The Adbusters Media Foundation (AMF) is a not-for-profit, anti-consumerist organization founded in 1990 by author/activist Kalle Lasn and wilderness cinematographer Bill Schmalz in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Foundation describes itself as “a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age.” Further, their aim is to “topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century.” In the fall of 2011, AMF issued the following directive to its members and supporters:
“Its now time to amp up the edgy theatrics … deviant pranks, subversive performances and playful détournements of all kinds. Open your insurrectionary imagination. Anything, from a bottom-up transformation of the global economy to changing the way we eat, the way we get around, the way we live, love and communicate … be the spark that sustains a global revolution of everyday life!”
Boasting a membership of more than 91,000 as of September 2011, AMF refers to its activist supporters as “culture jammers,”—a term denoting efforts to challenge and discredit the dominant advertising messages disseminated in the mainstream media. By AMF’s reckoning, advertising invariably corrupts American culture by creating and perpetuating a societal obsession with materialism and consumption.
AMF publishes Adbusters, a not-for-profit, reader-supported, advertising-free “ecological magazine” that rejects consumerism, condemns “the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces,” and seeks to eliminate “injustices in the global economy” as well as “any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons.” Notable past and present contributors to this periodical include The Nation Institute senior fellow Christopher Hedges, polemical journalist Matt Taibbi, environmentalist Bill McKibben, science-fiction author Jim Munroe, documentarian and media-studies instructor Douglas Rushkoff, Marxist philosopher Michael Hardt, and Marxist sociologist Antonio Negri.
Among AMF’s most prominent campaigns have been the following:
* Buy Nothing Day: Typically celebrated on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. (and the following day elsewhere in the world), this initiative emphasizes that “with catastrophic climate change looming, we the rich one billion people on the planet have to consume less!” An outgrowth of this tradition is “Buy Nothing Christmas,” which urges people not to purchase Christman presents but instead “give your friends and family a ‘gift-exemption’ card; go to stores and ask holiday shoppers, “What would Jesus buy?”; and “dress as Santa and meditate in the middle of a busy shopping mall.”
* Blackspot Shoes: As an “affront to the consciousness of hyper-capitalism and profit-dominated boardroom policies,” AMF promotes and markets a line of shoes—produced in so-called “fair-trade” factories and made from hemp, recycled tires, and vegan leather—bearing the label “Blackspot.” Blackspot is an open-source brand, which means that it can be used by anyone, for any purpose, at no cost.
* Kick It Over: This initiative encourages economics students around the world “to join the fight to revamp Econ 101 curriculums and challenge the endemic myopia of their tenured neoclassical profs.” The campaign’s signature document—the “Kick it Over Manifesto”—calls for “an economic revolution” that will yield “a new economics” which is not centered around Gross Domestic Product or any other “fundamentally flawed and incomplete” measures of economic progress. “Deep in recession and with scary ecological scenarios looming,” said AMF in 2011, “now may be the ripest moment we’ll ever have to power-shift global capitalism onto a new sustainable path.”
* One Flag: This was a competition which encouraged Adbusters readers to design and create a flag that symbolized “global citizenship,” without using language or commonly known symbols.
Frequently critical of Israel, AMF and Adbusters magazine have often condemned the Jewish state for allegedly expropriating Palestinian land, instituting a discriminatory system of laws reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid regime, illegally demolishing the homes of peaceful Arabs, and routinely using excessive force and violence in an effort to humiliate and terrorize Palestinian civilians.
AMF was a key organizer—along with such groups as Anonymous, NYC General Assembly, Occupy Wall Street, Take The Square, and USDayOfRage—of a September 17, 2011 “Day of Rage” protest which was staged in the vicinity of New York’s Wall Street financial center, which AMF viewed as the very emblem of the capitalist system which it so despised—“the financial Gomorrah of America” and “the greatest corrupter of our democracy.” Seeking to build on the anti-globalization movement and striving to promote “a worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics,” AMF called for “20,000 people [to] flood into lower Manhattan [on September 17], set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.”
In its communiques to the “radicals and utopian dreamers” who were planning to participate in the September 17 demonstrations, AMF warned that: “Strategically speaking, there is a very real danger that if we naively put our cards on the table and rally around the ‘overthrow of capitalism’ or some equally outworn utopian slogan, then our Tahrir moment [i.e., opportunity for revolutionary change] will quickly fizzle into another inconsequential ultra-lefty spectacle soon forgotten.” To guard against this possibility, AMF called for “a deceptively simple Trojan Horse demand” that was “so specific and doable” that it would be “impossible for President Obama to ignore.” Thus, under the slogan “Democracy Not Corporatocracy,” AMF issued a demand for Obama to “ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
According to journalist Aaron Klein, the September 17 New York City protests—which ultimately drew about 1,000 participants—apparently represented “the culmination” of a campaign by Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN and president of an SEIU local in New Orleans, who in March 2011 had issued a call for “days of rage in ten cities around JP Morgan Chase.” Rathke’s efforts were supported by Stephen Lerner, an SEIU board member and radical-left organizer who candidly aims to “destabilize the folks that are in power and start to rebuild a movement”; “bring down the stock market”; “bring down [the] bonuses” of executives in the financial sector; and “interfere with their ability to … be rich.”
In August 2020, Adbusters posted an online message announcing its plan to lay siege to the White House for 50 consecutive days, beginning on September 17, 2020:
“It’s been nine years since we set off the political earthquake of #OccupyWallStreet, laying siege to NYC’s Zuccotti Park and inspiring thousands of similar protests around the world. The Occupy anniversary arrives September 17th, 2020. And it may be the perfect day to trigger another global big-bang moment — a massive collective action of the sweetest kind of disobedience.
“The why hardly needs recitation. Because, for these nine years, the shadows have only grown longer. Inequality has soared. Not a single Wall Street CEO spent a night in jail for his role in the 2008 financial meltdown. Politicians and corporate criminals continue to savage the public trust with impunity. And all the while, this howling void of a president, his sins too many to name, sits smugly atop a corona death-toll that may surpass two-hundred thousand Americans by Christmas.
“It’s time again for dramatic, decisive action. Which is why, on September 17th, in the original and enduring spirit of Occupy, we and tens of thousands of our fellow citizens will stream into Lafayette Square, in Washington. D.C.”
Though Adbusters did not indicate any ties to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa movements, which were key leaders of the mass protests and violent riots that had swept the U.S. during the summer of 2020, the organization said that it planned to “multiply power” by means of strategic collaboration with BLM and other radical groups — in an effort to trigger a revolution for a “new world order.”