No logo bad anthro

I like this sign. It’s a ‘no logo’ logo. I’ve been admiring it on my walk through the McGill ghetto. The leaves have finally fallen away so I could get a picture.

As you can see, it’s not official Pepsi issue-it’s home made. Someone took a stencil and made their own. Why? Well, it’s a store front, isn’t it? And store fronts have signs. And probably (though this is hard to imagine) Pepsi wouldn’t give them one. So they made their own.

It is a ‘no logo’ logo in another respect. This insistence, that a commercial message is appropriate even when unpaid for, suggests that this sort of thing is so much a part of the furniture of contemporary culture that we must supply it even when it doesn’t exist.

What would the store be without it? Less identifiable, less formed. So much of our landscape is created by commerce, virtually all of it is, that it is part of our real and conceptual way finding system. What doesn’t exist, we are obliged to invent.

Naomi Klein, and you knew I was getting to her, didn’t you, would have us believe that logos are a blight, and more than that, that they are an invasion, and more than that that they are a predation. But in fact, no logo is bad anthro-a failure to see, to reckon with the fact that we are, whether we like it or not, almost nothing if not an artifact of commercial forces.

It may be that Klein is right to insist that there are costs and penalties to such a thing, and it is certainly true that we need people to ferret these out and sum them up. What we should not do, I believe, is to make our unhappiness with commerce grounds for a constant posturing against it. If only because the argument is well and truly made. Enough already. But no. The argument is returned to again and again as if it contained difficulties and complexities we hadn’t quite got to the last time round. Some version of this argument has been with us throughout the Western tradition (see Brantlinger, Carey and Docker, below). Certainly it has been robust since the Frankfurt school, and more recently as a result of the efforts of the likes of Ewen and Stuart Hall and the Birmingham school. But it keeps coming back with unexpected freshness, as if the argument were brand new, or, as I say, somehow hard to think.

Here’s something fresh and hard to think. So much of commerce is warp to culture’s woof that it is now almost impossible to distinguish them. To insist on doing so is almost single handedly responsible for the troubling ironies that so amused, but why preoccupied, the 1990s: oh, that Klein is reported to be getting rich from the sale of her book, that Michael Moore is rumored to have bought 3 condos, that Moby used clothing stores and advertisements to sell his music, that Courtney love sold Kurt’s memories for $4 million. No good things can come from commercial motives. No authenticity can come from something touched by the market place. Commerce is pandering. These are a few of our favorite things to think about the commercial culture. They prevent us from the real intellectual challenge here: not how to think about culture and commerce separately, Klein demonstrates that anybody can do this. The real challenge is thinking about how they go together. Not to celebrate that they go together. God knows we have had enough of that. But to understand what it is to live in a society where culture and commerce live out of one another’s pockets. Like it or not, this is who we are and how we live. It will decide what becomes of us.

The time has come to stop protesting the effect of commerce on culture and see how the two run together. How else are we to understand why someone would make a logo for their store front.

Brantlinger, Patrick. 1983. Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay . Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Carey, John. 1992. The Intellectuals and the Masses: pride and prejudice among the literary intelligentsia, 1880-1939. London: Faber and Faber.

Docker, John. 1994. Postmodernism and popular culture: a cultural history. Cambridge. New York: Cambridge University Press.

2 thoughts on “No logo bad anthro

  1. Jason Leary

    Anonymous said…

    NOTE : The following is a fictitious (though it is an appropro portrayal of relativist/postmodernist thinking) story that depicts a young man (age 24) who supports postmodernist/relativist ideology . He is sent back in time from circa 2007 A.D. to 1855 Oneida, New York (by a University sociology department) to engage in discussion with an abolitionist orator. The young man is called in the story : Pomo kid …’pomo’ being an abbreviation for postmodernist . He is sent back into time with a special hidden video and audio device designed to record sound and image of the discussion that he will have with Benjamin Obadiah Whittaker –an abolitionist and former slave, who is scheduled on that June evening to give a speech on the evils of slavery at the Shaker meeting house during a meeting hosted by the Oneida abolitionist society .

    The exchange between Pomo Kid and the abolitionist leader is a cautionary tale presented in a format similar to a one-act play designed to reveal the incongruity and general murkiness of postmodernist/relativist thinking .

    PREFACE :Pomo kid has gotten in the time machine and the controls have been set for June 25, 1855 . Since the machine is the first of its kind and time travel with it expected to be slow going on what the scientists back at the lab call it’s “maiden voyage” , Pomo Kid has taken some magazines: the UTNE reader (bought for him by his limosine- liberal parents who read it themselves ) and Relevant Magazine .

    Pomo Kid –having a short attention span fostered by years of chronic MTV watching –has also taken a specially made CD player and some CDs to keep him amused. When he gets to 1855 Oneida , New York he discovers that miraculously the CD players and CD’s work –though he has a hard time getting them to work while riding in the time machine. The CD ‘s he has taken are as follows : Jewel’s Greatest Hits, a CD by the musical band Toad The Wet Sprocket, a CD by Jimmy Eat World, The Dawson’s Creek t.v. show soundtrack, a CD from the band Barenaked Ladies, and Rumors by Fleetwood Mac (A CD that he borrowed from his parents) , and a CD from a singer named Dan Hasletine .

    The time machine soon arrives in a dairy cattle field in 1855 Oneida,
    New York . He steps out of the time machine with his CD head set over his ears –and hidden minature camera recording device cocked and disguised as one of his piercings . As he steps out on to the farm field of Ezra Howell Drummond –no person sees the machine land nor him emerge. The dairy cows give him monentary glances of dull suprise and then return to to crunching and grazing down the vast green verdure . He looks at a minature digital map device and proceeds to walk to the shaker meeting house to hear the speech by Obadiah Whittaker .

    He arrives on time and sits down . Some of the abolitionists and interested town folks noticed Pomo kid as he arrives and are somewhat baffled by his odd appearance –as his clothes , hairstyle and general demeanor do not look period, but do not approach him . They are more interested in the speech by Mr. Benjamin Whittaker . Benjamin Whittaker presents a cogent and eloquent indictment of the evils of chattel slavery in the antebellum south. He especially highlights the treatment of slave women by slavemasters, overseers, and their cronies and acquaintances who from time to time rape the slave women on the plantations .

    Pomo kid allows his CD headspeakers to droop a little so he can hear the speech —and gives a skimming of the main elements . As the speech draws to its close Pomo kid hears the anti-slavery orator sum up the directive set before good citizens everywhere in a way that does NOT mince words .

    ‘ And so good citizens of Oneida , we can send forth the clear message …both to posterity , to others who have shared and will share the North American continent, and to all nations and every town and village abroad , that we will no longer accept, nor even partially accept, a wicked commerce of bodies and souls that treats marriage and kinship as makeshift gambits in some sordid game , where transgression of the convenants between man and women is done with impunity . We will stand with the men , women, and children who long to have the stability accorded to man and wife by civilized society. We make no caveat to the forces of darkness and depravity that would settle for anything less! ‘

    There is a roar of applause and even a few Amens from the audience .

    Soon the speech is then over and there is time for handshakes and entreties from the audience .

    Pomo Kid then approaches the abolitionist orator .

    POMO KID : “Hey Mr.Whiitaker , dude . I, like, enjoyed your speech . I can see that feel quite passionate about racial oppression and all , but there’s some stuff I’d like to discuss with you . I know that slavery is a bad scene and it’s kinda bogus how slaves are treated , but you gotta learn to respect the opinion of those who want to rape their slave women and sell their kids to other plantations too and look at it from their perspective some too . You are like so judgemental, so preachy , dogmatic …so one-sided towards the opinions of those who want to rape slave women, beat them some, and sell their children downriver . It’s like you want to preach instead of discussing…you preach. You got to learn to look at it from other perspectives. What you are doing is the us versus them approach towards people who oppress and exploit slaves . The us versus them approach isn’t good . It’s fanatical to take the us versus them approach . The us versus them way is, like, so yesterday . Everything is connected . it’s all connected. Really the slavowner and the oppressed slaves are really part of the same thing . Making distinctions is so passe /so yesterday . It’s all one . It’s all how you look at it .

    You know there’s many sides to every issue. Stuff like slavery is not all black and white there are shades of grey. It’s not totally bad being oppressed as a slave . You got to look at it from other points of view . Learn to accept that problems are part of life…a growing experience . You know, getting raped and being sold away from your family just goes to show that life is give and take . If nobody ever got raped or exploited then you wouldn’t have give and take …and so you wouldn’t have reality ; it would be all idealistic . We can’t have stuff being idealistic all the time. Life is supposed to be a mixture of things . People are a mixture of things. It’s all the duality of man . In the time period I come from, we study deconstructionism and post-structuralism at my college and I’ve been getting into Michel Foucault , and Lyotard, and Richard Rorty. They teach us not to totalize . What your are doing is totalizing …making people out to be villans if they don’t agree with rigid moral constructs . It’s all just language games –the divisions of beleifs that people have . There aren’t any absolute truths …or if there are, there aren’t very many…or we can’t be sure what they are .

    You got to learn something Mr.Whittaker: don’t be so single-minded ….

    (Pomo kid pauses for an extended period of time and fiddles with his CD player and changes the Jewel CD for a Dawson’s Creek CD . He turns it down slighly so he can somewhat hear Mr . Benjamin Whittaker speak .)

    Benjamin Whittaker stares at Pomo Kid with a look of utter credulity and disgust at the weirdly pusillanimous , and convoluted statements that have poured forth from the young man’s mouth . He then speaks

    BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : Young man, I scarcely know where to begin to disabuse you of the false , and weirdly ludicrous statements you have put forth here. You claim I must respect the vile opinions of those who support the exploitation and tyrrany which oppresses persons of African descent–and , moreover, exploits women whose virginity has been taken from them by force! What on earth have such opinions done to merit such respect, or to even almost halfway earn such respect .? Young man I can scarcely help wondering if you have fallen in with revelling hooligans in Manhattan that smoke opium in houses of ill repute and, that such riotous living has altered your febrile brain to such an extent that you find it a habit to talk nonsense . Young man, I do not know where you are from —

    (Pomo Kid then interrupts Mr. Whittaker in mid sentence . Pomo kid is, after all, a postmodernist of the MTV generation and considers being fair and waiting till someone is finished talking to be passe and old fashioned communication practice, which he wants nothing to do with . Pomo kid favors a more edgy , open ended approach .)

    POMO KID SPEAKS : (Decides to start out with circular thinking ) . Dude, the idea that it’s wrong to rape slave women , or brutally beat and exploit slaves and sell their children away from them …that’s wrong to us , but not to the people who support exploiting and raping slaves… Doing that’s right to them . Morals and truth are relative and subjective. What’s true to you may not be true to them . It’s all just different perspectives. If you go and say that its absolutely wrong for people to exploit and rape their slaves instead of saying that it’s wrong to us, then …you’re like Hitler. Now you probably aren’t familiar with who Hitler is …but in the 20 Century there’s gonna be this guy called Hitler, who takes over and takes away people’s rights. And if you say that some belief is totally wrong and another belief is totally right then you’re like Hitler . Just like these holocaust survivors that the nazis put into concentration camps and came out being all bitter and one sided and preachy and say what Hitler and the nazis did was wrong and don’t respect the nazi point of view a little—well they’re like Hitler too ! Just like a person who always stops a bully from bullying people and won’t look at it from a bully point of view a little…well that makes that kind of one-sided person who is against bullying, a bully too and just as bad as the real bully . Furthermore, just by saying that some belief or practice is wrong— just by verbally calling that belief wrong you violate their right to free expression to say that opposite belief…even without any physical violence against them …without a single shot being fired .

    You got to understand also that if somebody says that some belief isn’t absolute , then that right there prooves that it isn’t . Take the proposition that says that 2+2=4 . Well as long as somebody disagrees with the idea that 2+2=4 then that automatically shows that the idea that 2+2=4 isn’t absolute, otherwise every person would have to say they agreed with 2+2 being = 4, otherwise it’s not absolute .

    In the time period of history that I come from (which is the late 20 th and early 21 Centuries ) there’s this show called the Real World . Now since television hasn’t been invented yet in 1855, you probably aren’t familar with that word. Television in the time I come from is a lot like what plays are on stages in the time you’re in . Television is kind of like a play —only more fun . So in the time I come from there is a show called ‘The Real World’ …and people on that show sometimes have different beliefs and so they can come together and get real and talk about the issues that bother them . The show teaches people to come out of their comfort zone (Pomo Kid runs through memory banks to come up with more newspeak words and phrases and finds some) and therefore they can have an impactive, impactful affect on each others lives and give each other feedback about what they think. Now the people who are being raped , beaten , or exploited by masters and overseers down on those slave plantations they got to stop being so one-sided and look at from another perspective and come out of their comfort zone and stop portraying rape and exploitation as something totally bad. They can then get together with the slave owners and overseers and tell them about the way they feel and then get the slave owners and overseers to come out of their comfort zone too , and maybe tone down the rape and exploitation a little . That way you don’t have an us versus them .

    Some people would say that what I’m saying doesn’t make much sense …that it’s inconsistent /ambivalent thinking (which is another way of saying sell- out thinking ) but I don’t call it selling out . I call it “looking at it from another perspective” . And about the people claiming that postmodernism like I’ve been trying to get you to support, doesn’t make much sense, well it doesn’t have to make sense. Making sense is so passe …so yesterday . Distinctions are just so passe . I don’t bother with rigid distinctions. I ‘ve gotten into a sort of thinking called lateral thinking …that doen’t get all hung up on distinctions . Lateral thinking doesn’t have to always make sense.

    You Mr. Whittaker are a linear thinker …that consistent thinking is so out of style….so outmoded . Lateral thinking, that postmodernists such as me go for doesn’t bother with having to make sense …it tolerates ambiguity . You mr. Whittaker are so rigidly consistent /so single-minded …a fanatical ideologue that goes to extremes of consistent thinking. You aren’t conflicted about anything !!!!

    In the time period I came from, there was a singer called Moby—who used to be so dogmatic and one-sided about the animal rights cause, but lately he learned not to be so judgemental towards opinions of people who don’t support animal rights . He respects the outlook of the people who are against animal rights now –even though he’s for animal rights .The same flexibility applies to any social cause. After all, a professor I had once in a classroom, quoted the quote, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds” .I’ve learned that selling-out is not so bad . ‘

    (Pomo kid having temporarily dropped the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack picks it up and puts in the Toad The Wet Sprocket CD . He changes CDs about as quickly as a chain smoker replaces cigarettes)

    BENJAMIN WHITTAKER : (Still flabbergasted, begins to speak) ‘Without consistency of thought human affairs descend into meaninglessness….

    POMO KID SPEAKS : Not if you think they have meaning for you . You know, by the way, in 1855, the people who exploit and rape slaves are doing what was thought right at the time. We shouldn’t be so chauvanistic as to try to harshly criticize people who own slaves by the morality of later periods. If you say that people who exploit slaves are doing something totally wrong then you’re just as bad as they are . Morality is different from one period to another …some people say that people in different periods might call different actions moral …and it not be a case of inherently different morals …but that’s all the same anyway …since I don’t bother with hair-splitting distinctions like that .

    (Pomo Kid’s CD jams and stops playing temporarily. He pauses from speaking and, in so doing, ejects that CD and puts in the machine a CD of music by musician Dan Hasletine) .

    BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : How are you so sure that people who exploit slaves are unaware that what they are doing is fully wrong ? (The good abolitionist has managed to put aside being shocked by the weirdly insipid statements presented by Pomo Kid long enough to get the composure to ask him that question .)

    POMO KID REPLIES : Well if they thought it was wrong to exploit and mistreat slaves then they wouldn’t do it .

    BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : So let me get this straight, young man…you allege that the mere willingness of somebody to do some act is in of itself some ad hoc proof that in every such case they must be sincere in doing so.? Where do you arrive at such a facile conclusion– if that is what you are alleging ?

    (Pomo kid, who does not know a specific response to the question that can save face for how facile the previous statement he has just put forth has been…then searches his memory banks for the word he likes to bandie about whenever somebody presents an argument that is elaborate , doesn’t have postmodern cliches, and one which , moreover, he doesn’t want to slow down and bother to analyze . He finds that word …. the word “pseudo-intellectual” which he uses to lambast elaborate arguments from people who refuse to sell out and refuse to entertain his lazy mind . )

    POMO KID SPEAKS : Dude, I realy don’t have time for pseudo-intellectual questions and statements like you have been making. Mellow out, Dude . You are so single-minded . You just need to get laid .

    (Pomo Kid pauses and then speaks again )

    POMO KID SPEAKS : You want to know something ? If you judge a belief or lifestyle that somebody supports …that’s the same as judging them, because an emo-singer I like said so, in an interview I read about in Spin magazine . He later said the same stuff about that on a VH-1 documentary . He said that the beliefs a person supports are the person themself —so by judging the belief your judging the person . Beliefs are people . (Pomo Kid gets oddly quiet all of a sudden )

    BENJAMIN WHITTAKER THEN ASKS : So to take such preposterously silly statement to its conclusion , do you then allege that if someone no longer believes the beliefs they once supported …they are no longer themselves .?

    POMO KID ASKS : Yes , why not say that ?

    BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : Well young man, I hope that you will reconsider those murky notions you have given a voice to . Slavery is quite ugly and the others here know that .

    (Pomo Kid then takes out the Hasletine CD and puts in a CD of Rumors by Fleetwood Mac in his CD player and adjusts the headset .) .

    POMO KID SPEAKS : (Takes on the weirdly petulant snippness that young postmodernists sometimes adopt) ‘You know what dude, you just don’t understand . I’m starting to think that it’s just a waste of time explaining this to you …since you have a closed mind. I can see you have a closed mind because you keep having to take everything apart and you keep insisting on consistent distinctions . That’s very anal retentive of you Mr. Whittaker . That’s also a power play on your part . It shows that you have control issues and will not look at anything a different way . You just don’t understand. You got all that deductive reasoning …but that’s a defense mechanism . Since you refuse to come out of your comfort zone and become conflicted about anything there’s probably no point in having a discussion .You just don’t understand …all you want to do is be a true believer and stereotype the lifestyle of other people . So, like WHATEVER , dude …that’s not my problem !

    (Pomo Kid then speaks again )

    You probably don’t think I identify with oppressed people but I do . My girlfriend and life partner Jasmine and me have gone to a lot of take back the night rallies . We’ve protested date rape on campus. I’ve known oppression and been a victim of oppression myself . The year before last I went to go stay with my aunt Veronica because parents were using their house as a meditation center for married couples and me being kind of high maintence …we figured I’d get in the way and so I went to go live with Veronica . But my aunt is an old school Mennonite –and so she’s like real rigid , dogmatic , and puritanical and so she wouldn’t let me and Jasmine’s ex boyfriend (he’s a real kewl guy who pierced my belly button when we went to Woodstock 94) and her ex boyfiriend ‘s cat all get together and have group sex games together in her house . She’s real dogmatic against sex (if you ask me she has some real issues if she’s against group sex games) . Sex is like my identity . Also i understand oppression because people sometimes look at me funny because I have a lot of piercings …so I know what it’s like to be oppressed too . ‘

    BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPOKE : ‘Young man, I pity someone with such a murky , ridiculous attitude as you have . If you excuse me, now myself and the other people here are going to march to the town hall where we will make the protest of slavery public … ‘ (He then turns away and walks toward the others who have gathered at the far door of the Shaker meeting house ) .

    POMO KID SPEAKS (Runs up ahead to meet up with them): ‘ So you guys are going to a protest down town. Kewl ! For shizzle …that’s the shiznic ! I’ve been to protests with my girlfriend and our boyfriends …we’ve been to take back the night …and we’ve been to rallies at Lillith Fair too, so I know the routine . I once met Michael Stipe at a protest !

    (Mr. Whitakker and the other abolitionists have begun already begun to file out signs en hand . They cast backwards glances of disgust and perplexity at Pomo Kid )

    Pomo Kid then runs out after them , “Let’s do it . End oppression now. Oppression is f–ked up . The people united will never be defeated …the people united will never be defeated ! The people united will never be defeated ! ‘

    (He then hearing the onset of a track on the CD playing the Fleetwood Mac song ‘ Don’t stop thinking about tommorrow then begins to sing in echo to the song —as if it were a marching chant …As he runs out into the starlit roads of 1855 Oneida, New York he soon finds he wishes he had a latte to round out the day) .

Comments are closed.