09 October 2008

Tell a lie big enough: Nike's major threat continues...

Craig Stecyk's primitive inspired art from a recent Nike Skateboard marketing campaign.

While nerding out to see who reads this blog and how I they find it, I'm amazed at how many people find it by searching 'Nike Vs Minor Threat.' I wrote a piece titled Nike Vs Minor Threat: Is Cultural Imperialism a Major Threat? for Foulweather #1 but have not thought too much about it since.

Then the other day I came across Nike's most recent campaign with Lance Mountain and Craig Stecyk. No big deal. Nike have now solidified their place in the skateboarding milieu. Nike's acceptance is almost universal within skateboarding. Nike make very good shoes, they sponsor cutting-edge professionals and employ a creative team of skateboarders to run the Nike SB program. They've put out amazing videos and ad campaigns that are true to, as they call it, "the collective lifestyle we all consider ourselves a part of." They've managed to project authenticity. They've managed to convince us that they have "our" interest at heart. That being- keeping skateboarding for skateboarders.

To paraphrase Hitler, "If you tell a lie big enough, people will believe it." But let's be fair here. Please don't treat us like a fucking idiots.

I concede, Nike is doing a lot of good for a lot of skateboarders. Right now they are projecting a pretty sincere image of skateboarding's "purity" but it is not because they care, it is because they know if they want to continue to make money from skateboarding and youth culture in general, they have to appear genuine. It simply cannot be any other way in such a consumer driven economy.

Why should I care? Well, I suppose this time I care because for one Craig Stecyk, an original champion of skateboarding's independent spirit is involved. And for two, because Lance Mountain's "Message" is all about skateboaring being "our's." He is suggesting that he did this campaign to return to the DIY spirit of skateboarding. Bottom line is, Mountain and Stecyk have done an amazing job of helping Nike convince skateboarders (I think this latest campaign might be aimed at the likes of mylsef ie. aging skateboarders who are keenly aware of skateboarding's DIY history) that this multi-million dollar capitalist entity cares about the individual dirt-bag skateboarder, art, creativity, hopping trains, breaking the law to skate and exploring the Salton Sea Landscape (itself a toppled victim of over-reached greed) for pools to skate.

This is the ultimate reification of the DIY and anarchic spirit in general. It has paved the way for the standardization and now concrete commodification of skateboarding. Skateboarding has been colonized. It has been conquered. All that is really left, is the feeling from actually doing it. And thankfully, that's the best thing about skateboarding that can never really be reified. But otherwise, skateboarding's cultural integrity has pretty much died a dishonourable death.

Perhaps, I'm being melodramtic and unrealistic. I understand that people have to make money. I understand how capitalism works and what one is tempted by when trying to survive within in it. I have friends and acquaintances who I greatly respect who work for Nike. I can't be down on them. I can't really be down on Lance Mountain or Craig Stecyk. They will remain inspirations for me. I'm majorly impressed by this marketing effort, from the filming to the imagery to the ambient dub soundtrack. But ultimately, I'm concerned about the standardization and subsequent conquest of diverse subcultures that have kept post-industrial life interesting and vital.

I fear if we lose control and diversity suffers, we face one big global mono-culture, that in itself is all the more vulnerable to collapse due to its lack of diversity. Culture like bio-systems need to diversity to stay alive and healthy.

I bet someone out there could convince me that skateboarding was never really immune from the forces of commodification and like punk it never really offered any lasting viable alternatives to the "establishment." I now almost believe that myself. But, I have romantic ideals. I still hang out to some of the baggage I have from my youth. I was once convinced that skateboarding was one of the few sanctuaries from the exploitation of the creativity, energy, innocence, passion, anger and anti-establishment fervor of youth, for people like us, who always wanted to be something more than a spectator, a target audience, a consumer, a victim. A pathetic cog.

Check out the campaign for yourself.