Adbusters is a Canadian magazine that calls itself the Journal of the Mental Environment. I have featured articles and things from it in Ugly Duckling because I think it’s pretty cool. While its focus is mostly US- and Canadian-based, it has stories from around the world and its focus on the dominance and power of large corporations can be applied equally to Australia and other countries. It’s expensive (I pay AU$12.50!!!!) but it does not have advertising which means it can publish lots of criticisms about the influence of advertising over editorial control in a lot of the media.

Some of the topics/issues covered by Adbusters are:

Public space: Who owns it?; commercialism of it (more and more advertising everywhere – what affect is this having on us?); American suburbs; Reclaiming urban space.
Concentration of media ownership
Commercial influence on media
Politicians controlling/owning television channels
People’s dependence on television
Protests of various kinds.
How out-of-touch with the environment we are – We recognise hundreds of brands but hardly any plants.
How our way-of-life (constantly consuming) affects the environment.
The power of corporations: What they get away with; Their rights and privileges in the US
How doctors are influenced by pharmaceutical companies.
Politics in America and the effects of the two-party system.

Adbusters looks at not only what consumerism is doing to the environment but also, what it is doing to our souls (hyperindividualism is promoted, teaching us that we are, or should be the centre of the universe. All we need to do is continue acquiring goods and everything will fall into place). But what effect does this way of thinking have on our communities and our planet?

Because Adbusters is critiquing Western society, including how our communities function, it does have a tendency to glorify the past and glorify communities in less industrialized countries. I often think the ‘good old days’ were not as good as Adbusters likes to portray them. The longer articles can be quite academic which makes them hard to read for a lot of people and Adbusters is often accused (just read their letters pages) of being too negative and focusing too much on ‘the problem’ and not the solution but I think there are too many people out there still unaware of the problem.

In true American style it is often really right wing. It seems to think the revolution will be brought about through lots of individuals who realize what is wrong and start using their creative, lay-out skills for a bit of adbusting (check out their website for some great examples of adbusting and culture jamming). Plus, they love to bag the traditional left for being such failures (feminists, socialists, environmentalists, trade unionists) never mind that these people have to fight against big business, the corporate media, the religious right, the two-party political system – some of the things that Adbusters likes to point out as contributing to the world’s woes. Sometimes it seems they are too afraid to tell people to come together and fight the system – then they might sound too much like the old left who they think failed to stop the world getting so bad.

I don’t mean to be so negative. I think Adbusters is a great magazine and as long as I can afford it, I’ll probably keep buying it.


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