While shopping for other stuff in the well-stocked magazine section of a well-known bookstore, I happened upon this cool little zine called Switcheroo, issue #2.
The presentation is unassuming — black and white, no frills whatsoever, good old lo-fi cut&paste publishing — but the headlines immediately hooked my attention.
Stuff like "Feel the Relief of Having No Control", and "Learn How to Achieve Madness! Featuring Nathan Leopold - Richard Loeb - Jim Jones!". I was laughing already — that particular inner laughter that arises in me whenever I smell a decent blend of wits, cynicism and dark humor — when I stumbled upon a line from the zine's editorial.
'I have attempted to expose popular culture as the calculated creation of a national neurosis, but I've also tried contributing to that neurosis. Why try to teach pigs to sing? Enjoy.'
Well, maybe the "nameless editor" behind Switcheroo doesn't propose to teach any pigs how to sing, but he certainly doesn't mind butchering some. Which is tasty. Take for instance the full page ad on the back cover:
Life is hard.
Isn't it easier to be passive? Just relax and let your life float by. Let others deal with your problems. Let others worry about your life. Let others make your decisions. Let others take care of you.
Why should you? Why exactly should you play such a big part in your life? It's easier to be passive. Give in.
(Paid for by the National Committee for Passivity.)'
The point is explained clearly inside the magazine — because, after all, why should you
make an effort to figure it out? Lapping up somebody else's explaination is easier, etc:
'Switcheroo... exploitation/empowerment. Exploitation is empowerment. As a consumer, you are exploited every time you decode an advertisement. But you are made to feel empowered by the advertisements which try to get you to buy the product.'
The prize for the most hilarious demonstration of this basic concept, though, goes to another ad — the one for the "I Consent" t-shirt, offered "Half price to girls under 18!":
'Power to choose.
Power to protect yourself.
Power to take control.
This is the shirt that puts you in control. This shirt is empowering. Being an intelligent woman, you know that it is your choice whether you have sex. You know that you are the only deciding factor; it is within your control. Legal definition of rape: sex against one's will. In other words, it's a matter of consent. Therefore, as long as you give consent, you cannot be raped. This shirt is a fail-proof protection against the only crime worse than murder. Defend yourself from the patriarchy's most oppressive tool against women. Buy this T-Shirt.'
The whole magazine follows this thread, exploring issues such as the subtle but extremely powerful techniques of manipulation employed by media and advertising, and their absorption into popular culture in general. What happens to you when completely, constantly immersed in a dense sphere of information that gets virtually showed down your throat? What if the messages that bombard you were aimed directly at exploiting your weaknesses, and indeed were expanding and building upon those weaknesses, making sure that real empowerment always remains "just behind the corner"? Hah! Imagine that.
In part, Switcheroo is a rough — but incisive and fresh — distillate of memes that (once they get showed down your throat and infect you just like everything else) may facilitate a greater awareness of the pervasive, invisible insanity that surrounds us. It also describes some major agendas behind the media onslaught using the language of conspiracy theory: in Regaining Cuntrol, a member of the "Official Patriarchy" explains how mass media is being employed as a tool for 'crippling the Matriarchy', by marketing trends under the guise of "liberation" (for reference, see this article and read how Edward L. Bernays made it cool for suffragettes to start smoking in public). Other articles dissect mainstream pornography (as a 'calculated effort to demoralize men') and detail how corporations exploit black people by commodifying their culture and mass-marketing it back to them, as well as to the rest of us — meanwhile, a thin veneer of "racial equality" and appreciation of the exotic Other serves to distract and bamboozle the unattentive.
Switcheroo then proceeds deeper into pure, unadulterated madness with a psychological profile of killers Leopold and Loeb, and a very thorough (for its 3 or 4 pages with photos) portrait of Jim Jones and his manipulation techniques. The whole zine is drenched in a tone of caustic anger, aimed at the systematic, subliminal abuse practiced by Popular Culture. Several editorials aggressively advocate the embracing of Madness and the unabashed exploitation of other people through mind control, and they sound like an exasperated reaction at the unflattering realities that a fair look to issues of media influence always uncovers. Switcheroo embodies the pains of coping with massively intrusive media felt by those who strive to retain their individuality within a homogenized culture. Publications such as this deliver a welcome shock to our systems, even when the ideas have been heard before. After all, repetition is a key element of brainwa..uh, understanding.
By way of credit to the original author (other than, of course, because I've been manipulated into compliance by his cunning techniques of coercion), here's his contact information in case anybody wants to check out the zine. Of course I'm not affiliated with them in any way, etc. etc. and you'll have to edit the email back into its correct form (nobody likes spam).
P.O. Box 2443
Richmond, IN 47375
Switcheroo (at) Journalist.com