Adbusters Media, Deconstructed

Key Points:

  • If you thought Adbusters Magazine was useful and true, here’s a retrospective of 20+ years spanning its entire catalog. A mix of deconstruction, critique and tribute to the organization’s predictive value, accuracy in analysis, and novel approach to hyping its own sphere of advertising and propaganda.
  • If you generally did not like Adbusters, and thought it consumed itself with leftist rage or hypocrisy (e.g., advocating replacement of the current system with a non-existent, dreamed-up version), or found it suffering a death of relevancy, then this article contains the autopsy.
  • Adbusters is a modern, biased orchestration of Marshall McLuhan’s prophecies and doctrines about the nature of mass communications.
  • Adbusters’ struggle for wisdom and justice rides a razor’s edge—credibility teetering on one side, pretender’s folly and potential disgrace on the other.
  • Toronto’s anti-capitalist commune of ideology, drilled into your head repetitively, supports Adbusters’ search for its own drones and soldiers.
  • Absorbing world news you never wanted to hear about, but probably ought to pay attention to anyway.
  • Who authorizes a self-proclaimed, abrasive, conceptually moral faction to tell us what to think and what is weak, cruel, selfish and capable of the greatest horrors in society? And does that faction, in turn, lie to itself through a virtuous delusion?
  • When the political process fails to perform as they would like, activists and impractical idealists become disillusioned and embittered.
  • In times of crisis, there will be much uncertainty and herd behavior.

What was Adbusters?

A global hive-mind and agent provocateur focused on changing perceived flaws in Western consumer culture, economics, politics, art and design. Adbusters Magazine was a meta-critic and a consortium of thought. Influenced by the likes of Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Jones and Utne Reader, up sprung a dark and thorny sapling that stoked controversial branch movements. Adbusters promptly outgrew its namesake as it went on to establish a virtue-signaling media foundation. It scribbled mental graffiti on Vice Media’s blueprint, and broadcasted itself as a cultural revolution-based business to defeat other, mainstream businesses. It marketed a form of watch-doggery and wanted to sell you a new “happening.” In the world of ideas, Adbusters provoked a hornet’s nest of post-modern contemplation, but also spent considerable effort to fight back the undeclared bankruptcy of its primary goals. It was a carnival of resistance. They called themselves a catalyst, the pie in your face that broke your composure, and proclaimed itself “one of the most significant social movements in the next 20 years”—20 years ago. They were frustrated yet unfazed by the rude fact that most of their fundamental gripes have persisted unabated and solution-free since the 1990s. The latest edition still yearns to witness a revolution come thrashing out of the deep woods with each generational shift, but has now pushed the forecast to 2028 or 2038, or as long as it takes to dismantle the status quo it despises. Adbusters from cover to cover shocks us with an unsteady examination of facts, half-truths and soft control fantasies, which doesn’t settle well with a large swath of the citizenry. So, naturally, a few things have yet to gain liftoff, but the staff stays woke and clever in the style of Don Quixote.

Occasionally brilliant and irrational in the same breath, Adbusters offered a hodgepodge of confrontation, boycotting, primal-screaming in the pouring rain and pining anxiously for a grand collapse. When you see Adbusters on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, you’re looking at the ghost of good intentions. From within that paradigm and pretense, it believes a phoenix might gallantly rise.

After 20 years, has Adbusters’ “business” as a font of progressive ire received any tangible dividends in the realm? Or has it settled on a cut-rate liquidation of ideas stretched across a multi-decade fool’s errand? How many ways are there to tactically run dreamy neo-Marxism up against American civil liberties, and western institutions? They’ll find out for you and report back. If they built a nation based on their central theme of “culture jamming” would they, themselves, be culture-jammed inside their own future utopia, having espoused it from the beginning? Once they became the establishment, and exercise their will to oppress, where do the original teachings to undermine and rethink go? And we’re supposed to let them take their turn as the “new overlord,” rule over us, and choose the limit of how far civilization’s allowed to reason beyond the rigidity of their own strict resistance? Adbusters strains to emerge as it triangulates a massive load of ideologue friction, static and cognitive dissonance.

The Primary Goals of Adbusters Media

  • Topple existing power structures, then forge a new way of thinking in the 21st century. If it all burns down, then we shall rule over the ruins.
  • Permanently alter mass media, the way information flows, the way institutions wield power, university curricula, and the agendas of art, fashion, food, sports, music and most other cultural industries.
  • Be critical and suspicious of the “manufacture of desire.”
  • Feel endless fear as you stare into the moral abyss of your consumer habits.
  • Kill the stock market to empower the powerless.
  • Allow neo-luddites, malcontents, punks, ecofeminists, reborn lefties, incorrigible rabble-rousers and shit-disturbers to breed more, swarm and choke the system from the top, then magically “run” everything off the tabula rasa.
  • Fight back against the assimilating ad machine, because making advertising into the main business model for human communications and collaboration—precisely as Google and others have done—creeps most people out. It’s like being stuck on the subway when someone farts: you just try to ignore it, but it’s making you gag.
  • Kill all big brands, but create our own brand based on a new world order referendum.
  • All-out Meme Warfare. Control the memes and preach: Curb your consumption! TV Turnoff Week! Discover by disconnecting. Put your greedy little hands down for a minute! Slaughter criminal corporations!! Makes these things uncool so it all collapses!!! Systemic divestiture as a moment of truth—that’s the central icon and precious pith of Adbusters.
  • The philosophy of Buy Nothing Day, every November, on Black Friday. Core purpose: Honor and integrity versus shallow travesty.
  • Invent new forms of savagery to replace the existing savagery. Endlessly vindicate yourself while riding the spinning hamster wheel of rationalization, forever. A.k.a., pushing huge rocks up a hill.
  • Continually insist that the current world humankind has built is an error, one that must be turned to ashes and rebuilt.
  • Change democracy into a liberal dictatorship. Adbusters is chaotic milieu with no obviously good references but a lot of implicit obligations and prohibitions. In a word, anarcho-tyranny.

Mining Ore from the Cliffs of Reason: Best Bits & Predictive Glory

Let’s set this section off with Adbusters’ greatest call ever, which it released in collaboration with Gerald Celente and his Trends Research Institute. In 2007, they described how the Global Financial Crisis—the harshest economic implosion since the Great Depression—would unfold, with near-perfect accuracy. Paradoxically, they could have made millions by short-trading corporate equities if the persuasion arose to “unscrupulously” act upon the financial advice interlaced in their analyses. If only they’d followed their dour report into the stock market. Here’s a quick take:

“In 2008, Americans (and the rest of the world) will wake up to the worst economic times that anyone alive has ever seen. And they won’t know what hit them. Just as they were in a state of shock on 9/11, they’ll be frozen in fear when the economic 9/11 strikes at the heart of Wall Street.”

Several months later, boom, it happened. As fortunes were wiped out in the economic casino, Adbusters had just hit the predictive jackpot and found a way to effectively cleanse the mental palette: prognosticate from some place of knowing that others have yet to discover, take a risk to deliver an unpopular message, and wait for a lottery hit while continuing to tally a litany of other gripes across a full spectrum of the world’s woes and hopeless causes. Voila…maple syrup coaxed from a forest full of dry taps.

This was not a financial study that would be exploited for monetary gain, but leveraged as validation of a germinating neoclassical platform that promised to deliver ecological economics and true-cost accounting. These policies served a larger aim as Adbusters proposed a post-Keynesian explanation that is most applicable to a closed economy. This tied back to the theory that financial fragility is a typical feature of any capitalist economy. High fragility leads to a higher risk of a financial crisis. Adbusters wanted to redefine the three core approaches to financing firms may choose, according to their tolerance of risk. They are hedge finance, speculative finance, and Ponzi finance. Ponzi finance leads to the most fragility.

Alas, in the stream of its studied, academic brilliance, Adbusters often veered into sediment-clogged streams of navel-gazing, radicalized sorrow. Their abiding platitude: “Things are falling apart, species are dying, the air stinks, water is scarce, the climate is lurching out of control; winter is upon us.” They’re saying you will reap the suicidal whirlwind when you calculate the price after catastrophe or dysfunction has taken hold. Blame your government. In so doing, Adbusters rewards itself as “good” and penalizes the “bad.” Sometimes the magazine’s pages dissolve into a Hollywood-level rant, yelling loudly at passing clouds to break spells of silence and ennui.

Adbusters, serving tirelessly as one of however-many renegades of the True Cost Revolution, demands the following principles as upgrades to the capitalist system (else scrape it away and start over):

  • No corporate largesse
  • No venture capitalists
  • Internalize the costs of trade
  • Monitor social entrepreneurs for corporate Trojan horses
  • Green taxes
  • Every product tells the ecological truth, and exacts a lifetime cost for the entire cohort of external factors that keep it in your hands

The overriding argument is that full-cost pricing is a way to redesign our global economy’s basic incentives in a relatively uncharged political atmosphere. Adbusters says conservatives would like it because it is a logical extension of their free market philosophy; that’s a stretch. Progressives like it because, cottoning to their aims, it involves a radical restructuring of the status quo—which they call dysfunctional and obsolete. Governments might like it because it gives them a vital new function to fulfill: that of calculating the true costs of products and managing our bio-economic affairs for the long term. And environmentalists already like it because they believe it may be the only way to achieve sustainability in our lifetimes.

So what is holding us back from this noble destination? Adbusters‘ elusive map might show the way.

And who’s the firestarter running the Adbusters organization? A totemic man who’s excited to draw up a hypothetical bill of rights for our future generations.

[ Adbusters ethos: “Obama. Trump. Same difference, like choosing Coke or Pepsi.” ]

Hidden in Earth’s footnotes is a nerve-wracking realization that the whole of human history has led us to this imperfect moment. Such heavy thought commands an astute editor-in-chief to crank out an endless bi-monthly stream of magazines, 100+ well-designed pages each, because the staff at Adbusters is a lot like us—they have some grocery bags to fill and laundry on Tuesday. They have kids who want to breathe air that smells sweet, drink water that runs pure and free, swim in places teeming with life, and grow food in rich, living earth. They wouldn’t actually want to live in the naked jungle of anarchy and off-grid hell, but on paper Kalle Lasn—the founder of Adbusters—says a psycho-social apocalypse is brewing. He beseeches the people of today to not leave their dirty messes for others to clean up; do not take technological risks, however small, that may backfire catastrophically in times to come. He thinks your grandchildren have a right to inherit a world unsullied by toxic chemicals, nuclear missiles and waste, or genetic pollution. From an ivory tower in Toronto, Lasn daydreams about walking in untamed nature, feeling the awe that comes when we suddenly lock eyes with a wild beast. He believes this is the key that will prevent depletion, preserve the ecological wealth, in hopes that the human spirit will live forever.

He curses anyone who ignores his plea.

As a perpetually-evolving dissident dog whistle, Adbusters also subtly recognized that its mission may have been Quixotic, exotic and foredoomed. Self-aware, it knew how to see the madness in itself from every intellectual angle. In order to survive years of ideological stalemate in a world gone wrong, Adbusters dutifully swallows its own hypocrisy if it serves to alight a generational metamorphosis. Anyone seeking to shift the lode stone of the Overton Window would require such patience, would have to be able to laugh at its failures and take masochistic pleasure in long-arc delayed gratification that may never arrive.

Adbusters Media flogs about through weedy interpretations of Vaclav Havel and knows you cannot achieve 100% control over humans and, if you could, you could not go on doing so. It is—fortunately—too much responsibility for any human to assume, not that it keeps control freaks from continuing to try. Adbusters attempts to distance itself from their ilk, only to back itself into a hall of recursive mirrors in the process. Inevitably, the flaws of a nation tie back to our own flaws, where the blame game turns into petty self-abuse.

Bottom line: What is this group selling in the world of ideas? There are layered interpretations and synergistic tiers within Adbusters’ analyses. If you take every copy of Adbusters since inception to present day, read them front to back and back to front again, you’ll see the following leitmotifs and conveyances surfacing in the cult of Adbusters:

  • As a “journal of the mental environment,” detoxify the mental environment. Discourage affluence, tying back to Affluenza.
  • Inspire and take care of all the rejects and failures. Show them their birthright to dissent. Show them what systematically distorted information looks like. Someone has to do it.
  • The psychological essence of “cool” is self-invention, coupled with a hyper-acute awareness of such self-invention in other people. It amounts to the creation of a calm psychic mask to hide inner disturbance.
  • Take a gondola to the next peak and “rethink the cool.”
  • Perfectionism is a malignant force in our society.
  • Let us stare into the abyss together. This is life at the end of empire, my friend. We are your one-stop shop for the culture jam. We have all the tools you need for a revolution. The only thing missing is a perceptual shift—a tantalizing glimpse of a new way of being—that suddenly brings everything into focus.
  • We grew up too comfortable to take risks.
  • Freedom can’t be given. It has to be taken. Top dogs never cede their power and privilege without a fight. And yet—please don’t start World War III.
  • People enjoy the experience of buying more than having the product, because the moment of buying is one of enthusiastic fantasy and escape.
  • We are guilty of turning away from the natural world.
  • Revealed is the pathology of a diseased planet. Mother Earth is in poor health. Plagued by a scourge of human development, her atmosphere is wheezing, her forests suffocating, her rivers congested, her oceans malnourished, and her soil cracked and drying. Alive for now, but the condition is critical.
  • GDP is not the true measure of an economy. As environmental destruction and the super-sized footprint of the affluent West threaten to send the global economy into a tailspin, most economist sit in their offices fiddling with abstract theories and flawed rationalizations—enamored with money, and ignorant of the Earth’s fate. It’s time to change the risk models, because they have no idea how to measure real economic progress. They disregard critical negative feedback like dying reefs and vast oceanic dead zones, rather than seeing these “externalities” as evidence that something is wrong with their underlying model. They have an almost religious belief in self-regulating markets, yet the prices of products in these markets tell us nothing of their ecological costs. This means that just about every sale, purchase and transaction in the global marketplace pushes us ever deeper into an ecological dead end. Avast, ye! There be the blackest dragons of a long-simmering disillusionment with neoclassical economics. It began with Robert Kennedy’s critique of the GDP in 1968, and has been coming to a head ever since. In 2018, students in economics departments everywhere are bristling against a creaky standard that doesn’t connect with the facts on the ground. This sews the seeds for a new breed of ecological economist, and things are just starting to get uncomfortable at the Davos summit, and at the American Economics Association conference.
  • The production of false images is a requirement of capitalism.
  • Democrats. Republicans. “Same fucking difference.”
  • The world is under a great siege of hegemonic control in intellectual, political and social thinking.
  • See the absurdity. Demand less. Change the station. Rearrange your neurons. Smell the pollution. Tame your ego. Feel guilt. Decrease intake.

[ Adbusters graphic design = zero love for Zuckbook ]

Worst Bits & Failures: When a Cause Runs out of Ideas

In no particular order, a partial list of Adbusters’ captivating vagueness and ineptitude:

  • Violence is OK. Is violence OK? These guys can never make their minds up. Adbusters has a nasty habit of jumping on its own dissonant grenade after the pin has been pulled. I think this is because Adbusters is beholden to provide succor to Antifa, Anonymous and other far-left offshoots. Kalle Lasn gets sloppy when his passions get the best of him.
  • A million ways to roll snake-eyes on hyperbole: The entire media foundation possesses a skewed, egotistical, anthropocentric sense of itself by assuming “now” is the lynchpin of all time (as quoted from 1999, but repeated in perpetuity): “People of the next century will gaze back in ghastly awe upon our time… a time of waste and abandon on a scale so vast it knocked the human enterprise out of whack for a thousand years.”
  • To Adbusters, every new technology is the fourth horseman of the apocalypse, artificial intelligence (AI) in particular. The sky is falling, so Kalle Lasn says stop being in a good mood when using your smart phone. After AI comes artificial consciousness—and machines or systems that think and ultimately act for themselves. How long until our priorities are no longer the priorities of our sentient creations? To understand the ugly possibilities of a dawning era of superior artificial species, Adbusters says you only need to do the following: look at the way humans treat animals. All decent points, until one’s mental clarity is cannibalized by paranoia and obsession.
  • Adbusters is hung up on mea culpas and fault-line apologetics, hammering points home with a melodramatically-guilty conscience and—in terms of future race relations—the idea that somehow “brown is or should be the new white.” Destroy all traces of Caucasian / European conquest and replace history with our own formula, even if it equates to a genocidal self-defeat of the staff’s own bloodline. It deigns that the underclass should proliferate and take command—not merely assimilate—while everyone else who helped build this “insufferable” first-world modernity should consider seppuku or a trip to the gulag. Most reasonable adults—of all political stripes—say this extremist bent is nonsense and cultish Kool-Aid drinking. Adbusters abandoned the idea of even trying to get along, allowing a gaping longitudinal fissure of credibility to open up. But hey, we knew they’d go there…they promised they would go all-out to forge uncomfortable reflections around the fact that many of us simply do not play well together under all these new rules.
  • The Adbusters form of leftism feeds on a gloomy sacrifice: it always needs to cast someone into the dreaded role of the “oppressor” or adversary of “progress” to exist. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as orthodox Marxism, it turned the plant workers against everyone else and created the concept of Siberian exile. When that clearly failed, leftism was re-created as the minorities’ position of power.

Top Quotes / 1998–2018

  • “Our lives are now mediated through the aesthetics of consumerism, through images so commanding that we imitate their inanimacy and deadness.” Daniel Harris
  • “The form of economic organization we refer to as capitalism ceased long ago to be simply that. It has now become a means for organizing the consciousness necessary for that economic system to flourish.” Andrew Howard
  • “Before economics can progress, it must abandon its suicidal formalism.” –Robert Heilbroner
  • “For people who want their straight lines to be straight, life itself is the problem.” N. Ilyin
  • “We have to be a mortal threat to the existing world order.” George Monbiot
  • “War, in the end, is always about betrayal—betrayal of the young by the old, of soldiers by politicians, and of idealists by cynics.” Anon

Adbusters as an X-Ray on the “Century of the Self”

Flaws aside, Adbusters did an excellent job of dismantling the counterculture and “hipsterdom” in its multivariate forms. It recognized the archetype of the useless American hipster as the absolute dead end of Western civilization. You’ll first have to admit that we’ve reached a point where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality, leaving a generation pointlessly obsessing over fashion, hollow virtue-signaling as a form of narcissism, and disrespect for most forms of authority. It promotes faux individuality, cultural capital and the commodities of style. Adbusters does a dazzling social service in fleshing the nuances out.

For high-IQ cynics and sarcasm: The triumph of the twentieth century was the invention of a whole new way of being—a new imperative of the self. So go ahead and express yourself. Be true to yourself. Enjoy yourself. Treat yourself. Find yourself. Spoil yourself. Distinguish yourself. Love yourself. Get some self-esteem. Some self-worth. A positive self-image. Achieve self-awareness. And self-sufficiency. Do self-improvement. Some self-exploration. Self-help. Blast yourself into the big glittering universe of the self. Measure it out in “me time” and your Facebook timeline. Welcome to the conformity of individuality. Population: You.

This speaks to the high-end aesthetic of preening, grooming cultivating self-worship with zero shareable content. It asks a frightening rhetorical question: Have we evolved for an environment that no longer exists?

Over-focused on the celebration of the self, have we now divorced ourselves from reality in a digital simulacrum? For 20,000 generations we have lived in nature. For only one generation have we lived in digital code. But the truth is people prefer to be in natural environments, and especially in savanna or parklike habitats. They like a long depth of view across a relatively smooth, grassy ground surface dotted with trees and copses. They want to be near a body of water, whether ocean, lake, river or stream. When you cut off arterial blood to an organ, the organ dies. When you cut the flow of nature into people’s lives, their spirit dies. It’s as simple as that. That proverbial hole in our heads is a kind of “separation anxiety.”

Don’t worry…no matter. Great achievements are being made, you read about it every day. It’s the information age—ring, ring. Communication. A global village, whether you like it or not. They want hit you at two levels:

1. A vision arisen from the tableau: People stand together on bedrock, hand-in-hand, absorbing information, collectively navigating a material world.

2. The reality behind the curtain: We sit hunched over as lonely individuals, nature extracted from nature, inert brains staring out into the electronic breach. On the screen’s glossy surface appears a reflection on the future of being human. The infinite depth of the here and now, the permanence of place and of staying put in time and space, has been liquefied. There is no place we can call home. Anything is obtainable, yet nothing is definite or solid. We have no master plan, alienated from nature and human nature. We are driving off the cliff into a virtual sea of unlimited possibility.

[ Adbusters gold: endless parody ads of its punch-able enemies ]


Adbusters is bleak. It frequently presents the specter of the world as a trash heap. It says now is a time to die. It suggests that if you have already dismissed freely your soul, you should die instead of staving it off as long as possible. The current year is a breathing cadaver, hooked up to life-support systems and an array of tubes, monitors and glaring lights. This is all something we are chronically addicted to. Tainted, we’re left to wonder how we would have done things differently. Do not resuscitate, and stop stalling the Grim Reaper. In the end, the sanctity of life is befouled by a desire to control and master nature. As we behold the metaphysical corpse, we sense that our actual, physical death will be seen as a sign of failure. Expose yourself to the scary, sad and fractured reality that nothing exists outside the dominant logic of capitalism, all which is about to crash. As if the American way of life was not negotiable. We’ve moved beyond sustainability, and beyond Earth’s carrying capacity—overdeveloped, overpopulated, and over-consumed. As if no one can break out of the consumer trance. Fear, to replace all joy. That is the challenge, and the aim, to take all of your brain and your power to track yourself into that life of endless fear. Adbusters says it has become clear that the ride is about to finish, and that we must have the courage to die.

[ subtlety’s not part of the Adbusters narrative ]

Adbusters is wish fulfillment alchemy. Here’s what they want us all to believe: “We will design the next evolution. We will build intelligence into novel materials and liberate form from matter.” Under the hood, we get a soft whiff of myopia masquerading as resilience.

Adbusters asks us to find a “flow state” in Recessionomics. The editors are trying to explain it to us this way: Hedge fund managers aren’t jumping out of windows yet, but the outlook is grim, especially for those who are still ignoring neoliberal capitalism’s death knell. Instead of buying into the manufactured panic, why not embrace the opportunities afforded by the collapse? Being turbo-broke or orphaned by an outmoded system not only inspires some of us to live more creatively, it also offers a humbling chance to re-evaluate our obsession with money and our abilities to innovate. Did we get too comfy, expecting the cavalry to swoop in and save the day?

Adbusters sees war everywhere. It eagerly hooks its critiques into many facets of unrestricted war. First, the military kind: atomic warfare, conventional warfare, bio-chemical warfare, ecological warfare, space warfare, electronic/digital warfare, guerilla warfare, terrorist warfare. Second, the trans-military kind: diplomatic, warfare, network warfare, intelligence warfare, psychological warfare, tactical warfare, smuggling warfare, drug warfare, and virtual warfare (deterrence). Third and last of all, we have the non-military kind: financial warfare, trade warfare, resources warfare, economic aid warfare, regulatory warfare, sanction warfare, media warfare and ideological warfare. Limitless! Where would Adbusters be without its sublime devotion to disaster porn?

Echoing the greatest thinkers and ideas of all time, I appreciate the post-modern way Adbusters wants you to wonder what your mind is actually doing. The brain—what is it for? Is it a rational machine; the greatest calculator in all of creation? Or is it a device designed—intentionally or not—for creating meaning?

In the badlands of bitter irony, Adbusters is perpetually on the verge of going out of business. It cannot sell stuff or it loses credibility, yet it does manufacture its own goods and seeks subscription/donation-based profits. Simultaneously, it refuses advertising on ideological grounds. There’s a feral paradox for them to live off the grid vs. living on the grid. They prefer to ignore the fact that, whether you like it or not, people don’t pay for culture. Advertising pays for culture.

As the novelty wears off and the message sinks in, Adbusters can be shunned as it begins to waste your time. It does not require a lifelong immersion. Eventually you’ll see how a swarm of ideas descends into a blender/compressor, with un-assembled mental wreckage spewed into a vortex on the other side of the contraption.

Adbusters is a for-profit, capitalist media business run by individuals who believe, at best, they are changing the world (and at worst are manipulating the West’s youth into inaction via “mental counter-action” for profit). Once I reached my limit, I halted the subscription (in 2016), but still browse the newsstand edition as part of a balanced “media diet” that spans the full ideological spectrum. Increasingly, this magazine is like sugar and other empty calories: “Use Sparingly.”

In playing devil’s advocate and ignoring all silver linings: Adbusters Media is a mockery of itself. It’s exploitation of emotional stress caused by establishing a guilt-stricken ethos of “us vs. them.”

Through prolonged volleys of research, it becomes clear that the answers are never found in any one place. But perhaps John Steinbeck said it best, long before Adbusters arrived on the scene:

“I have named the destroyers of nations: comfort, plenty, and security—out of which grow a bored and slothful cynicism, in which rebellion against the world as it is, and myself as I am, are submerged in listless self-satisfaction.”

Steinbeck’s navel-gazing is on a completely higher level, well told and cut loose over the faults of eons. On an vast scale we’ve detected our endless yearning to see why there is something instead of nothing, to figure out what happened before the Big Bang. And we’re supposed to gravely contemplate how we can prevent the USA from declining too quickly?

In the end, Adbusters says a lot about our inability to process change and absorb the rapid evolution of technology. It’s a place most of us do not want to go into. And as Marshall McLuhan said decades ago, and which still rings true today:

“In this electronic age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness.”

What does it mean? For all the talk about the environment, politics, etc., these days, human beings have never been more distanced from nature. And as much as I hate to say it, I don’t think this trend is going to reverse itself. It now seems inevitable that people are going to continue to live more and more through technology. The gene-based, corporeal life we are familiar with might just be the incipient stage of an evolutionary development of “universal intelligence,” and you cannot opt out. You will be assimilated, subsumed, all while remaining transfixed and gazing into the pool of Narcissus.

Adbusters fancies itself to be that “final shout” before the absolute silence.

Outside the Adbusters Necropolis

So that I don’t leave it on a completely sour note, here are a few positively-charged words from the existential prankster Terence McKenna, some 20+ years ago, just as Adbusters was emerging from infancy:

“Don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Bill Clinton or Michael Jackson or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears.”

Oddities aside, McKenna had a knack for elucidating what sticks with people who refuse to be indoctrinated one way or the other, left or right. The beauty in this is that it’s apolitical, and reminds us that our days are not unlimited. Even the conservative patriot understands the concept of “do not take their bait.” Hardcore Republicans and Bernie Sanders fans alike know it’s enough to drive a good man crazy, but those who can smell the rat know better. Social cohesion does not necessarily signify unity, nor does it need to. Break the curse…a house that does not change is a dead house.

Adbusters distanced itself from itself by saying a polarized, outraged populous is exactly what a corporatist economy wants. Be, and stay, pissed off. As a prime example, we know how the message of “The 99%” during Occupy Wall Street in 2011 was unifying. It created a singular purpose, cooperation, and positive validation, and it turned the spotlight on those pulling the strings behind the curtain. But we saw how OWS turned aimless and rapidly lost credibility. It shuddered under its own weight and meekly dissipated as the cameras and microphones slunk away. Putting everything behind turning 99%–1% into 50%–50% since then has served the powers that be very nicely indeed. It created a bigger fire than the one it was trying to put out. Blowback. Even the broader, worldwide Occupy Movement now sounds like a long-gone whisper carried off in the wind.

[ Adbusters wants us to enjoy good design before the apocalypse melts our faces ]

Understanding how rage and division is manufactured by both Adbusters Media and the elites they regularly attack, we’re left to living now in our richer and more palpable reality. You can begin creating a more authentic version of yourself while removing the shell that was most likely a bullshit version shaped over many years by corporate uniformity, Normie interactions and societal brainwashing. Indeed, the same terminal where Neo took the red pill to escape The Matrix. By normie we are also referring to the lowest-common-denominator “media landscape” that leaves us with a caricatured vision of society that filmmaker Adam Curtis dubbed HyperNormalisation in his 2016 documentary of the same name. Since the 1970s, Curtis argued, governments and technologists have given up on the complex “real world” and built a simple “fake world” run by corporations and kept stable by politicians. As a visual analogy, the Normie is like a computer construct in an early 2000’s PC role playing game, complete with semi-randomized pathing and limited dialogue trees.

Having faced up to this reality, you must then tackle the dilemma… you can focus your efforts on rebuilding a set of inputs defined by reason, competence, honesty and respect. This will allow you to build your own culture—a cocoon of intellect, camaraderie and humor that is able to observe the Normie clown world from the outside, if it wishes to. When you become your true self, you will be surrounded by others who still have their minds intact, who don’t blame anyone or anything for their problems, but like you live an honorable and joyful life.

Adbusters is but one of thousands of would-be guideposts running lateral to our endless journey toward authenticity. Choose wisely.