Lasn says the ads are effective. "I liken it to a sort of judo technique when you've got this huge enemy like Calvin Klein that's telling you certain things about your body, and you use their momentum and throw them onto the mat."

Their television spots, like the ones for "Buy Nothing Day," are dark warnings that our all-consuming passions are pummeling the planet. But don't be surprised if you haven't seen these commercials.

"All the major networks in North America have rejected just about all our un-commercials," Lasn says. "They don't seem to realize that they have to act not only to please their sponsors and commercial interests. But also they have to live up to the public interest. That's what the broadcasting act demands of them."

The Media Foundation is trying to prove the point in court. In 1993, it sued the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, claiming breach of contract and violation of its free speech rights. After the objections of advertisers, led by the Toyota Dealers of British Columbia, the network refused a second airing of a foundation-sponsored un-commercial that heralded "the end of the automobile."

The case, which Lasn hopes will be precedent-setting in Canada, is still winding its way through the courts. The foundation plans to pursue similar litigation against the networks in the U.S.

Their goal is to free the airwaves and allow opposing, non-commercial voices to be heard. Lasn says it would work like this: instead of 12 minutes of product advertisements each hour of television time, there could be 10 minutes of commercials and 2 minutes of un- commercials or environmental messages.

"You will have a wonderful spectacle of a citizen of America going on television and talking back at some of the large advertisers, saying, 'Don't buy a car. Don't fall for this fashion trick.'"

Advertisers would cut back, but they'd still be there, Lasn says. "They'll still pay for a lot of our programming, except that we will have a free marketplace of ideas."

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