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.

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