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Battling Big Business
Countering greenwash, front groups and other forms of corporate deception. Edited by Eveline Lubbers
Green Books, 224pp, ISBN 1-903998-14-X, £10.95. bbb


Camy Matthay (Zmagazine), Februari 2003
about A.F.R.I.K.A.-Text "Using the language of Power" in "Battling Big Business"

"As encouraging as this perspective
is, Battling Big Business underscores the necessity for activists not to be just assiduous in the safekeeping and execution of their goals, but to be thinking faster and more creatively than their opponents. This is where the second part of Battling Big Business comes in, offering a tactical menu so perceptive, and so ripe for experimentation, that it seems to have arrived from the future (well, as a matter of fact ­from a.f.r.i.k.a. and other virtual orbits).

A stunning essay by autonome a.f.r.i.k.a. gruppe 'Communication Guerrillas: Using the Language of Power' calls attention to two interrelated political facts: one, that a given public will become inured to rituals that become ubiquitous, and two that 'radical leftist rituals are needed by the state to provide symbolic balance against the extreme right as well as to justify new repressive laws.' Keeping these facts in mind, a.f.r.i.k.a. creates a compelling argument for activists to set aside the conventional logic of 'us vs. them' trench warfare and instead to playfully 'distort the channels and modalities of communication.'

a.f.r.i.k.a. recounts a campaign by the German antiracist network 'kein mensch ist illegal' that employed these techniques with dramatic success against Lufthansa who was involved in the deportation of refugees. 'kein mensch ist illegal' produced a high-quality spoof leaflet in customer-friendly corporate language advertising Lufthansa's new 'Deportation Class.'The leaflet, overidentifying with the logic of profit, explained that the new lower-price fares were being offered to their customers for the reduced level of comfort they might experience sitting next to someone in handcuffs with tape over their mouth.

As it turned out, enough people believed the airline was capable of such cynical marketing that they started attacking the airline, the government, and the policy. Ultimately, Lufthansa begged off on being the chauffer for the state's unwanted ­an achievement that most felt would never have occurred through direct or 'indirect' negotiation.

As a.f.r.i.k.a. pointed out, the Deportation Class campaign exposed one of many self-contradictions or 'hidden reversals' of the liberal market culture of political and economic choice. The image of all commercial airlines is based on the fantasy of a world without borders, that passengers are free to travel anywhere in the world in the pursuit of information, sensations, and goods. The 'no one is illegal' campaign revealed that though airplanes make the pleasure of traveling available to all customers, they also take some people where they definitely do not want to go.

Subvertisments, like the Deportation Class leaflet, as well as other
communication guerrilla tactics revealed in Battling Big Business have enormous revolutionary potential in that they remind their audiences, i.e., the consumer-citizens of the world's privileged regions, of the suffering, injustice, and destructive forces required to maintain modern industrial civilization. Tactics like this -unexpected, irresistible, playful and deeply provocative- call attention not so much to the 'bad guys' as to the mind industry and ideology that allows them to rule."

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