Now You’re Speaking My Language: The Role of Cultural Jamming in Activism

Activism! itself can be viewed as a compilation of counterculture movements, existing as collective actions intent on disrupting the social norm. In chapter 5 of Tim Jordan’s Activism! : Direct Action, Hacktivism and the Future of Society, the role of advertisements, as spewed by corporations, in shaping society and these very norms are explored. While traditional advertisements typically follow the stream of culture, feeding into the insecurities of a society or enforcing rigid societal norms, the counterpart of culture jamming seeks to “reverse and transgress the meaning of cultural codes whose primary aim is to persuade us to buy something or be someone” (Jordan 102). This culture jamming not only represents a movement intent on removing the pervasive power held by money-driven companies, but also another layer to the definition of activism! that may not be initially considered.


To use the same “language of corporate desire” in order to actually reverse the initial message is a strategy that enables cultural jammers to level the playing field with enormous corporations (Jordan 103). While the same strategies are employed, cultural jamming’s effect is jarring and unsettling, as opposed to the subconscious seductiveness of traditional adverts. Perhaps it is this emotional and mental stirring that can cause one to want to act towards change and to contribute to the overarching goal of activism!. Through this elicited reaction, individuals transcend into supporters of a unifying cause. It is this unity towards the vision of an improved world that allows semiotic terrorism, or individual acts of cultural jamming, to permeate the façade of culture put forth by advertisers.


While the average person is inundated with countless advertisements each day, it is downright dismaying as to how shallow content matter appears in a world filled with despair and disparities. Advertisements may be not only harmful for one’s self-perception, but also distract from current dilemmas, such as the millions of refugees wandering aimlessly, a group mostly consisting of unaccompanied children. Therefore, perhaps cultural jamming can be utilized to not only showcase the underlying evils of an advertisement and corporate greed, but also shed light on more pressing issues. It is through this that these acts of semiotic terrorism may permeate into larger movements and societal issues.


One thought on “Now You’re Speaking My Language: The Role of Cultural Jamming in Activism”

  1. I really like your idea of using cultural jamming to shed light on issues more pressing than which brands of shoes to buy or whether or not to buy Absolut vodka. However, I think through cultural jamming activists access two avenues of protest that are surprisingly significant. First, they point out the power corporations have on our subconscious, which is a subject of an important ethical conversation about our right to think (and shop) freely as individuals. Second, some of the issues cultural jammers point out, I would argue, are very important. For example, Nike’s use of sweatshops to create their products puts thousands of people in deplorable working conditions, earning essentially nothing. As you said, the hopeful effect of cultural jamming is to motivate audiences to act towards change and fight the injustices we allow corporations to commit every day, so by focusing efforts against smoking, drinking or sweatshops, they can work together to address some of the major problems the world is currently facing. That being said, I really liked your description of cultural jamming’s effect, the transcendence of individuals into unified supporters. It gives significance to the claim the author made earlier in the book about the importance of a common identity among a group of activists, and begins to clarify exactly why he emphasizes cultural jamming as a type of activism!.


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