What is the idea behind the Adbusters magazine
The movement shapes a whole generation
Your magazine Adbusters called in June to occupy Wall Street. Did you expect this to expand into a global movement?
Lasn: We expected to make waves in New York. Occupying the iconic center of financial capitalism was a sexy idea. But when that expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and then Europe, I was shocked. I never dreamed that.
You had already drafted scenarios of a global resistance movement several times in your magazine. So you can't be completely surprised.
I experienced something similar as a young man in 1968. At that time we had hoped for a global revolution, which of course did not materialize. But I always had the feeling that it could happen again.
What are the most important differences to the 60s for you?
We live in much more serious times today. We didn't want to live like our parents in the 1960s and wanted more freedom. It was a cultural revolution. Young people today, on the other hand, are driven by an existential crisis. In addition, in the 1960s we were still trapped in the Marxist model of revolution. We needed a manifesto and a leader and concrete demands. It was a very vertical movement. What is happening today, however, grew out of the culture of the Internet; it is an egalitarian, horizontal revolution with a Gandhi-like philosophy of non-violence. The movement now has a whole new magic.
So you think that one of the movement's strengths is that it doesn't have a specific program?
The criticism of the lack of a program often comes from old leftists who have not achieved anything meaningful for 30 years. How can you criticize a movement that, over a period of three or four weeks, has started a debate about the future of America, indeed about the future of all human experimentation on this planet? What this movement brought about within a month is a miracle. You have to give them time. The specific demands will soon come.
The Occupy people in New York turned down a grant from Adbusters because they didn't want to be affiliated with any particular organization. Do you still feel like the "father of movement"?
Absolutely not, I never wanted to be that. The nice thing about this movement is that it does not want to allow itself to be captured by anyone, not by the democratic party, not by the trade unions, and not even by Adbusters.
Did you take part in the protests?
I was there in Vancouver on the first day. But I try to stay away as much as possible. The young people should find their own way.
Many say that the long-term occupation of public space alone is a great political success for the movement.
It was very important, but it's just a start. Anything can arise from movement, that is completely open. The fact that 100,000 young people took to the streets, organized themselves politically and had quasi-religious community experiences in the General Assemblies is already a lasting legacy of this movement. It will shape a whole generation.
The original idea of Adbusters was a political strategy that they call "culture jamming" - the creative disruption of the usual processes in all areas of society. Is »Occupy« still »culture jamming«?
I think it has a lot of elements of culture jamming. Ultimately, Occupy Wall Street is about smooth regime change in America and around the world. Culture jamming is a series of techniques, a way of responding to those in power and making your voice heard.
What do you mean by soft regime change? A change of government, a change of system, a cultural revolution?
In the US we don't have a dictator who tortures opposition activists. Still, there is a regime in America. We have a plutocracy, a state that is governed by corporations. What Occupy Wall Street wants is a fundamental shift in the way this country works. The same is true of the world economy, which is governed by the $ 1.3 trillion in daily financial transactions. Occupy Wall Street wants to change that.
How much does the movement owe to the fact that people are disappointed in Obama?
Very much. People have realized that Obama will never do the things he promised. You just saw no other option than to take to the streets.
Do you mind that members of the Tea Party are affiliated with the Occupy movement?
No, on the contrary, I think that's great. I have long admired the tea party. Not so much because of their ideas, which I can't always relate to. But what we have in common with them is the recognition that something is fundamentally fishy in American society. And like us, the tea party is trying to change the mechanisms of power, to shake the deadlock. I hope that in the future there can be a coalition between your and our movement, which may even lead to the establishment of a third party in the USA.
How would you describe your political beliefs?
Oh, I'm a weird guy, I don't really fit in anywhere. But I think that I have a basic anarchist feeling. I wish for a utopian future in which total human freedom is realized, in which people can really determine their own fate.
Lasn founded "Adbusters" in Vancouver in 1989, a left-wing magazine with the aim of infiltrating consumer capitalism with the tactic of "culture jamming". Lasn and his partner Bill Schmaltz understood this to mean the publication of print advertisements and advertising films with an anti-capitalist message.
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