Adbusters' Kalle Lasn: the flawed genius behind Occupy Wall Street

This is the story of the man who inspired the OccupyWallStreet movement, the man who perhaps has been dreaming of a movement like this for 20 years, a movement that may outpace The Tea Party in terms of its impact on the global psyche.

That man is Kalle Lasn, a stout, rugged-looking, white-haired radical, who looks like a farmer, wears gum boots into his office and talks like a philosopher with a pronounced Baltic accent. He reads voraciously, grows apples and loves design, economics, sustainability, and art.

His is a life of ideas, but his story is an inspirational tale of truth. It's a parable about how intention resonates when cultivated as fiercely as his has been over many years. And how, despite all the ambient noise in our culture and how entrenched power has become, how one person's intention can inspire a mass movement.

This is also a story about timing. And confluence. And brilliance.

Timing is everything, and Kalle Lasn's time has come.

Lasn, the founder and driving force behind Adbusters Magazine,  lives in a quiet suburb of Vancouver called Aldergrove with his Japanese wife on a farm. Lasn just happens to be based in Vancouver, you could say. His reach is global, his admirers far flung. And Lasn's intention might never have gone beyond the reach of his magazine, Adbusters, had he not held it so long and so fiercely and had it not collided with a rising tide of outrage against corporate America, against foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and government bailouts of major financial institutions in the United States.

In essence, they are the same economic principles Lasn had been battling for years. 

An idea decades in the making

Although Occupy Wall Street seemed to be spawned from the outrage of the un-wealthy at the injustices that America's political and financial leaders have committed against the "other 99%", it originated somewhere and that may have been with Lasn.

"He's a geezer -- he was born in WWII," a Lasn admirer in his late twenties told me this week to drive home just how long Lasn's been walking this earth.

"There aren't many people who've held the same beliefs that they had when they were in their twenties," he said, laughing even as he indicated his immense respect for the Canadian publishing radical whose personal history may very well attribute for having spawned the protest movement that is now more than one month old and is coming to Vancouver this weekend.


He used to call his work "Greenpeace for the mental environment" and a lot of Greenpeace activists have worked for him. Adbusters is where I first learned the idea of "meme". And that's the root of how OccupyWallStreet seems to have come about.

Its one of his great achievements after a couple of decades, that a single meme has taken off and traveled far beyond himself.

A meme takes off

Lasn is a visionary. And the movement is consistent with his determination over many years to question the large corporate part of capitalism.

Yet those close to Lasn say he knows that it has grown way beyond him and is amazed by the fact that the movement has swept across America like a storm, fired a normally complacent middle class into action,  endorsed by celebrities of enormous stature, like Michael Moore and Tim Robbins, and supported by labour groups and business people alike

Moore said yesterday that it is the revolt he wished for at the end of his 2009 documentary.

Its impact has been enormous. It has become a focus of media giants like Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart, and reviled by right wing pundits like Glenn Beck, who called OWS a "storm of Biblical proportions" and told radio listeners that Occupy Wall Street protesters will "kill everybody". The meme has grown to the point that few people can even trace its origin back to the fiery editor in Vancouver.

"He's not taking ownership of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but he's not baffled by it," another person who knows Lasn well told me.

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I am very excited, happy and

I am very excited, happy and hopefull about "occupy wall street movement' .It presents a ray of hope for better future. Its timing and placing are right to make the blow to the capitalism. America is leading the new capitalism only for profit of corporates only 1% people. This movement is very radicle in nature. Resistence is always worthful for development for society. The american society has been very stagnant for decades. This movement would bring change not only in America even its impact would be felt all over world in coming years. I express my solidarity with this movement. long live.

with salute

rajbir singh

form delhi india     


Brilliant and Genius are redundant.  No need for both in the title.



It is unfortunate that people with the kind of blind, dumb hatred that you demonstrate should have as much right to post their raving verbal blows online as anyone else. There's no place in this world for attitudes such as you display: haughtiness, arrogance, closed-mindedness, contempt for others, and just plain foolishness. Alas, we must find a way to either build bridges or face the consequences. I would truly hope that each of us could be open-minded enough to the possibility of understanding; failing that we will be left with the need to marginalize or eliminate one another. I, for one, am tired of belonging to the 99% that have been marginalized thus far, while you and others like you dominate the conversation and suck up all the air.

I console myself with the knowledge that your hatred problem stems from fear that the movement will succeed. And that has to be a good sign.

Who's paying the freight?

Take a look at every house on Vancouver's east side. Look at every single parent walking a child to school. Note every older person buying their fruit and vegetables at a sidewalk market on Vic Drive. They are the people paying the costs of the VPD, the civic garbage collections, the port-o-potty costs, the "free" wifi and everything else associated with this occupation of our streets. They are the 99% and they pay yet again. I don't see Adbusters, Lasn or any of his colleagues footing the bill in this town or any other city for their "great idea." It's too much. It's gone too far. Get off the streets, roll up your sleeves and come up with concrete solutions that won't further burden an already exhausted tax base.


The political and economic systems a flawed, unfair and too often criminal. However Mr. Lasn sounds to me too much like all the vanguard through history, charismatic articulate and dismissive of any authority but his own. Think for Yourself.

There's something too pretentious....

I just finished reading Lasn and White's article in The Washington Post "Why Occupy Wall Street will keep up the fight", and if you notice, there's something quite pretentious about a supposedly modest Canadian man presumtiously speaking in that context of "we" and "our country" when referring to the US. As far as I can see, Kalle for that reason has become a liability to the occupy movement.

He could have chosed "we" in the global sense, or "our world" also instead of misrepresentative "we" of the OWS. As far as I am aware, Kalle has never even been to OWS. And yet for Micah White and Kalle Lasn to write in The Washington Post, of all places, as if they were central to it seems to me gross misrepresentation. We don't need that. It's surprising coming from a source that insists on transparency and sincerity in communications.

Your headline for this article is not true. Lasn did not start OWS ... he supported this movement after it was a great big going concern through his personal magazine: The Adbusters. Let's get a little reality please!