Attack the machinery of permitted consumption
Advertising Shits in Your Head: Strategies for Resistance
London: Dog Section Press, 2017; 122pp: ISBN 9780993543517
Subvertising: The Piracy of Outdoor Advertising
London: Dog Section Press, 2017; npp: ISBN 9780993543524
In 2003, in a small town bordering West Yorkshire, I sat in the back of a police car next to my accomplice. He was shouting at the officers who had caught us: 'Class traitors, you're the criminals here, arresting us while people are being bombed in Iraq!' Rather than join in, I was desperately trying to remember the lyrics to 'The Arrest' by Conflict, which contained advice on the right to remain silent. James, who I'd met through the Anarchist Youth Network and with whom I shared a love of punk, obviously couldn't remember the lyrics either. Two hours earlier we'd set out with a rucksack full of spray paint to spread the anti-war message, but had ended up targeting anything corporate or that we felt represented authority. As I was spraying 'fuck the police' on the local police station, a car with flashing lights pulled up. 'This is so unlucky', I remember thinking, as we made an escape attempt. The car seemed to know exactly which backstreet we would run down, and promptly drove to the end of it to greet us. In the back seat I was glad the police seemed more focussed on making 'caught you red handed' jokes than asking why we'd just vandalised their station. Though, if I'd had the chance to read these two books, Advertising Shits in Your Head: Strategies for Resistance and Subvertising: The Piracy of Outdoor Advertising, I might have been able to add to James's rant, with a dose of my own propaganda.
Advertising Shits in Your Head begins with an essay introducing the reader to the history of advertising. It points to the work of Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, often considered the founder of the modern public relations industry, to make the argument that propaganda, PR and advertising are all part of the same mechanism; one that is intent on promoting endless consumption and passivity over active political participation. The author is explicit in stating that subvertising is inherently anti-capitalist because it challenges consumerism and conformity, but acknowledges that advertising is not inherently evil in itself. The problem, it seems, is that through the twenty-first century advertising has become too adept at promoting a system which is responsible for 'economic...