Volume 96, Issue 94
Thursday, March 27, 2003

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Kalle Lasn: the Robin Hood of mindspace

By Maciek Piekosz
Gazette Writer


There's no such thing as democracy on the airwaves. At least, that's what Kalle Lasn seems to think.

The activist and founder of Adbusters magazine claims mass media has been taken over by commercial interests aiming for nothing less than the production of profit.

"A generation ago, our culture was a genuine result of our own actions and beliefs," Lasn said, adding that our behaviour had a direct impact on what was produced by mass media.

In his book Culture Jam, Lasn states, "Every-day, an estimated 12 billion display ads, three million radio commercials and more than 200,000 TV commercials are dumped into North America's collective unconscious."

According to Lasn, what makes this assault on the public mindspace worse is the fact that 99 per cent of these advertisements are aimed at selling products.

"Our media no longer aims to make us think. Social marketing is not part of the advertising game – you are unable to sell ideas, only products," Lasn explained.

After experiencing these difficulties, Lasn founded the Adbusters Media Foundation in an attempt to promote ideas that are not part of the mainstream to "put culture back into its grassroots."

Adbusters Media Foundation has promoted things such as Buy Nothing Day through television advertisements they call "uncommercials." However, Lasn's goals have not been met without resistance. He is adamant that there is no such thing as democracy in advertising.

"I have attempted to buy air time in nearly every democratic, affluent country, but have been unable to. Phone CBC and try and buy air time – they won't sell you any," Lasn said.

Through these uncommercials, ad campaigns, and Adbusters magazine, the media foundation hopes to give epiphanies to those people caught up in a "media trance."

"I like to use billboard liberation, mind bombs and other culture jammer techniques to jolt people out of that trance," Lasn explained.

Lasn is fighting against what he describes as "mental pollution," where a person's mind becomes so saturated with unnecessary information that it becomes increasingly more difficult to focus on personal feelings without the intrusion of an unwanted thought.

"Mental pollution contributes to the development of mood disorders by creating stress and can result in feelings of inadequacy and profound anxiety," Lasn said. People begin to see their normal lives as inadequate because the "perfect" person on television is somehow a superior being to be emulated.

Adbusters does not try to promote any product but rather puts forward ideas. "People are used to seeing advertisements on a constant basis – they are in a jaded state," Lasn explained. "What Adbusters attempts to do is make people do a double take by giving them something they don't see on a daily basis."

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