Monday, December 24, 2007

Yes Virginia, There is a Bakunin

Anarchists in the Aisles? Stores Provide a Stage - This front page feature on shopdropping has everything you could want in a Christmas story - and more. Shopdropping is the reverse of shoplifting, the shopdropper plants an item on the store shelf and leaves. The unsuspecting shopper discovers the dropped item, which can be a fake T-shirt, toy, propaganda tract, business card or anything else. What makes this the perfect Christmas story?

For starters it's got hip holiday hucksterism, the garage band version of xmas commercialism. Indie rockers Death of Jason Brody slip sample CD singles into department stores with stickers claiming they have arrived compliments of the store or designer label, for example:

“Bloomingdale’s and 7 for All Mankind present the Death of Jason Brody, our pick for New York band to watch in 2008,” read a sticker on one of the CDs placed near a register at Bloomingdales. “As thanks for trying us on, we’re giving you this special holiday gift.”
As Good As News would fall for this, hook, line and sinker - but shopdropping is more than just neo-P.T. Barnum - it's got that staple of every holiday feature, religious warfare. The skirmishes are more fun than fighting about the creche on the lawn at city hall. At Powell's books in Portland, Oregon religious groups plant fliers featuring Christian cartoons in the "Science" section. Their foes move stacks of bibles from "Religion" to "SciFi and Fantasy". As Good As News Helpful Hint - it would be a lot easier to move the section signs than the books, convert the entire "Religion" section to "Fantasy" and vice versa in the blink of an eye.

As with most religious warfare there are elements of anarchy and terrorism. Artists plant fake canned good labels, T-shirts and action figures, using the familiarity of the shopping scene as an opportunity to send an unexpected message. The canned goods are relabeled with travel photos in a benign effort add a moment of wonder to life. The action figures include an anarchist complete with gas mask and Molotov cocktails planted by Packard Jennings of Oakland, California, who records prospective buyers on video and seems to enjoy spreading confusion among the proletariat of the cash register with his message that even radical ideology gets commercialized. Oakland's Center for Tactical Magic pursues a similar theme with T-Shirts picturing Karl Marx, Che Guevara and Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin under the slogan "Peace on Earth. After We Overthrow Capitalism."

As Good As News has not forgotten the Tylenol tampering deaths of the 1980s and would not like to explain an Al Qaeda action figure to a six year old, so you will find no endorsement of shopdropping here. As a purely theoretical exercise we have to note that this trend is just scratching the surface. It's hard to believe Mr. Jennings hasn't already planted a suicide bomber Barbie that will be discovered this morning. PETA is busy substituting liberated white lab mice for plastic sheep in mangers at a department store near you to remind you of your Christian duty to respect all life. Chinese manufacturers ship cases of plastic candy canes that look good enough to eat thanks to their shiny lead paint - oops - never mind.

Merry Christmas. Remember, that coal in your stocking is a diamond waiting to happen and to those lucky lawyers working today on contracts that need to be closed by year end, don't forget, an elf is just a subordinate Claus.

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