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Adbusters Targets Corporate Propaganda With #OccupyXmas

by Laura Stone

The yurts are barely dismantled and the tents only just rolled up, but there is already a new movement on the horizon — Occupy Christmas.

Canadian magazine Adbusters — which prompted the Occupy Wall Street camp and subsequent set-ups around North America, including Toronto’s St. James Park — has put out a call for another round of capitalism-disturbing.Customers await the shopocalypse outside Old Navy. (photo: Robert Stromberg)

This time, the target is the gift-giving season.

“Christmas has been hijacked for us,” said Kalle Lasn, editor-in-chief at Adbusters, a non-profit, Vancouver-based alternative magazine. “It’s become this ugly, soulless, consumer-fest.”

In a note on their website, the magazine asks supporters to “launch an all-out offensive to unseat the corporate kings on the holiday throne.”

It is all planned to start this Black Friday on November 25, a notorious day of shopping excess in the United States and also the date of the publication’s 20th annual Buy Nothing Day. American media reports suggest planned protests at stores such as Walmart.

Lasn said Occupy Christmas would extend from the end of November to the sales in early January. He added that the closure of Occupy camps in several Canadian cities, including Toronto, signals the end of “phase one” of the movement but warned of a “spring offensive” in the new year.

The ideas for Occupy Christmas, which Lasn likens to “shenanigans,” include:

— a Santa sit-in, whereby protesters sit outside a store and encourage people to cut up their credit cards;

— a Jesus walk, where people put on a mask in the Holy Son’s likeness and walk through malls, to create an eerie sentiment;

— a “whirly mart,” in which would-be shoppers fill their carts with products but abandon them at the cash register.

“This movement is somewhat about angering people,” Lasn said.

At the soon-to-be shuttered Occupy Toronto site, participant Shirley Ceravolo said she’d be interested in joining the Christmas movement.

“It’s a great idea. You don’t need to spend money to show your family and friends that you love them,” said Ceravolo. “Santa is just a symbol of corporate propaganda.”

But some think targeting Christmas goes a step too far.

“There’s a difference between protesting in a public park and on private property,” said Sally Ritchie, vice-president of communications and marketing at the Retail Council of Canada, which represents 43,000 storefronts.

“It’s illegal to do it on private property, such as malls or stores, because it’s dangerous and it interferes with rights of other people.”

Ritchie said the holiday season is most important to retailers.

“Christmas is vitally important to retailers ….it’s their make or break time,” said Ritchie, who added the industry contributes $74 billion annually to the Canadian economy.

“This is going to hurt very vulnerable, small independent retailers. They live and die on Christmas.”

Steve Tissenbaum, a professor of business strategy at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, said disruptions in stores may simply force more people to do their shopping online.

And while it could raise awareness around corporate culture, Tissenbaum said the Christmas season is too meaningful to too many people to simply be abandoned.

“I think they’ll alienate people more so than build on the cause.”

Adbusters created an #OCCUPYXMAS hashtag to mark the movement for those to follow and share online. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 1,600 people had tweeted the page and some 20,000 had liked it on Facebook.

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