Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler

Thomas Frank, Editor, Matt Weiland, Editor, Tom Frank, Editor W. W. Norton & Company $19.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-31673-5
Hoping to tap the youth dollar, in 1968 Columbia Records claimed ""The Man Can't Bust Our Music."" That same year, a sports-coat manufacturer urged buyers to ""Tune in. Turn on. Step out"" while so attired. Such ads have become infamous, proof of both capitalism's limitless capacity for co-optation and the counterculture's decline from radicalism to market share. But, as this bristlingly intelligent work documents, the story is a good deal more complicated. Frank, editor of the underground cultural-criticism journal The Baffler, stops short of claiming that advertising invented the counterculture, but he adroitly illuminates the intricacies behind familiar stories about the '60s by revealing how completely these ads, aimed at the hip consumer, harmonized with admen's changing values as well. Indeed, rebellion on Madison Avenue often preceded rebellion on campus. In accessible, muscular prose, Frank traces agencies' revolt against inflated '50s jargon (""Quadra-Power Roadability"") and creation of aggressively hip spots that simultaneously mocked consumer culture's empty promises and sold consumption-as-rebellion. Today, that style dominates the marketplace; every ad hastens to preempt viewer skepticism with a sneer of its own--but also assures him or her that ""this"" product is an exception. Though occasionally repetitive (we don't need to hear every adman's organizational theories), this book is frequently brilliant, an indispensable survival guide for any modern consumer. (Nov.) FYI: Frank and Baffler managing editor Matt Weiland have selected articles from the magazine's first decade in Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler. (Norton, $15 paper 256p ISBN 0-393-31673-4; cloth $25 -04621-4)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-0-393-34280-2
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