You might have noticed in Bristol’s city centre, among all the constantly changing graffiti and billboard posters, that there are small, anti-advertising, posters popping up all over town. Looking hand-written, on scrappy bits of A4 paper, there’s scrawled a simple message ordering us to discard the advertising that lies beneath them. Neatly positioned in the cultural quarter of Bristol’s Stoke’s Croft lies another poster in the same style, though it’s a little more forceful in its opinion, wandering lazily from daydreaming and disregard, to social revolution. At the bottom there’s a website.
Based in Vancouver, Adbusters is a non-profit, anti-capitalist, organisation, made up of activists, entrepreneurs, and pranksters, intent on advancing the “new socialist movement of the information age”, by “toppling existing power structures and forg[ing] a major shift in the way we live in the 21st century”. It all starts to sound a little Che Guevara, but before you angrily start setting fire to your pitch forks read on to disarmingly discover, ‘ultimately’ it’s really an ecological magazine “dedicated to examining the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment”.
On the face of it, it seems to be another anti-capitalist, left-wing, windbag, hurling diarrhoea at the internet every time there’s a price-hike at Starbucks; and for the most part, it is. However, dig a little deeper and it does become a little more thought-provoking, though it’s not quite the bastion of social change it claims to be. Among the hype and invites to carnivalesque protests are insightful articles about economics, psychology, mathematics, and useful tips on how we can actually implement small positive changes in our daily lives, rather than just needlessly burning flags and pissing on copper’s legs.
If that’s enough to wet your Socialist appetite then there is a bi-monthly magazine, which has an array of pretty pictures designed to subvert the human consciousness into waking up out of the “isolated reality of consumer comforts”, or to make you chuckle over hungover bottles of Absolut vodka. Fortunately it’s not all about billboard vandalism, there are articles about how to redress water to make it more pretty. Though their main focus is on the way the media uses advertising to promote needless consumerism, there has been some controversy about the irony in using the very media they are trying to subvert, as well as selling their brand of Blackspot trainers on their website. Well, at least they’re made out of hemp.
So, undoubtedly you’re now filled with angst and are desperate to get out there and inspire some real social changes. Look no further, Bristol is celebrating its 10th year of International Buy Nothing Day on Saturday. It’s really simple, just buy nothing for 24 hours. You don’t even have to leave your couch and you’re inspiring social revolution, just as long as you can keep your fingers away from the ‘Buy Now’ button on ebay. If however, you do decide to wander out into the streets of Bristol, armed without your wallet, then Bristol Indy Media will be in Broadmead with their free shop so you still won’t go home empty-handed. Social change, it doesn’t have to cost the earth.