Joab Jackson on Fri, 9 Jan 1998 06:49:30 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> paid corporate subversion vis the Web

>From the Baltimore City Paper:

	Manufacturing Dissent 

Remember back in 1993 when a group known only as the Barbie Liberation
Organization surprised consumers and made national headlines by switching
the voice boxes of 300 G.I. Joe and Barbie dolls? A sparkling Barbie
huskily intoned, "Dead men tell no lies"  while a combat-ready Joe
squealed, "Want to go shopping?" 

Or how about last year, when the computer-software company Maxis
discovered only after shipping its macho adventure game SimCopter that one
of the scenes in the game showed two men kissing each other? 

Few knew these two blips on the media screen were connected-both stunts
were funded by a mysterious, little-known entity that calls itself
*(r)(tm)ark*. The group likens itself to a brokerage firm, finding
donors to fund acts of corporate sabotage; it claims to have rewarded 17
subversive acts in the past five years. An anonymous (r)(tm)ark
spokesperson e-mails me that the group consists of individuals, some of 
them academics, who  encourage "the intelligent sabotage of mass-produced 

In the past, recipients of an (r)(tm)ark prize knew little if anything
about their benefactor. (The Maxis programmer who hooked up two
computerized himbos in SimCopter-and was subsequently fired-received an
anonymous $3,000 money order from (r)(tm)ark.) Now (r)(tm)ark has gone
public, sort of-in the form of a Web site
( that lists the cash bounties the group
is willing to pay for certain projects. There's $3,000 reserved for the
first person who will "alter or erect an edition of inner-city billboards
of liquor or cigarettes so that they show a model completely wasted by
disease, or imprisoned."  And $750 is promised to each policeman in a
major city "no smaller than Chicago" who confronts businessmen on the
street after 6 P.M., asking for identification and informing them of a 6
P.M. curfew for affluent men. 

While some (r)(tm)ark-endorsed projects seem to be little more than
juvenile pranks writ large, they can be valuable reminders of how
corporations can be inadvertently inhuman. 

"Our ultimate aim is to make the corporate environment conform to people's
desires," the group's spokesperson writes, "to change the power balance a

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