AN OPEN LETTER TO KALLE LASN (editor of Adbusters Magazine)

Compiled by Yael Grauer

Dear Mr. Lasn, 

I just finished reading Culture Jam over the past two days, after a friend from my simplicity circle let me borrow it. Since she is "mainstream" and I am "alternative" I was surprised that it was the book she lent to me when I asked her for more information on the voluntary simplicity movement. I started your book with wonder, and even a little awe. I, too, flirted briefly with situationism as a philosophy/sociology major in college (although I have to admit that Guy Debord has stumped me more than any other philosopher I've read before or since- thank god for Vaneigm).  But I guess your book brought up a lot of questions for me. First and foremost, I want to tell you claiming that culture jamming isn't "cool" is a crock of shit.

It's funny, since your description of what is wrong with the world is the lack of connection with nature, and conversation in real time, and that your prescription for this is culture jamming (tm). While mentioned as a simple solution, the emphasis is not on talking to each other more, starting salons in living rooms, having indie punk shows in basements, writing groups and musical jam sessions in back yards, hiking clubs free to the public. The emphasis is on fucking things up.

While I agree that fucking things up is good and sometimes necessary, I know it doesn't leave me feeling as fulfilled, in the long term, as reading a book and having a discussion, inviting friends (or elders) over for organic, home-cooked dinner, or having sex in a way that is open, intimate, honest, vulnerable and not like on t.v. Culture jamming makes a good story, it is for show. But, just like

television, it isn't really REAL.

Oh yeah, speaking of t.v. I found it interesting that you spend so much time talking shit about tv, but then spend possibly more time trying to get face time on it. I know it's good to hit them where it hurts, I agree, but since I work at the front desk of a public access station, I can tell you that most public television stinks. When I first started working there, I was excited about the chance to help under-represented groups get on television. Now I know that these under-represented groups include every possible Christian denomination (they left some Bibles here yesterday, and I put them in the lost and found­­– how's that for culture jamming? or does it only count when a big corporate group is being oppressive? or is it enough to just act like one?), various assortments of hate groups, people who hate Jews, women, Muslims and many other people who I usually walk away from on the street, which is a real time way of changing the channel. Public airwaves, also, do not change the problem of unilateral media. Not everyone has the time or desire to start their own show (some of us would prefer to spend time with our craft, our loved ones or our children) and even public television has to cater to half-second attention spans. Which of this isn't obvious, you publish a magazine (which I can't afford, by the way--and I don't seem to get the "cool" aspects of it the way my rich graphic design student friends in over-priced art schools do) that doesn't feature ads.

I know someone who has this awesome bike space­– in Victoria, no less, your home turf– which reuses old bike parts, scraps old metals, serves as an art and community space, teaches homeless people bike repair, is collectively owned and is run by consensus– all the values you claim to adhere to– and they can't place an ad in your rag.  Not that they would want to. Your no-ad decision is fair enough, except that you seem to want to get YOUR ads posted

everywhere. Hell, you even charge exorbitant amounts for mass-produced banners and posters! Why shouldn't YOU be paying people to advertise your wares, as you advocate, showing the same amount of decency that Nike has, when they pay that poor kid to shave their logo in his fancy new haircut?

I was also pretty confused by your website. As a person who advocates

turning off your computer, you sure do have an extensive website with a lot of "campaigns" that seem pretty impossible to break into (unless you're a rich art student), kind of like the "activist scene" was when I first started, until I remembered I didn't care. Another element of confusion for me is the culture jamming you attribute to Christian fundamentalists. Excuse me for asking, but who the hell are you forging alliances with?

It's true that the religious right can control television, as evidenced by the American Family Association, Christian Leaders for Responsible Television, the Family Friendly Programming Forum, and other private censorship boards that make a mockery of "tv turn off week," contributing to the control of television content by advertisers (!!) through pre-screening, letting small, powerful pressure groups of "fundamentalist christian culture jammers" dictate the content and lay down moral guidelines by pulling out ads from shows that dare to question nuclear war, feature non-heterosexual couples, or dare to cover the complexity of controversial issues such as single parenting, abortion, assisted suicide, or the pill. Oppression, oppression! That kind of censorship in television, the watered-down television that results, frankly sucks more than public access does.

 Living without dead time, to me, is about more than just following your "deprogramming guidelines,"– which is a contradiction in itself, by the way. 


Yael Grauer, human being