Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dispatches from Operation Mindfuck

If someone posted on Tumblr a picture of Emily Browning burning money in the film Sleeping Beauty how many notes do you think it might get?



What was the last date on which the Daily Mail published an article on Money Burning?


(And as if prescient - a weird thing to say about the Daily Mail, I know - a week prior to this the KLF's million quid burning on Jura was actually in one of their headlines [for a piece on holidaying on Jura])

If you were Adbusters the Canadian-based not-for-profit, anti-consumerist, pro-environment organization who were important players in Occupy, on what date would you post an article on encouraging people to burn their money?

(The article was originally accompanied by a video of Greek activists robbing a shop of money and then burning it as a form of protest. This, claims the author of the Adbusters piece, is a 'shocking political act worthy of emulation'.)

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The comments to the Daily Mail piece and the Adbusters piece are interesting as people try to get their heads around what burning money means. I'll pick a few of them for you:

From the Daily Mail:

userpete86, IrvineCA, United States, 2 months ago

I don't really see a problem here. If you think about it, they have burned a store of value, not actual goods. Burning $5000 worth of actual food would be a crime, whereas burning that much cash really just strengthens every existing dollar. It's a weird concept.



Rick Jamey, nO, United States, 2 months ago

What you actually do, if you know how to run a show properly, is you SAY you are burning money and then you burn something else, like...fake money? The audience would never know and no money ever gets destroyed.....


jrg, Winnipeg, 2 months ago

As a Canadian, I am disgusted and ashamed.


usadarling, allNutsinFlorida, 2 months ago

This is such a reflection of what we have become as a society when burning money instead of feeding and clothing starving children is done for the thrill and the almighty god publicity. I am sure these two hosts will mea culpa themselves after the drama into more ratings.


markish99, kent, 2 months ago

5k incinerated has generated far more exposure than it would have done had it been spent on conventional advertising. Okay, it is an obscene waste, but mission is accomplished.


Bagpiper13, Calgary, Canada, 2 months ago

I voted to burn it. Pretty cool. eh?




From Adbusters:

People can burn their own money if they want, but I fail to see how these gents are justified taking money from others to burn.
Where does money go when burned? Well the value transfers to the money that is still in existence, at least until the government prints a new batch (which is also a wrong, in my opinion).

and in reply to the above comment;

Basically, you are a capitalist who believes that we are not justified in forcing change on a society that is like a train running off the cliff. Well, I don't agree. I think we need to stop the train before it kills us all, and if that means creating a ruckus or doing things that sensitive capitalists don't understand, that is OK.


Money may be the golden calf of modern society, but unlike a "false god", it provides tangible benefit for everyone participating in society. Removing money from circulation affects everyone, even if they're just "your bills".
An ideal society would not function on a capitalist system, but we are not yet in an ideal society. If we are to get there, we will need to create another system of exchange before we can free ourselves of the one currently in place.

and in reply to the above comment;

Why are you so scared to burn money? I'm tired of hearing about how if we just buy the right stuff, everything will be fine. Personally, I'm going to burn a dollar bill and see how I feel.


Adbusters, I almost always agree with you, but I'm not so sure about this one. Why not use that money to buy a homeless person a meal?
This might work if you are in the comfortable middle class, but go up to a poor person and tell them to "just burn your money" and see how that goes. And would Kalle Lasn be willing to burn the money he earns from selling subscriptions and shoes? I don't think he would.

and in reply to the above comment;

I think the point the author tried to make is that we are unable to imagine the desecration of money and will create a whole series of rationalizations as to why it is important that we do not desecrate money.
The conventional wisdom is that money can buy anything, even an egalitarian society. That we need only give money to homeless people, and that will improve things.
The interesting question is: are we able to break our relation to money, no longer viewing it as anything more important than mere paper that has been ascribed value.


Burning money is a symbolic act; a desperate objection to the desecration of the world that we are all implicated in. It is not a solution, it is a symptom

A bold revolutionary burns his own money. Not the money of a shop owner.


Anybody can burn someone elses money....easy peasy. To burn your own? All it is is comparing the feeling of burning your own money compared to buying some shit. I suspect the feeling of burning your own money would last a lot longer...possibly the rest of your life.


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Its interesting to me that commenters pick up on the point of whether or not you burn your own money. I think this is important. If a rich man gives you a thousand quid and you burn it that's one thing, if a poor man burns his last tenner, that's another thing entirely. Quite how you define what is your money is complicated though. Do you know at any given moment the balance of your liabilities and assets? And what about your future commitments? Any reference your future income stream surely has risk attached to it. You can't be 100% certain that you'll be able to continue paying your mortgage. In other words, being definite about whether the money in your pocket is 'yours' is more complicated than it might first appear.

I think in the end what it comes down to, largely, is your feeling about it. If you're going to burn money do you genuinely and honestly feel it is yours to burn? I think that's the important difference. 

I actually had to tackle this issue on my first burning. I burnt a tenner on 23rd October 2007 whilst I was bankrupt. So technically, the tenner wasn't mine. It belonged to my creditors. However, it did 'feel' like my tenner. I'd had it in my pocket for a couple of weeks prior and had refused to spend it going without this and that instead. Of course I had no credit cards or even a bank card (it's still tough being a bankrupt) so cash was the only way I had of spending and receiving. Key to the 'feeling' of ownership was the absolute amount. It was, after all, only a tenner. If I'd burnt a thousand quid (not that I had a thousand quid, but...) that would have been different. If a creditor had noticed, they might well have kicked up a fuss. 

So I suppose its both how you feel about it and how others feel about it, that determines whose money it is to burn. That's odd if you think about 'ownership' as a definite thing, which is easy to do. But that aspect of consensus - of something fundamentally social - seems to be at the core ownership. Another way of saying this, is that ownership needs to be visible for it to exist at all. That's an interesting thing to think about in terms of the actions of Candaules, 'his' Queen and Gyges all those years ago.

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