Book Review > Lasn, Culture Jam, 1999, Quill

Culture JamI’ve had my eye on this week’s book for years, Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam. In addition to writing Culture Jam, Lasn’s founded Adbusters and the Media Foundation behind “culture jamming” evangelical efforts.

Culture Jam is a harsh poke and a rude whisper that something is very wrong in our society. Mass media and consumer driven lifestyle has unapologetically snatched our individual spark and creative nature, our very freedom. Instead, we are tricked to buying a collective conscious, sold at a high price no less, to obtain acceptance and approval from others around us who have fallen into the same trap.

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I was struck with creativity of the organization of the books contents, which fit into the four seasons of the year. Not only an interesting way to label four chapters, but a telling diagnosis about where each essay fits into the larger movement’s timeline:

Fall: taking stock of American “mental environment.
Winter: going deeper into the roots of the problem.
Spring: hope in launching revolution for a new America.
Summer: painting a picture of what could be.

The freshness of the message is disturbing and contagious. They point to something that’s really happening. We need to sit up and pay attention.

I’ve been following Adbusters since I first noticed its ominous and prophetic presence on newsstands. While in undergrad with a design sensitive eye, I eventually subscribed, intrigued by the creativity and Carson-esque design.


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I was amazed at the stories of people literally throwing their TV’s out their windows, and cutting labels off their clothes. I proudly promoted Buy Nothing Day and TV Turn Off Week, eagerly read the informative articles, showed off the pictures of the Nike swooshed carved into someone’s skin, and shook my head at the droves that headed to the mall instead of out for a day hike.

While Culture Jam and Adbusters are on the cutting edge of critiquing and satirizing our existence to show us the water we’re swimming in, that’s where they stop for me.

I eventually let the subscription drop because, well … I got tired. I didn’t want to be even more depressed about my world when I was done reading than when I started. I lost hope when my roommates ripped off the “TV turn off week” flier I’d taped over the TV, even after we’d talked about trying to not watch that week.

I felt these feelings come rushing back with Culture Jam. While we desperately need the mirror Lasn holds up to see ourselves for what we are, I put the book down defeated. Are there any other viable options besides defacing someone else’s property and reaching out and rudely poking those around me? I’d like to think more frustration for sake of agitation isn’t the answer – we’re already frustrated enough … right?

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