by Comrade Black
So were at that time of year where the stores are preparing for xmass, their number one sales time of the year, and in response many people are planning on taking part in the annual Buy Nothing Day promoted by Adbusters.
When I first came across BND, a few years ago it seamed like a great idea, but now I am not so sure I buy it. I feel I have to question the tactics effectiveness. How much difference will it really make, the majority of people I know of that are excited to be taking part in BND are either people that already don’t buy almost anything anyways, who scavenge and live a freegan lifestyle, or people that will simply end up buying more in the days leading up to or directly following BND. In short both groups will likely end up buying the exact same amount this season as they would have bought anyways, just not on November 25/26. It seams to me that this action is more a symbolic gesture than a real strategy to empower people and/or challenge capitalism.
Some others have taken this further in an attempt to get past this problem but suggesting Steal Something Day! at least here we have a strategy attempting to cost the corporations money, although I must admit I am skeptical to whether a few pseudo-militant hippies and dirty squatters, travelers etc; all shoplifting on one particular day will even cost enough for the companies to bother hiring extra security that day. As much as I wish it would. However once again I doubt this will be any more than another symbolic gesture.
What we actually need to do is start thinking strategically. Capitalism is about the hording and exchange of personal property and resources, to an end of unlimited expediential growth, so how do we challenge capitalism? By affecting their income, and making it cost more money to do business, then they are making, thus removing the primary incentive.
So perhaps instead of celebrating Buy Nothing Day — which should really be called do nothing day – we could have Fuck With Business As Usual Day! 24 hrs of actions designed to cost corporations their profits,[i] from gluing locks, to sending solid black faxes[ii], sending 10000 emails to a bank so they can’t possibly receive their business emails and crashing their computers [iii], hacking, setting off smoke bombs in stores, talking loudly in the NIKE shop about child labor, phoney (or real) bomb threats at shopping malls,[iv] stealing, breaking windows,[v] paint-bombing or glitter-bombing,[vi] making large meal orders and not showing up for them at Mc-Restaurants, calling in sick for work, putting out of order signs on pop machines,[vii] arson,[viii] roadblocks,[ix] and anything else you can conceive of that would cost a business money!
However the big issue with this strategy would be promotions, I have to admit Fuck With Business As Usual Day does not have as nice of a ring to it, nor a good acronym, and without a glossy full color magazine in every 7-11 and Chapters to promote it, who would participate? As well you would have every liberal out there condemning the day and the coppers would be out in full force to “keep the peace” AKA protect corporate property, and business as usual. Hell if history is any indicator you would have many of the liberal pacifists not only condemning you but even working with the police to protect the property, and helping to catch anyone daring to partake. [x] Maybe Joe Foy of WCWC would even put up a bounty on us like he did to the tree spikers years ago! [xi]And in the USA under the Animal Enterprises Protection Act, people attacking any animal related industries could get up to 22 yrs in prison and be tried as a terrorist[xii] (child rapists often get 5-10 yrs, sometimes less [xiii]). Hell I could probably go to jail for even suggesting in a hypothetical that we consider any of these things, that is strategies that actually affect things. See the unfortunate truth is that whenever we actually become a threat they will use violence, fear, and threats to stop us, and as long as we are not of any real consequence to them they will be happy to continue to ignore us.
So even though Buy nothing day will really turnout to be Accomplish Nothing Day, the reality is in the end I will probably end up taking part in Buy Nothing Day, sad but true, cause honestly it’s the “least” I can do.
Currently the volunteer run non-profit infoshop I work at is planning our third annual Buy Nothing Day Sale! As a small business selling local or independent stuff, it wouldn’t make any sense for us to close down for the day, so instead we have fun with it. Anyways, they always say doing something is always better than doing nothing. All used books are 20% off and Marx is 1/2 off! Yet every year when we have the sale some folks completely freak out that we would dare mock the sacred Buy Nothing Day symbolic action.
[i] A similar idea was done years ago in the UK and was organized in part by the anarchist punk bands Crass and Chumbawamba. These actions were called Stop the City demonstrations.
[ii] A Black fax is a tactic where a piece of paper that is black is fed half way through a fax machine and then the other end is taped together in a loop so it will keep sending continuously. The tactic serves to both freeze up the targets fax machine and modem so other incoming messages won’t be able to be received, while also costing them a lot of money in toner and paper.
in 2006, members of the above ground animal rights and anti-vivisection campaign known as Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty campaign (SHAC) were charged with conspiracy to harass using a telecommunications device for sending back faxes, as well as other charges. For more information look up the SHAC 7
[iii] In October 2005, Dylan Barr was arrested after he sent out flood of emails to Washington Mutual Bank with messages saying “This is what happens to companies that invest in HLS.” This is what is called a denial of service” attack… Barr sent so many large documents to the employees that their inboxes became full and refused emails from actual bank patrons. Washington Mutual dropped HLS as a client. Bar served 29 days in jail, and was fined $25000, which is only a tiny fraction of the $1000000 estimated in loss from the bank dropping it’s shares.
[iv] A few years ago when I worked for Public Outreach as a street fundraiser,. a couple of my co-workers had to move where they were canvassing because some random guy came up to them and told them quietly they should leave cause he had left a bomb in the garbage can of the bay center mall. The mall had to evacuate, and a lot of money was lost in revenue, while they searched for the bomb that didn’t exist. The guy was never caught.
However, there is a real danger in crying wolf, as Ann Hansen once pointed out.
“in fact, we oppose the use of fake bomb threats precisely because they do cause the authorities to be skeptical of the authenticity of real bomb attacks”
[v] Common tactic used by Blac Bloc’s is to smash windows of corporations, cause they can be easy to break quickly, and expensive. As well, I have heard that often contrary to general public opinion, that many companies don’t report the broken windows to their insurance companies because it may be cheaper to fix a few broken windows than to pay an annual increase in the cost of insurance.
[vi] Glitter Bombs or Glamdalizim is a tactic used by radical queers where they mix glitter into a regular paint bomb to make the attack that much more fierce and fabulous!
[vii] I got this one from the classic Crimethinc book recipes For Disaster
[viii] I want to be clear I am not advocating or counseling here, I am talking in the hypothetical. As Ted Kaczynski stated in Hit Them Where It Hurts;
“The engine, for example, can be ruined with very little expenditure of time and effort by means well known to many radicals.
At this point I must make clear that I am not recommending that anyone should damage a bulldozer (unless it is his own property). Nor should anything in this article be interpreted as recommending illegal activity of any kind. I am a prisoner, and if I were to encourage illegal activity this article would not even be allowed to leave the prison. I use the bulldozer analogy only because it is clear and vivid and will be appreciated by radicals.”
an even better disclaimer can be found in the cover of one of my favorite zines Bloodlust: A Feminist Against Civilization, which reads;
All contents of this zine are for purely entertainment purposes. No one involved in the writing or constructing of this zine advocates or condones any sort of illegal activity. Please ignore the screams of a dying world and passively consume this as you would a television sitcom.
[ix] Roadblocks have become a tactic often used by indigenous sovereigntists when fighting against the corporations and the state. This tactic was used at Oka, as well is in 6 nations, and I believe the longest was the road block at Grassy narrows, although there is really too many to cite them all. Currently the warriors of the Wet’suwet’en are refusing entry to their traditional territories by anyone who doesn’t ask consent, as part of their assertion of their traditional rights, and resistance to the pipelines the corporations & government are trying to force through their territories. This tactic involves blocking a major road with something like logs, human bodies, trucks, overturned cop cars, or other such items, so no traffic can pass through. It has been shown to be an effective tactic.
[x] There have been many examples of this, basically any time a black bloc action has occurred, such as the toronto G20 and No-2010 anti-olympics actions. However, I think the clearest example was in the WTO protests in Seattle in 99 where white liberal middle class activists actually physically restrained young local people of color to stop them from looting stores that had been smashed and held them until the police could arrive to take them into custody. These liberals also physically blocked people from smashing windows.
In a non anarchist context, after the recent Vancouver hockey riots some people reportedly took it 10 steps further by attacking people and their homes who had been photographed at the riots, as well as tracking them down to turn into the cops. Scary shit.
[xi] On more than one occasion “WCWC offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any tree spiker in B.C. This offer still stands today” (Big Trees, Not Big Stumps: 25 years of campaigning to save wilderness with the Wilderness Committee, by Paul George). This has lead to some people referring to West Coast Wilderness Committee as WCSnitch
[xii] Marie Mason in 2009 was sentenced to 22 years after pleading guilty to arson attacks for a 1999 attack on a building at Michigan State University that caused more than US$1 million in damages, undertaken as a protest against research into genetically modified crops, as well as attacks on the property of a Mink farm owner.
Jeff (Free) Luers was initially sentenced to 22 years, 8 months in prison, but had his sentence reduced to 10 years on appeal after a large campaign to support him. He had been convicted in 2000 he set fire to three light trucks at Romania Chevrolet dealership in Eugene as a protest against excessive consumption and global warming
Also Walter Bond is currently serving 12 yrs for his 3 arsons as part of the ALF.
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is a United States federal law that makes it a mandatory minimum sentence for every conviction in relation to animal rights charges. So even if the defendant had gone out of their way to guarantee that no one would be hurt, their actions will be considered terrorism if they cost the corporation money through illegal means.
[xiii] In December 2003, Matin Tremblay was convicted for five counts of sexual assault against young Aboriginal teenage girls. However, he was released from custody the following year, after serving only a fraction of his three-and-a-half year sentence. Tremblay had originally been charged with 18 counts of sexual assault and administering a noxious substance to five Aboriginal girls between the ages of 13 and 15. Then 38 years old, Tremblay admitted to sexually assaulting and videotaping the girls while they were unconscious in his home. Feb 15, 2011, Tremblay was sentenced to 11 months in prison (one year minus time served) for two counts of drug-related charges. There are numerous new allegations by other young native womyn of waking up naked after her drugged them, and reportedly he often also would video tape himself sexually assaulting them while they were passed out.
There is also a history in BC (as well as other places) of native womyn going missing or being raped and/or murdered, and the police doing fuck all about it.
In the 2010 Victoria city council election a candidate named Pedro Mora admitted he had been previously convicted, after he plead guilty for the sexual assault of a 15 year old in Burnaby and he claims he served only 40 days in a “rehabilitation centre” in the Lower Mainland.