|Art by Galen Dara|
"The Revolution, Brought to You by Nike" by Andrea Phillips (9915 words)
This story approaches resistance and revolution from a very interesting angle (for me, at least). This is not, after all, a story about protest organizers and students and labor figures coming together to take on a presidential administration. This is not exactly about the plucky underdog who fights the good fight based on ideals alone. This is a story about capital, about business. About media and marketing. And about what's good for not just people, but also brands. I think that it's an easy thing to do to make the moral argument for why certain things are bad—racism and homophobia and injustice. In some ways that's the problem, that there's really no doubt about the morality of some positions and policies. It's a much different thing to argue for moral points on financial and economic grounds. But it's not impossible. And this story shows the power of approaching a ideological conflict that nevertheless has vast economic impacts. The idea of brand is something that is something that many people probably cringe at. The sort of hollow, shallow, exploitative capitalism that espouses a belief but doesn't actually stand for it. Well, this story basically asks what if one corporation, what if one media strategy, stood up?
The piece focuses on Corazon, a woman in charge of a Nike ad campaign that is designed not just to energize buyers but to try and steer the company into sound financial waters by sailing against the tide of corruption and authoritarianism that threatens to wreck markets and companies and people. Basically, it stems from the recognition that there can be no real stability in a climate that is run on fear and outrage, abuse and nepotism. In order to succeed financially, Corazon positions Nike ideologically opposed to the administration. In order to sell shoes, yes, but first to do something bigger, something riskier. And I just love how the story explores how she uses her position, how shes uses her power, to fight against systemic injustice and oppression. And how, in many ways, the system as we have it means that corporation and media have the most power to steer resistance. That it might only take some people at the top acting with conviction to mobilize people into taking action. To break through the constant noise that certain administrations make and present a clear message. Because messaging is something that media, that advertising, excels at.
And it's just so interesting to see a story that examines resistance through this lens, not exactly as socialism but as capitalist. And while some of the actions do become a bit more complex by the fact that this is a company, that this is about profit, it's a kind of complexity that is inspiring. And it takes a long look at history and at struggle and resistance and provides a dazzlingly imagined and beautifully rendered near-future where there is hope that things can change. That people can rise above. That there are forces in this country more powerful than corruption and fear. And really it's a lovely piece that you should check out!