Kalle Lasn
Key Player

Co-Founder, Co-Publisher, & Art Director, Adbusters magazine; former filmmaker & documentarian, PBS and the Canadian National Film BoardKalle Lasn is the driving intellectual force behind the anti-corporate Adbusters Media Foundation. The filmmaker was born in Estonia in 1942. He spent his childhood in a German refugee camp and in Australia. In the 1960s, he founded a market research company in Toyko, and in 1970, moved to Vancouver, Canada. For twenty years, he produced documentaries for PBS and Canada’s National Film Board.

His “realization” that he did not fit into modern life hit him in a supermarket parking lot. Frustrated that he had to insert a quarter into a cart to shop there, he jammed the coin in so that the machine became inoperable. This was the first (quite literal) “culture jam” — defined as an act designed to subvert mainstream society.

Lasn started Adbusters in 1989, along with wilderness cinematographer Bill Schmalz. The two, working with other activists, launched a counter-ad to a media campaign by British Columbia’s forestry industry, then under attack by radical environmentalists. Television stations refused to air the activists’ ad, so they fought back through other media. The industry’s ads were pulled after hundreds of people complained, and Adbusters was born.

In his writings, Lasn rails against the modern world and the progress that has made everyone’s life better. “The aggregate level of American life fulfillment peaked in 1957, and with a couple of brief exceptions, it’s been downhill from there,” he writes in his book Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge — and Why We Must. Lasn calls the car “arguably the most destructive product we humans have ever produced.”

Lasn’s utopia is far from that of most Americans. He recommends “Not just a carbon tax, but a global across-the-board pricing system.” An example of life in this brave new world? “Your private automobile will cost you, by some estimates, around $100,000. And a tankful of gas, $250.”