Culture Jamming

A while ago I made reference to culture jamming without much explanation. Culture Jamming is the practice of challenging, countering, or critiquing popular culture by co-opting its images, language, and methods. Appropriately, the term ‘jamming’ is borrowed from radio culture, meaning to borrow or block signals. There is no universal philosophical doctrine culture jammers abide by, but there are a handful of interesting ideas floating around.

First, the failure of rational argumentation to win the minds of the public:

Once upon a time, the “Evils of the Establishment” were subject to rational critique by academics and revolutionaries. Most people still function under this rationalist model: “Change will come if enough people understand the problem rationally and intellectually.” Without at all dismissing the importance of rationality and intellect, I would argue that these tools are no longer themselves adequate. Specifically, in the struggle to debrief people on the poisonous symbolic system called “The Media”, the rules have been changed–“Culture Jamming” sticks where rational discourse slides off.

Second, the need to liberate and humanize media:

WE HAVE LOST CONFIDENCE in what we are seeing, hearing and reading: too much infotainment and not enough news; too many outlets telling the same stories; too much commercialism and too much hype. Every day, this commercial information system distorts our view of the world.

Third, the practice of meme-hacking to inspire social change:

It is, simply, the viral introduction of radical ideas. It is viral in that it uses the enemy’s own resources to replicate iteself — corporate logos, marketing psychology, clean typography, “adspeak”. It is radical because–ideally–the message, once deciphered, causes damage to blind belief. Fake ads, fake newspaper articles, parodies, pastiche. The best CJ [culture jamming] is totally unexpected, surprising, shocking in its implications.

Fourth, the need to cultivate skepticism in the populace:

I think there’s a brand of immunizing deception that helps us to expose and correct the lies we tell ourselves and the webs of falsehood that make up our societies. Harmless fibs can remind us that we’ve dropped our guard and let the Big Lies in.

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