Attila the Pun
Monday, July 11, 2005

Here is a wonderful collection of idiocy. It appears that the canadian "anti-globalisation media organisation" Adbusters, has gotten into the sneaker business.

Their logic is hilarious. Apparently Converse were okay with the kids, because, like Kurt Cobain totally wore them. But then Converse got bought by Nike (boo-hiss) so when your Converse got worn out, you couldn't buy new ones in good conscience anymore.

The solution? Adbusters will totally rip off Converse's intellectual property and make fake Chuck Taylor All Stars. Its okay though - they will use "organic hemp and biodegradable rubber" (don't leave your new sneakers in the sun kids!) as well as "ethical labour".

Amusingly for an "anti-globalisation" organisation, the search for an "ethical factory" took them to China, North Korea (supporting communist dictators - well done!) and Indonesia, before settling on Portugal. Sounds a bit globalised to me...

Apparently setting up a brand isn't setting up a brand though - by ripping off someone else's intellectual property you are making an "anti-brand"

Designed by John Fluevog, the "unswoosher" encourages you to "rethink the Cool". It has white handpainted circles, resembling a smudged-out swoosh - the Nike tick insignia - on the side, a black spot stamped on the sole and a small red dot on each toe, symbolising kicking Phil Knight's backside. "We are not just selling sneakers, but we are somehow slagging (Nike's) swoosh, letting millions of people around the world know that Nike is not cool any more," says Mr Lasn.

Wow, thanks for letting me know that Mr Lasn. Aren't you supposed to be opposed to corporations telling kids what to think?

And please tell me that this paragraph doesn't sound like it comes from an Adbusters press release?:

Adbusters has been criticising consumer culture and companies such as Nike, McDonald's and Philip Morris for more than 15 years through its eponymous bi-monthly magazine, which turns the tactics of glossy advertising against itself. It has been successful in encouraging people all over the world to participate in Buy Nothing Day and TV Turnoff Week, and launched Unbrand America campaigns.

Of course helping out alleged sweatshop workers isn't what its all about:

The organisation has pushed the anti-sweatshop line to promote the Blackspot sneaker, but Mr Lasn admits it wasn't his main motivation.

What he really opposes is the pseudo culture and empowerment that Nike, typical of many companies, delivers with its products. It "is ramming it down the throats of teenagers who don't know any better, by basically buying off celebrities to create (its) bogus cool," Mr Lasn says.

That wasn't put in quotes - the journalist is saying that Nike (and many other companies) deliver pseudo culture and empowerment. Was he pulling bongs with Mr Lasn before he wrote this?

But the real fun starts when you run the idea past other members of the loony left:

But not everyone is excited about Adbusters' new commercial project. Luther Blisset, a Melbourne-based writer for activist media website Indymedia, is sceptical about any long-term benefits of the Blackspot sneaker because it bears too many contradictions.

Not to mention no appeal or design skill outside ripping off a recognised classic.

"Corporations exist to make money," he says. "They can be as ethical as they want to up to a certain point where the actual profitability or viability of the project becomes a problem. These social relations that capitalism produces, you can't escape them just by adding an ethical tag to your product. They have to continually expand if they can survive, so they have to conform to the capitalist logic."

Well done to Luther for realising the purpose of corporations, too bad he seems to consider it automatically a bad thing. After all, who would want Adbusters to sell more shoes, thus providing more income for hemp producers, biodegradable rubber manufacturers and Portugese shoe makers? Companies are bad don'tcha know?

Simon Wood, editor of Melbourne-based biannual magazine Sneaker Freaker, owns more than 100 pairs of sneakers, mostly Nike. He likes the idea of Blackspot and the way its been marketed, but not the design. "If you ask anyone that likes shoes, they find that ultimately the product is really boring. It's not a good product," he says. "It's a shame they didn't think up their own design. They haven't spent any money on researching or anything."

Ignoring the credibility of a man who owns 100 pairs of shoes, he makes an excellent point - the shoes are an ugly rip off. Some people may have the money to buy these to make a statement, but most people will buy the original, or if they are looking for ugly rip-offs, buy a pair for $20 at the local market.

Mr Lasn considers himself a pioneer of a new, more effective phase of anti-globalisation activism. "A lot of activists and lefties agree with us, that we have to start being more effective and thinking outside the lefty box," he says. "Instead of whining about other peoples brands, why don't we launch our own anti-logo and demolish other brands, and instead of talking forever about killing capitalism, which isn't going to happen any time soon - it may never happen - why not create a more grassroots kind of capitalism that will improve people's lives?"

Instead of whining about brands, they are going to launch an "anti-logo" - isn't that pretty much a brand? Isn't selling it as an alternative to Nike, and stressing its ethical credentials what those of us in the real world like to call product differentiation or even *gasp* marketing?

Adbusters is now seeking to apply its grassroots capitalism model to other industries, namely hospitality and music.

I am looking forward to them breaking down the globalised model of music distribution that has led to bongo and tambourine music being controlled by a select few "suits".

"When you walk into McDonalds, your french fries may have come from 200 miles away," Mr Lasn says. "When you walk into a Blackspot restaurant, you know that every morsel of food that you put into your mouth comes from within 50 miles of where you are.

bwhahahaahah - where to start? Okay, by the same token, shouldn't my sneakers also come from 50 miles away, rather then Portugal? And music - does it have to be recorded by someone in my neighbourhood.

This is the childish contradiction that I have always struggled with in relation to "anti-globalisation" "activists". What the hell is globalisation? Is the internet not the most powerful engine of globalisation ever developed? Are they not massive users, and even advocates of its ability to connect people across geographical and cultural boundaries?

When they wanted to make some knock-off sneakers, they went to a foreign country to take advantage of its cheaper labour. When they wanted to sell them, they use a network of people around the globe to do so. But when they want a hamburger and fries, they want it to have been grown locally.

A bit of internal logic (and more frequent showers) is all I ask people.

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