How To Produce and Distribute Bumper Stickers With Minimal Cost Using Common Home Office Equipment
Author: Stephen DeVoy
If you are like me, you've noticed that anti-fascist/anti-Bush bumper stickers are hard to find. What you probably do not realize is that the dearth of these stickers is not caused by the lack of a market. The market not only exists, but is enthusiastic and yearning to express itself. I know because I broke ground in my local area by producing and distributing anti-Bush bumper stickers in exchange for donations to my collection of anti-fascist websites.
A challenge was put to me. I was taunted by many pro-Bush brownshirts in an avalanche of hate mail stating that I did not have the courage to take my anti-Bush propaganda campaign beyond the "safe" confines of the Internet. Of course, these FReepers and brownshirts share the common property of limited intelligence and a gross inability to comprehend the superiority of their opponents. The fact is that your average anti-authoritarian has far more intelligence and guts than your average conformist brownshirt. Like most brownshirt attempts at intimidation, this harassment backfired. My anti-Bush bumper stickers are now ubiquitous in Cambridge, MA. I've also received reports that they are now on cars in Canada and Europe. This essay explains how to run your own, personal, anti-Bush bumper sticker campaign with very little investment and a huge impact. However, I have a warning for you, do this only if you have courage, determination, and a sense of humor, because you will find your efforts both successful and controversial.
This section of the Resistance Field Manuals series is divided into three parts: (1) Designing Bumper Stickers; (2) Making Bumper Stickers; and (3) Distributing Bumper Stickers. Due to its efficiency within our current economic system, I have chosen an anarcho-capitalist model for part (3). However, true to the Rational Anarchist economic model that I proposed, I have combined it with a "gift economy" component. More on this later.
Designing Bumper Stickers
The sky is not the limit when it comes to bumper sticker design. Bumper stickers are small. They must be readable from a distance. They must strike a chord within the soul of the individual targeted. These facts place real constraints upon bumper sticker design. Further constraints are imposed by the nature of the materials available for processing within the home environment.
Most people do not realize that bumper sticker paper for ink jet printers exists and is sold in most office supply stores. There may be a psychological reason for overlooking this tool. When one thinks of bumper stickers, one thinks of rain and weather as well. When one thinks of "ink jet" printers, one thinks of ink that washes off with water. An ink jet bumper sticker seems like a contradiction in terms. In a sense, without a little magic, it is a contradiction. However, the magic is inexpensive and easy to apply. We will explain this process in Making Bumper Stickers.
Ink jet bumper sticker paper comes in only one size: 8 1/2 X 11. Invariably, the packages state that you can produce two bumper stickers for each sheet. Bumper sticker paper is expensive. It normally runs for about $1.20 per sheet. Ink jet printers use expensive cartridges. I estimate that at two bumper stickers per sheet, the average cost in materials for producing a single bumper sticker at two stickers per sheet is almost $1.00 per bumper sticker (you will see why below). This is expensive. To sell a bumper sticker for more than $1.00 per bumper sticker, the bumper sticker must be highly desirable to the buyer (or donor). However, I have found that you can easily produce three bumper stickers per sheet and that anti-Bush emotion is sufficiently high that you can easily sell (or collect a donation for) a bumper sticker of this alternative size for $2.00. The cost of materials at three bumper stickers per sheet is about $1.33. The "profit margin," therefore, is sufficiently large that you could produce a batch of bumper stickers, sell them (or exchange them for donations) and use the money to produce even more bumper stickers. Therefore, an anti-Bush bumper sticker operation can be run out of your home and become self financing.
Based on the above, I recommend an exchange rate of $2.00 per bumper sticker for each bumper sticker that is 1/3 the size of an ink jet bumper sticker sheet and $2.50 per bumper sticker at the 1/2 sheet size. While the profit margin is smaller for the two-per-sheet size, the turn around is faster and therefore the lower price is justified.
The previous two paragraphs have explained why you should plan on designing bumper stickers that are either 1/3 or 1/2 an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet in dimensions. For 1/3 size bumper stickers, there are two layouts that work well. One can divide the sheet into three portions lengthwise or three portions widthwise. Three portions lengthwise result in bumper stickers that are just the right size to mail in a standard envelope. If you plan on mailing your bumper stickers, this is the suggested format.
Any word processing tool that includes the ability to incorporate graphics can be used to design bumper stickers that are laid out on 8 1/2 X 11 paper. I assume that you possess such software. However, if you do not, there are online tools available for laying out bumper stickers at 2 per sheet and these tools, though highly limited, are free. These online tools are provided by corporations that produce and/or sell ink jet bumper stickers. There is no greater pleasure than getting the capitalist to pay for the rope that hangs him!
The following are links to such tools:
These limited tools are great for those that cannot afford better software. After selling a few dozen bumper stickers, you should take in enough funds to purchase better software.
Graphic art makes bumper stickers more appealing, but it takes up space and a bumper sticker is primarily about the message it bears. Therefore, restrict graphics to one end of the bumper sticker or the other. Keep the graphics reasonably small in order to preserve space for the message.
Use fonts that are easy to read from a distance. Bumper sticker messages must be short. I find that three kinds of messages are most appealing:
- Messages that state what everyone thinks but no one says.
- Messages that contain puns.
- Messages that contain internal contradictions, provided the point is to obviate absurdity.
You will find that if you sell (or collect donations for) bumper stickers on the street, you will spend much of your time interacting with people looking at your bumper stickers. Listen to what they have to say. Listening does not mean agreeing. Listening means "taking in information." You will find that some people provide excellent suggestions for improvements. Some people will tell you exactly what they wish a bumper sticker said. If such a bumper sticker does not exist, ask them for their permission to use their idea. As an individual providing bumper stickers to the public, in contrast to a corporation or business, you have the ability to adapt quickly and change your bumper stickers from one day to the next. Applying this method, your bumper stickers will evolve quickly into the ideal bumper stickers.
An important thing to remember is that the solution to the world's problems does not fit onto a single bumper sticker. Reject the notion that you will come up with a bumper sticker that will either solve all problems or appeal to all people. Personally, I view my bumper sticker portfolio as a whole greater than the parts. I chose a strategy and mission and have stayed with it. Try to do the same following your own intuitions.
For example, I decided that my collection would do three things:
- Prove that disrespecting Bush publicly was possible.
- Give courage to those less bold.
- Shift all political strains towards greater liberty.
For (1), I chose to provide outrageously insulting (but true) statements about Bush.
For (2), I chose to provide more subtle messages that would appeal to the less bold in the context of the more offensive provided in (1). In other words, by providing something offensive, I gave the less bold the option of viewing their own dissent as moderate.
For (3), I decided to make a collection of bumper stickers where individual bumper stickers would appeal to specific political strains, provided the goal was to express a yearning or demand for more liberty. Using this strategy, I produced bumper stickers for liberals that stressed devotion to liberty, bumper stickers for conservatives that stressed libertarian values, bumper stickers for communists that express the desire for revolution, and bumper stickers for anarchists intended to make anarchists laugh (following Emma Goldman's desire to be part of a revolution in which she could dance). With such a range of bumper stickers, I could provide bumper stickers to a wider array of individuals, the content of which would shift all of society in the direction of liberty.
Your strategy should be your strategy. Copy my strategy if you'd like too, but diversity rules.
Making Bumper Stickers
Making bumper stickers is surprisingly easy, though it takes some time. To physically produce ink jet bumper stickers, you will need the following:
- An ink jet printer.
- A computer with graphic or word processing software.
- Ink jet bumper sticker paper.
- Clear gloss spray paint.
- A well ventilated location free of strong breezes or excessive dust.
- A personal paper cutting tool with a straight edge.
If you do not have an ink jet printer, you can find one in your local computer store for about $50.00. (If you live in the Harbor City, California area, do NOT buy anything from Computers N.L.A. Here's why.) Bumper sticker paper will cost you between $7.00 and $10.00 per pack. Each pack will contain between 5 and 6 sheets. Ink jet cartridges are expensive. I produce bumper stickers both in color and in black and white. However, black and white is cheaper. If finances are a problem, you may wish to stick to black and white until your operation becomes fully self-financed. Clear gloss spray paint will cost you between $2.00 and $3.00 per can. Each can is sufficient for about fifty bumper stickers. A personal paper cutting tool with a straight edge will cost you between $10.00 and $20.00.
The Ink Jet Printer
Most people already have an ink jet printer at home. DO NOT USE A LASER PRINTER ON INK JET BUMPER STICKER PAPER, YOU WILL DESTROY YOUR PRINTER. Any ink jet printer will do. If you intend to place graphics on your bumper stickers, try to use a printer with a minimum of 300 dpi.
Computer Graphic or Word Processing Software
You probably already have such a program. Any tools that allows you to lay out a page into two or three portions with large text and (optionally) graphics will do. If you have no such tool, then use the free tools at these links:
Ink Jet Bumper Sticker Paper
IBM and Office Max provide great bumper sticker paper. Office Max is better because purchasing in quantities of three or more packets at a time is cheaper per sheet. The Office Max product number for the paper is "No. PL50336". IBM's SKU# is "01P8206".
Clear Gloss Spray Paint
You can find clear gloss spray paint in any hardware store. Make sure you buy either acrylic, enamel, or acrylic/enamel. Clear spray paint comes in a can with a clear cap. I recommend "Dutch Boy." It is less expensive for can but provides a better finish. On the down side, it takes a little longer to dry and you get fewer applications per can. The lower price per can compensates for the lower number of applications per can.
Spray Painting Area
It is very important that you only spray paint in a well ventilated area. Keep children away from the area. The fumes from spray paint are toxic and can cause brain damage. Use a garage if you have one. Two open windows is ideal. If only one opening is available, use a fan. Do not stay in the room while the paint dries. Immediately after spraying, leave the room and do not return for at least 15 minutes. Read the instructions on the can for warnings.
Personal Paper Cutting Tools
My experience with these tools is that razor blade based tools are superior to rotary cutting tools when it comes to cutting bumper sticker paper. Tools with rotary blades often become jammed with sticky bumper sticker paper vinyl.
X-Acto makes a good personal paper trimmer that sells for about $10.00 and is available at most office stores.
Now that you have all of the tools necessary, we explain how to produce bumper stickers.
Bumper sticker paper has two sides. One side is the surface of the bumper sticker and the other side is that portion which is pealed off and discarded just before the sticker is applied to the car. The bumper sticker side is less smooth than the "peal off" side. The "peal off" side is slightly off-white (yellowish). Make sure that you place a sheet of bumper sticker paper into your printer such that the bumper sticker side is the side that will be printed.
Print only one sheet at a time, unless you wish to sit next to the printer and take each sheet away just after it prints. Bumper sticker paper contains vinyl and is less absorbent than normal paper. Consequently, it takes longer to dry. It is important that you permit it to dry before allowing anything (even another sheet of paper) to touch the printed side. As each sheet exits the printer, remove it and place it somewhere to dry for at least one minute.
After printing out your set of bumper sticker sheets, bring them to the room where you do your spray painting. A good surface for spray painting is a large box. Take a large box (such as a television box), turn it open-end-down, and use the bottom end as a spray-painting table. Place one row of bumper sticker paper on the surface, printed side up, with about 1 inch between each sheet. It is best to use only one row per surface because the force of the spray will cause the bumper sticker paper to move slightly. Spraying one row, when multiple rows are present, may cause the bumper stickers in another row to "blow about" and land on each other, thus ruining the finish before it dries.
Before spraying, shake the spray paint can vigorously for about 20 seconds. Spray across an entire row at a time, slowly moving in horizontal strokes, until all of the sheets are covered with a thin layer of paint. Do not apply too much paint or the paper will curl. Allow the sheets to dry for an hour before applying a second coat, even if the instructions indicate that it will be dry in 15 minutes. I find that allowing the stickers to dry well before applying a second coat creates a better finish. Between layers, leave the room. You do not wish to inhale the fumes. Keep children out of the room.
Always apply at least two coats of paint. Three is better, but not necessary.
Allow the stickers to dry at least one hour before cutting them.
Cutting bumper stickers is easy, but is sometimes frustrating. Things usually go well, but sometimes they go very poorly. Be prepared to make mistakes. Save the mistakes in a separate location. Once you have accumulated a large number of mistakes, give the irregular stickers away for free at protest events or pass them out on the street.
You can make cutting bumper stickers easier by incorporating hidden guides into the design. For example, if you wish to place a copyright notice or a small URL on the sticker, position it at the bottom of the sticker just above the line where you wish to cut it. This will make cutting easier as you will not need to "eye-ball" it.
If the edges of the sticker sheet curl due to over spraying, you can trim the curled edges off provided you leave enough space in the design for discarding the left and right edge. The top and bottom edges will be cut anyway, as all printers have a margin where printing does not occur.
Distributing Bumper Stickers
The best way to distribute bumper stickers is in person. This provides you the opportunity to get feedback on your bumper stickers.
Bumper stickers are literature. They do not have a dual purpose. You never see a bumper sticker with nothing on it. They exist in order to convey a message in the same way that a book exists in order to convey a message. As literature they are a form of expression. When they express political ideas, they are unquestionably covered by the First Amendment of the US Constitution as a form of "the press." This is good for the distributor of the bumper sticker for the US Constitution prohibits all laws constraining the press. This has implications that most people have never considered.
The primary implication of the above is that YOU DO NOT NEED A LICENSE ANYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES to distribute political bumper stickers on public property and solicit donations for your political operation. The police may tell you otherwise, but they will most lilkely lose in court if they decide to ticket you. Furthermore, appealing to a higher court will, with virtual certainty, result in a victory for the bumper sticker selling, a victory that will likely castigate authorities for violating your civil rights. Most cities know this. The few that do not can be educated by telephoning their licensing agencies and demanding their acknowledgement that no license is needed. This does not mean that the police or local businesses will not harass you. This is one of the reasons why it takes guts to distribute anti-Bush bumper stickers on the street. If a police officer does confront you, remain calm. Explain to the police officer that you will comply with his or her instructions, but that you wish to inform him or her that your activity is covered by the first amendment. Take down the officers name and/or badge number. Telephone the police department (bring a cell phone if you have one). Inform them that an officer has prevented you from distributing political literature and that you believe that this a violation of the First Amendment. Explain that you would prefer to talk it over with them now, on the telephone, over explaining it to a civil rights lawyer. Most police department know that your activity is legal and that they will not win in court. If you make progress on the telephone, ask them to instruct the offending officer that your activity is legal. Go back to distributing the bumper stickers the next day.
If the officer (or another officer) stops you again, take your case to a civil rights lawyer. Call the ACLU or the National Lawyer's Guild. Your case is a "slam dunk" for your attorney and you will win. Since it is virtually certain that you will win, do not struggle with the police officer. He probably knows that you will win and he probably knows that you have the right to do what you are doing. It is likely that his goal is to either intimidate you or to provoke you into a situation where he can charge you with other crimes. Avoid such entrapment or setups.
The other dimension of harassment when distributing such bumper stickers comes from the Neanderthalic class of individuals known as Bush-supporters. Most of these people are like robots and their responses fit in a small set of recurrent themes. Here are the themes along with suggestions on how to respond to them:
(1) The Violent Bush Imbecile Script (i.e. Bullocking)
The violent bush imbecile (or VBI) (for example, see George Bullock), will come up to you and start with a statement such as "You're pathetic," "You un-American piece of shit," "Is Saddam dead yet," or "Fuck you!" This is usually followed by a few short outbursts and then some violent act, such as kicking your table of bumper stickers. Within the Resistance movement, this behavior is referred to as "Bullocking". If you are bullocked, remember a few things. First of all, while you have every right to kick the imbecile's ass as an act of self defense, the law will do everything it can to place the blame on you. After all, you are a dissident and this is a fascist state. Therefore, you are better off not responding violently. I suggest that you photograph the imbecile engaged in bullocking with a digital camera and send it to me, Stephen DeVoy. I would be happy to display it on my website as an example of a Bush-love piece of shit.
(2) The Sieg Heil! Script
The Sieg Heil! script is more common with young males. For reasons unclear, my personal experience with this script always seems to involve young males between 18 and 29 years old with crew cuts. Perhaps you could figure that one out for me.
The Sieg Heil! script ALWAYS starts the same way. The robot approaches you, puffs out his chest, looks down (as you are likely in a chair, which may be a mistake, more on that later), and states: "You don't like George Bush! Why don't you like George Bush?" This script can take two turns. Which turn it takes is largely your choice. I prefer the suggestion branch (b) below. However, let's start with branch (a), which is best to avoid.
Branch (A) of the Sieg Heil! Script
You decide to answer the robot's question. This is a mistake, but you may wish to try it out a few times just to see that I am correct. If you answer the question, "Why don't you like George Bush?" with an actual answer, the robot may get violent and shift to script (1) (i.e. Bullocking). Most robots executing the Sieg Heil! script are morons. They have absolutely no idea about what is happening in the world. They are authoritarians. They believe whatever Fox News (may they rot in hell) has told them and had they been alive during WWII, living in Germany, they would have believed that the Jews were being resettled in Madagascar. You will make absolutely no progress explaining the truth of the world to these individuals. They are lost souls, useful idiots of the Bush Regime.
Branch (B) of the Sieg Heil! Script
In this branch of the script, you turn the burden over to the robot. Robots, by nature, are very limited. They have not been programmed to explain why they support Bush. They have only one answer to the question and that answer is obviously inadequate (event to themselves). This is what you do.
State, in a friendly tone, smile on your face, "well, my friend, since it is important to you that I like President Bush, please explain to me why I should like President Bush."
They don't expect you to ask this. However, they have no choice but to answer it. After all, they are asking you to like George Bush. Such a request must have a positive reason to like him behind it, right?
The robot will immediately state: "He's our President." The robot will also know that this is a poor answer.
Respond to this statement by informing the robot that Hitler was the leader of the Germans and those that remained loyal to him assisted their country in marching to self destruction, and act that was neither patriotic nor beneficial to the German people. Liking someone merely because he or she is in a position of power is beneath your dignity. In order to be liked or respected, an individual must earn that esteem. Ask again, "What has George Bush done to earn my esteem?"
At this point the robot will either self destruct or will attempt a silly answer. For example, the robot may respond that "George Bush is fighting for our freedom." To this, ask the robot if he or she knows what Bush was doing during the Vietnam War, explaining that he avoided service in the war and then went AWOL. Ask the robot exactly what freedom was endangered and how George Bush saved it. No one can provide an honest answer to that question by answering in the positive.
If the robot states that George Bush gives you the right to do what you are doing, laugh and reply that no one gives you your rights. They exist by nature and governments merely recognize them. Point out that if George Bush could stop you, he would. After all, George Bush, during his campaign, in response to a website that exposed his cocaine use, stated that "there should be limits to freedom."
If the robot states that you would not be permitted to do what you are doing in Baghdad, agree with him and point out that, yes, under US occupation you would not be able to do this. He will then rephrase and state that Saddam would not have let you do what you are doing. To this, ask whether he believes that one should express their liberty by shutting up? What use is a right if you do not exercise it? Point out that it Saddam's authority is irrelevant to the nature of rights, and therefore such a question is merely an attempt to distract from the issue. The issue is that Bush is a warmonger and an opponent of liberty and he must go.
I cannot point out every interaction, but I think the above gives you an idea of what to expect and how to handle it.
(3) The I Love Bush Script
This script is more frequently executed by female robots. Usually they don't stop to argue with you. They state their opinion and go. I suggest ignoring this script. It's over with quickly. However, if you wish to engage, then make some remark about Germans loving Hitler, after all, they did love Hitler. Alternatively, just laugh.
Advice on Safety
In our current political climate, open opposition to Bush will be gratefully welcomed by opponents to the dictator and vigorously opposed by his lackeys. By and large, his lackeys are base individuals inclined to violence and pathetic attempts at intimidation. Therefore, it pays to take some steps to put yourself into an advantage.
Sitting in a chair while distributing anti-Bush propaganda is unwise. Bush supporters are more primitive than the rest of us. Just as animals are less intimidated by things that appear smaller than them, the same is true of Bushista creatures. If you appear small, they will walk up closely, look down on you, and attempt to intimidate you through haranguing. However, if you stand up, you appear larger than you do when sitting. This causes the critters to stand at a greater distance and think twice before fucking with you. It is also easier to defend against an attack while standing. If kicking fascist asses is your goal, standing it better, but I recommend avoiding violence for the reasons mentioned above.
If possible, bring someone with you. Once again, Bushista critters are cowards and are less likely to provoke when outnumbered (or even matched one to one).
Bring a mobile telephone. In one case I was able to dispose of a Bushista moron by pulling out my telephone and beginning to call the police. Personally, I'd rather not try this strategy, but all other non-violent steps failed to succeed with this individual.
In all cases, have fun. The only thing better than seeing a Bushista realize that we don't all love the Fuhrer is to see the smile on the faces of kindred spirits that oppose Bush.