. Adbusters sums it up like this:
“In the end, the resistance was known for one thing – they simply would not participate. Not in the 24-hour economy, the 60-hour workweek, the flag-waiving parades, the media manias, the permanent fear, the cheers for the troops. And then there was their mark, of course. It crept into daily life, until it became a constant reminder that these really were bleak times. Until one day you no longer knew who was in control… the empire that was everywhere … or the invisible revolution.”
So far Black Spot ads have run in print in the
Dr. Michael I. Niman’s previous articles are archived
online at www.mediastudy.com. For more
information about corporate branding and sweatshops in the global economy, see
Naomi Klein’s excellent book, “No Logo.” For detailed information about
globalization, see William Grider’s “One World Ready or Not.”
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