Thursday, June 28, 2007

Buy less crap? How about spew less crap?

Heard about Buy Less Crap today and checked it out. While it is difficult to argue with the value in giving directly to charities [e.g., The Global Fund] that benefit from the (Product)RED campaign, I think this is just another typical, over-simplified, knee-jerk reaction from radical narcissists who relish any opportunity to illustrate how sensationally clever they can be in skewering the capitalistic bogeyman du jour, never mind the facts of the situation. Any material benefits to The Cause from their grandstanding antics are merely a bonus outcome - the primary goal of their histrionic mewling is to boost their 'F-the-Man' cred at their local co-op grocery store. 'Hey, Gideon - saw your site. Really awesome! And have you tried the FairTrade Soy Foot Lotion yet?'

Note to would-be activists: it isn't an either/or proposition, dumbass. While you may not approve of it, the majority of the population still lives outside of The Commune. People still need material goods, so if they are going to buy them anyway, isn't it better that even a small fraction of the proceeds are directed to The Cause, rather than nothing? Would you rather The Cause just not receive those funds? 'No thanks, we cannot accept your donation because we more-altruistic-than-thou types disdain your lifestyle.'

Also something to ponder - if we all retreat to our individual Waldens weaving our own clothing from old newspaper scraps and eating bark, who will generate the income that can fund donations to The Cause?

Originally posted 3/4/07


  1. Hi Art,

    Ben Davis here, one of the co-founders of the BUY (LESS) effort. Just curious if you've taken a moment to read our mission statement and letter to (RED) CEO Bobby Shriver. They can be found on the site and do a good job of explaining our intent with the site.

  2. Ben - I have. And it is a shame that you bury some reasonable [and some less reasonable] requests and suggestions beneath 20 seconds of self-congratulatory flash animation. I find that somewhat ironic given your plea for transparency, minimum waste and getting directly to the point. More matter, with less art, no?

    As I noted in my post, I hardly argue with the merit of direct donations. What I don't agree with is the either/or stance you put forward: "Join us in rejecting the ti(red) [clever] notion that shopping is a reasonable response to human suffering." You take a fundamentally divisive approach then tart it up with a coy and belabored satire. At best it undermines the end goal, at worst it reeks of self-promotion.

  3. Art,

    A white paper on RED would go mostly unread., with its searing parody, has enjoyed over 100,000 visitors and has prompted widespread and thoughtful media coverage and public discussion in the UK, Canada, and US. With a budget of zero, we are making a difference. It's not about being sensationally clever. But we did need to leverage creativity.

    Parody is protected form of free speech. It has the power to shine light on the hidden truth with brutal efficiency. I view our site as being in the American tradition of Thomas Paine. We didn't create any unrest with the RED campaign. We merely gave voice to what many people were already feeling.

    Forget about us for a moment if you will and focus on RED. Are you genuinely comfortable with that effort? Are there any areas where you would like to see them do better?

  4. Ben -

    Thomas Paine? I wish I could say I had immediate unaided recall of all I had once learned about Thomas Paine, but I admit I had to go revisit Thomas Paine's contributions to history. Before I do indeed take you up on your suggestion to forget you for a moment, I just want to confirm that Thomas Paine's most noted writings were linked to the American Revolution. You're likening to Common Sense, which includes the line, "I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense..." [i.e., I'm not leading with naked models.] Wow.

    Also, I'm not certain what you are addressing with the point about parody being a protected form of speech, but just for the sake of clarity, I haven't suggested nor would I ever suggest you don't have every right to conceive and execute your Buy Less Crap campaign. I don't even necessarily disagree with the core objective you have of direct donation. My issue remains with the style with which you decided to make your points. And, that of course, is something I have the right to do.

    I'm certain the RED campaign could be doing some things better. Couldn't everyone? But do you genuinely think that the world would be better off if the project didn't exist?


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