Click Here to Buy Nothing

Fed up with the endless barrage of holiday shopping hype, a coalition of activists is promoting what they fear has become an alien concept in the age of mass consumption: buying nothing.

Fed up with the endless barrage of holiday shopping hype, a coalition of activists is promoting what they fear has become an alien concept in the age of mass consumption: buying nothing.

With the help of Net, they’re turning what was once an obscure annual protest by a Vancouver-based group into an international movement.

On Friday, opponents of over-consumption are launching the eighth annual celebration of international Buy Nothing Day — a multi-continental event aimed at educating consumers about the evils of unabated shopping.

Not by coincidence, the celebration falls on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States.

Tom Lacias, Buy Nothing Day campaign manager for the Vancouver-based Adbusters, which is spearheading the event, said the point of the newfangled holiday is to question the cultural assumption that rising consumption is an economic good over the long-term.

In an age of malls, superstores and 24-hour-a-day e-commerce sites, Lacias and his fellow campaigners believe recreational shopping is stretching Earth’s resources to their limit.

“Whether it’s online or on the street, it’s all the same,” said Lacias, who plans to keep his seasonal buying to a minimum. “If it goes to its logical extreme, the holidays will stretch through the year, and there will be a shopping frenzy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We don’t have the resources to sustain that kind of habit.”

To deliver its message, this year’s campaign relies on a combination of Web, television and newspaper ads, along with street protests to humor, shock, goad and guilt people into putting aside their wallets for a day. The theme for this year, Lacias said, is First World denial of Third World distress.

Even considering the globally minded mantra, however, Lacias said he’s surprised by the extent to which the event has caught on internationally. At last count, he said, people in more than 40 countries had signed up to organize local Buy Nothing Day demonstrations.

The volunteer list includes several hundred names, and an e-mail mailing list with campaign updates goes out to more than 20,000 people.

For the most part, local organizers are relying on poster campaigns and street demonstrations. In Oakland, California, for example, a woman plans to hang out in front of a shopping mall dressed as “Satan Claus” and hand out gift exemption vouchers. A few are also opting to include some techie elements in their demonstrations.

Daniel Ilic, a university student in Sydney, Australia, plans to showcase online footage of a protest at a local Starbucks. Volunteers will pass out coffee, cookies, muffins and freshly squeezed orange juice to passers-by right outside the coffee chain, which has come to symbolize multinational corporatocracy.

The group is also doing an operation in which volunteers will bring along a copy of an illegally burned copy of their favorite Metallica CDs to be stocked in a major record store somewhere in Sydney.

In Melbourne, meanwhile, protester Amy Gray is conducting a campaign based entirely around e-mail and Web pages.

Back in Vancouver, Buy Nothing Day’s chief organizers are providing anti-shopping “uncommercials” to television and radio stations.

Campaigners bought one spot on CNN and have secured free air time on several cable and public access stations. Adbusters reps say they approached the major networks about buying air time, but were turned down.

Campaigners are also passing around a banner ad that anyone can put on their website. The message is simple: “November 24 is the busiest shopping day of the year. This year we suggest you buy nothing.”

Thus far, a few volunteers and commercial sites have agreed to post the ad. Lacias, however, says it hasn’t turned out to be a cornerstone of the campaign.

“It isn’t the hottest thing going but we do offer it as an option.”

Author: Joanna Glasner

News Service: Wired News


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