On advertising

Posted by @ 1:59 am on June 9th, 2009


The Rumpus editor Stephen Elliott (excerpted introduction to their first monthly Rumpus) at the Make Out Room in San Francisco last night.

Commentary after the break.

Socially progressive journals seem to have an ambivalent relationship to advertising — which is understandable, even applauded, given the excesses of capitalism. Nobody will argue that the plastic Coke cups which adorn the American Idol judges’ table point to a severely skewed cultural ideology; but I’ve always asked myself this: aren’t our lives — I mean, the daily fabric (shampoo, pants, bread, laptop, cell phones), not the ideology, inextricably tied to this main social order of the western world? Most of ‘us,’ the at-least-if-not-higher college educated class have prospered in some way from capitalism’s (up until recently) socioeconomic stability. It takes privilege to argue on days end here about literature. I’m sure a lot of you are all ‘broke,’ but if you think that makes you unprivileged then you are privileged for thinking that. (Jesus, I’m an asshole.)

This post has less to do with HTMLGIANT’s prospects of advertising, and more about The Rumpus editor Stephen Elliott’s assertion that they won’t take advertisements because doing so, as it is alluded, would preclude the ‘bringing of culture’ to their readers. The Rumpus are our friends, and I don’t mean to put Elliott (much respect) on the spot. I just came back from their first monthly Rumpus thinking about what he said. I’ve noticed the Believer redesigns (or designs from scratch) ads which are more aesthetically aligned with the magazine — the implication being that an ad’s intrinsic corruption permeates its typography. Adbusters once ran a spoof Harper’s Index pointing to the ostensible hypocrisy of their Chevron ads. All this contributes to the idea that advertising (and the genius idea of free market = more competition = better products = social progressiveness) is somehow evil.

Adbusters’ “Blackspot” anti-corporate Converse style shoes go for $75.00 a pair. I’ve always thought this was extremely strange — the same way grass fed beef, free range chicken, and organic food is also so expensive. This new “guerilla consumerism” (where the commodity is an intellectual lifestyle) is essentially bourgeois, wherein said discretion is elitism. The difference between Che and a Che t-shirt is infinite. I always think about some black single mother feeding her Diabetes-fated children Burger King every night because she’s too tired to cook and that’s all she can afford and all that’s around — and she probably didn’t learn in liberal arts college about the complexities of contemporary agriculture — and I wonder who’s fighting for her.

Literature is often beautiful; life is often ugly. And the world keeps spinning.

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