Culture Jamming: What Is It?

Once upon a time, the “Evils of the Establishment” were subject to rational critique by academics and revolutionaries. Most people still function under this rationalist model: “Change will come if enough people understand the problem rationally and intellectually.” Without at all dismissing the importance of rationality and intellect, I would argue that these tools are no longer themselves adequate. Specifically, in the struggle to debrief people on the poisonous symbolic system called “The Media”, the rules have been changed.

Advertising imagery has long been post- or pre-rational. Only in its infancy was promotion about informing people about the product. Now its task is to weave stories, sing songs, to portray not the product but the people who use the product. Promises, threats, training. How can a rational critique even begin to address a worldview whose fundamental issues are not TRUE/FALSE but PLEASURE/PAIN, SEXY/GEEKY, “QUALITY”/”RIP-OFF”?

“Culture Jamming” sticks where rational discourse slides off. It is, simply, the viral introduction of radical ideas. It is viral in that it uses the enemy’s own resources to replicate itself — corporate logos, marketing psychology, clean typography, “adspeak”. It is radical because — ideally — the message, once deciphered, causes damage to blind belief. Fake ads, fake newspaper articles, parodies, pastiche. The best CJ is totally unexpected, surprising, shocking in its implications.

What follows are examples of our work, ranging from more or less rational discourse to true culture jamming fun. Obviously, they are powerless here, since you already know what to expect. But imagine such things on the street, on telephone poles, in stacks of other people’s literature. (“Tract No. 6”, in its paper form, looked just like a Christian pamphlet — so much so that some people refused to take it!) These are examples. Explore them.

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