Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Magazine keeps up fight against overconsumption

Canada’s ‘Adbusters’ magazine has been trying to spark campaigns to combat the hyperconsumerism of modern society since the 1990s and, despite some critiques about its consistency, it inspired Occupy Wall Street, its anti-corporate ‘uncommercials’ attract thousands of readers and it continues to battle to spread social change

By Jeff Sommer  /  NY Times News Service, New York

Out of those discussions came the idea of Occupy Wall Street.


Max Haiven, a postdoctoral fellow in art and public policy at New York University, who has studied Adbusters for years, said: “That was a fantastic initiative for them. They’ve been in global anti-consumption battles for years and Adbusters has called for many big campaigns that never really happened. This one did. In a way, they got lucky.”

“What led to Occupy Wall Street taking off was not just the iconic image of the ballerina and the bull, but a number of factors — including on-the-ground activists building an organization through many, many meetings and relationships and hard work in New York and elsewhere. Adbusters didn’t do that. Other people did it,” he added.

Lasn says he is not a community organizer and certainly not a graceful politician.

“I’ve said some things that have pissed people off,” he said.

It is not just corporations like Nike, McDonald’s and Philip Morris that have been stung by him; Israel’s policies toward Palestinians are also an Adbusters target.

For examples, a blog post in February last year titled “Friends Don’t Let Friends Violate International Law” compared Israel to a drunk friend: “For over half a century, America has been Israel’s bartender and enabler: each year dumping billions of dollars in military aid that is used to oppress Palestinians.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy organization, says the magazine’s provocative statements have occasionally contained anti-Semitic elements.

“While anti-Semitism is not part of their overarching message or mission, Adbusters makes no apologies for spreading Jewish conspiracy theories and promoting offensive analogies to the Holocaust,” Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman said. “Some people want to get attention to their cause, but unfortunately, Adbusters has found it convenient at times to play into age-old conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the government in an effort to get attention to themselves.”

In one instance, in 2004, Lasn published a list of 50 people he said were prominent US neoconservatives and influenced US policy in the Iraq war. Half of them appeared to be Jewish, he wrote, and affixed a mark next to those names.

He said that US Jews tended to vote Democratic and that many were opposed to former US president George W. Bush administration’s foreign policy and to at least some Israeli policies.

However, the “neocons seem to have a special affinity for Israel that influences their political thinking and consequently, American foreign policy in the Middle East,” he said.

In an interview, Lasn said he was “naive” in publishing that list.

“I had no idea of what the effect would be and if I could do it over again, I’d do it differently,” he said.

“I don’t have an anti-Semitic bone in my body,” he said, adding that: “When I was young, one of my dreams was to live on a kibbutz.”

He said he admired many of Israel’s founders, “who were lefties,” but says: “I must admit that lately I think Israel has been making a big mistake and I think it’s important to say it.”

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