"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Logo by Naomi Klein (book review)

Well, here's a nice coincidence. I'd just found and posted some comments on William Gibson's fine science fiction novel Pattern Recognition (below), whose heroine suffers from a severe psychic allergy to corporate logos, and now I turn on C-Span TV and find an interview* with none other than Naomi Klein, the Nation columnist and author of No Logo, another book I reviewed for SLJ, when it came out. That was in 1999 or 2000; now it's being brought out again in a ten year anniversary edition, with a new intro by Klein.

On her website, Klein writes,
"In the last decade, No Logo has become a cultural manifesto for the critics of unfettered capitalism worldwide. As the world faces a second economic depression, No Logo's analysis of our corporate and branded world is as timely and powerful as ever."

The title and concept have become a rallying cry for a lot of people and organizations. A quick search shows a number of videos, and apparently a documentary was also made though I haven't seen it.

Anyway, I strongly recommended the first edition when the book came out. (Note: the reference to "street demonstrations recently in the news," in the last sentence of the review, was to the WTO-Seattle events):

No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Name Bullies  by Naomi Klein (1999/2000):

In this examination of the style and substance of "branded life," a young Canadian journalist presents her thesis in a highly entertaining style. In chapters such as "Alt.everything: The Youth Market and the Marketing of Cool," Klein shows how advertising exploits teens (17 is the optimum age) and points out marketing tactics and trends.

As the advertising industry has evolved to become a major shaper of culture, a sea change in corporate culture has transformed companies from producers of products to purveyors of image and dreams. Brand names such as Gap, Nike, or Tommy Hilfiger have come to have "talismanic power" for many young people in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. However, the author reveals the disturbing economic realities underlying the production of these magic products-often through the stories of the young people who work in the most appalling conditions to produce them.

The final chapters describe individual and community activities in the arts, politics, and courts in the pursuit of human rights and other values. For readers who want to know more about what lies behind street demonstrations recently in the news, or for those who are ready to rise above being manipulated, this title provides an excellent model of how to think critically about contemporary culture.

*The interview was annoying, at least for the first interminable section, because the interviewer harassed Klein about her family's political background (they were blacklisted in the fifties, like so many of our best citizens, and can boast of additional distinctions such as resisting the VietNam war, like so many of us), until she pointed out that this would perhaps be relevant if she were a memoirist but it had nothing to do with her writing career, which is journalistic, and that the interview was beginning to feel more like a HUAC interrogation than anything else (something I was thinking myself as I watched it; my family history is similar so I have reliable radar for spotting this nasty strain of human psychology and American culture).

After which he still persisted until he'd exhausted his supply of prepared slides of quotes about her parents and family, and then he asked her (in the most irritating tradition of journalists going after a story that isn't there, by phrasing it in every possible way he could think of) about her dual citizenship, as if that hid some deeply subversive "anti-American" secret (the simplicity of the situation failed to get through to him in his labored attempt to find complexity: anyone born of American parents anywhere in the world is American; anyone born on Canadian soil is Canadian; this kind of dual citizenship has been legally defined as such for a long time).

But anyway, notwithstanding all that, it's an interesting interview once he gives Klein a chance to talk. And C-Span is one of the few TV sources where you'd even get a chance to see someone like Naomi Klein speak in more than sound bites (and in those, on other networks she would usually be inaudible because some idiotic network commentator would be telling you what she was saying, only it wouldn't be anything like what she was actually saying, which you would only know if you had a chance to hear it, which they wouldn't give you). End of rant. I just have a thing about bad journalism, not to mention witch hunting.

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