Propaganda

The YouTube U.S. Election Hub.

I try to keep politics off of here, but as we roll toward the November elections politics has been creeping in. I’m not going to post some stand about who to vote for or what is right or wrong (I will say Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin is a asshole though). What I do want to talk about is the perception of candidates as they are portrayed by the media here in America.

At the end of the day, it comes down to a few things. Propaganda which is spewed by all candidates in the form of advertising. Yes folks it’s propaganda. Those carefully crafted TV spots are edited specifically to influence you. They say nothing about what the candidates are really for. Things are taken out of context and spun to make someone look good or in most cases very bad. (Todd Akin is still a backwards asshole, and no form of advertising will change this)

The other prominent form of information we receive comes from our trusted news sources, and most of us still get the news from TV. It doesn’t matter if you are getting your information from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Conservative Talk Radio, or your local TV affiliate, they all have one thing in common. The perspective they give, is usually towing the editorial position for the guy that writes the checks, and in many cases for the companies that sponsor the programs, articles, and media outlets. It’s not supposed to influence the news but it often does.

I think this is why I am pretty excited about the new YouTube U.S. Election Hub. It aggregates news from all over the world about our upcoming elections into one place. Why is this a good thing? Because the rest of the world doesn’t see America the way American’s see America. Because the rest of the world has opinions about America, our politics, our political leaders, and Americans. These world opinions influence us as much as we influence others. It’s good to see how the rest of the world perceives us and the people that might end up running our country. When these news sources are pulled together with our own, the information we receive is better, well rounded, global. And yes folks it’s the 21st century. We live in a global society, so foreign opinions do matter.

Ban All The Political Ads For Forever.

I try not to be very political in this space. This blog isn’t about politics, and my political view point is really no ones business but mine. With that said though, I am going to post something somewhat political.

As we move toward the November elections, the mud slinging, hate mongering, misinformed bullshit of both parties political machines is kicking into full force. The first salvos of political propaganda are hitting the TV and Radio airwaves, and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. My email inbox is being flooded with spam from both Obama and Romney. Today I received 3 text messages from the Romney camp. How they got my cell number is a mystery, but they got it and they pissed me off.

I have a proposal. Something that might make the average American think, and actually have to listen to the candidates, and not the party spin machine. The propaganda factories, and superpacs spinning millions of dollars of TV ads trying to sway your opinion with half facts, and semi truths that paint their candidate in a better light.

The proposal is this.

NO ADS FOR PEOPLE RUNNING FOR POLITICAL OFFICE EVER.

Instead the candidates should be required to conduct one debate a week from June first until October 31st on Public Television and Public Radio. The Questions won’t be submitted to the candidates in advance, and can be emailed, tweeted, or phoned in by any American citizen.

Think about it. The candidates wouldn’t be coached on how to answer the questions. They would have to answer to the best of their ability. They’d be forced to show their true colors, spin less, and cut the bullshit. Perhaps the American public would become more involved, and stop listening to the talking heads and actually form an opinion of their own.

Think of all the money that would be saved. If you get rid of the billions of dollars spent on TV and Radio ads. On Facebook, Twitter, text messages, direct mail, billboards, news paper ads and every other media ad outlet, and applied it to something worthwhile, maybe things would get a little better.

I know it’s just wishful thinking, but damn I wish something like this could happen. I know I’m going to want it by November.

Graphical Japanese Postcards From the Russo-Japanese War.

While I was looking for some images of handmade Japanese papers, I came across this series of postcards from MIT’s Visualizing Cultures collections. The subject matter deals with the Russo-Japanese War from 1904 to 1905, but that isn’t what caught my eye. What I love is the imagery, and the way the cards are printed. Bright, colorful, and in many cases abstracted images, that while visualizing the romanticized view of war which was common before WWI, are really quite beautiful. One of my favorites features ships at sea with harbor mines floating beneath them. The mines look like alien cow utters floating in a sea of pink and blue. Another is a water-color wash of a ship’s mast emerging from a slash of red. The ship flies the flag of surrender, but if you had to historical reference to the Russo-Japanese War, the image could be taken entirely differently.

It’s interesting in the fact that these postcards were specifically propaganda for the Japanese people, and the Japanese victory over the Russians. The postcards themselves were distributed and collected on a global level due to international postal conventions and the low expense of printing and mailing them. In addition, not only did Japan produce postcards but the Europeans, americans, and Russians did as well. Because of this, we have a visual reference to the modern war as seen from a multi-national perspective.

“We can literally “see,” through thousands of fixed-format images (postcards have remained the same size to the present day), what people throughout the world were being offered as a mirror to the war and all that it portended.” -John W. Dower, MIT’s Visualizing Cultures