Westwood has a new guardian angel.
She stands seventeen stories high in full combat gear, massive automatic assault rifle cocked across her chest. Big doey eyes, full pouty lips. A United States flag. Flames. An eagle. 9-11. Behind her: The familiar spectacle of the twin towers.
One Angeleno recently wondered if she's poised and ready to kill for her country, or just fuck your brains out. Either way, there is the fetishistic promise of ecstatic military delivery in "Liberty and Justice" for us all.
Another example of God-Bless-America propaganda? A self-serving ploy for a Disney-employed billboard artist who hides his commercial interests behind "patriotism" and the (misguided?) protection of the ACLU? Or just another piece of pollution on the landscape of the Los Angeles mental environment? Whatever the true nature and intent of this Westwood billboard, it has made a new, hard-to-ignore contribution to our blighted mental landscape of countless billboards and ads.
Billboard are nothing new of course, but since 9/11, we have watched a new breed of physical space-invaders pop up like viral outbreaks all over L.A. -- billboards of United States flags. Stark-white-text-black-background messages of patriotism (to replace the recent ubiquitous stark-white-text-black-background messages of Christian religion). And the most insidious: Heartstring-tugging messages of patriotism and unity from corporate products and brand names (logos discreetly placed, of course).
What steps can we take to be aware of and actively challenge this new breed of corporate patriotism/propaganda invading our physical space and mental environment? And in a more general sense, how do we counter one of the most commercial media-saturated urban landscapes in the world?
Below are links to some discussions about the mental-environmental movement, the nature and function of billboards, their effect on our psyches and communities, and ways we can all challenge and effectively counter the onslaught of consumer propaganda.
"The mental-environmental movement began, for me, two Novembers ago during the Battle in Seattle. I asked a young man why he was protesting. 'Because I have to,' he said. 'If I didn't I couldn't live with myself. I'm not a very happy person. I used to think it was a personal thing, but now I'm coming to realize it's a cultural problem. I feel like all my life I've been psychologically abused - mindfucked, and now it's payback time.'" http://adbusters.org/magazine/38/mentalenvironment
"...consumers are the battleground for information wars, with messages flying at them from all directions. Drive down any city street and look at the images: one in ten (if you're lucky) is an actual traffic signal; the rest are trying to implant some idea, some behaviour, into your mind." http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue4_10/downes/index.html
The Art & Science of Billboard Improvement
"Look up! Billboards have become as ubiquitous as human suffering, as difficult to ignore as a beggar's outstretched fist. Every time you leave your couch or cubicle, momentarily severing the electronic umbilicus, you enter the realm of their impressions. Larger than life, subtle as war, they assault your senses with a complex coda of commercial instructions, the messenger RNA of capitalism." http://www.subvertise.org/subvert/asub0008/asub0008.html
New Times L.A. story on the Westwood billboard http://www.newtimesla.com/issues/2001-10-25/finger.html/1/index.html
(see ACLU Attacks Westwood)
Billboard Liberation Front http://www.billboardliberation.com/
Advertising as a Behavorial Science
Michael Cyrus Abadi
"In my decade of teaching troubled youth in a variety of settings, I am confident that there is a strong cultural component to such problems as opposition/defiant disorder, attention deficit disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse. I would not argue that our commercial culture plays a causal role in such difficulties, but it often reinforces and in some ways shapes disability." http://www.targetmarket.org/targe_3.htm