COM416 Leap #2 – Is Advertising Propaganda?

Paper & Piktochart

Here it comes. Ready or not! My colleague Jessica Michon and I had to stop when we got to page 13, but in some ways it felt like we were just getting started and getting to the heart of our exploration into the relationship between advertising and propaganda. I loved our two examples of insurance advertising from different eras and different cultures and diving into all four aspects uncovered more than we could write about in one 10-12 page paper. Fascinating topic. So here it is for your reading pleasure: Advertising as Propaganda: A Compare and Contrast Analysis of Insurance Advertisements From Different Cultures and Time Periods . 

And here is our infographic, created on Piktochart, with a more visual representation of the theme: h

Another LEAP into the unknown!

Look Ma, no hands!

Well, since I discovered the limitations of Adobe Spark for doing everything I wanted to do in my last video production effort in LEAP#1, my partner LEAPer Lauren and I decided to go with WeVideo this time. It was a platform new to both of us, but we were impressed with the two audio and two video tracks and some other bells and whistles. Lauren signed up for a trial Educator account, and we were off! Or at least I was off – to Florida for my first Spring Break adventure ever. But before I left, Lauren and I talked, texted, emailed and met once in person so we’d have a good idea of where we both wanted to head – which was in a different direction from our original idea – and what we both needed to do before we met again.

When I checked back in as soon as I returned to RI, Lauren had already been plugging away uploading the images we’d both been finding, and finding her way around WeVideo. We met again to lay down our voice audio track, which we had collaboratively created on a storyboard along with some ideas for visuals to use with each audio clip. Lauren had already chosen a music track, and started popping our visuals into one of the video tracks knowing we could edit or remove or move them later. We then parted to continue working on the video taking shape, while staying in close contact by any means necessary.

That was Wednesday. We saw it really coming together on Thursday, so on Friday morning, I started adding some extra snazzy elements, some of which I had to remove later so we wouldn’t be charged for an upgrade. Live and learn. Main takeaways: 1. It was great working with Lauren who is a real pro, has solid educator cred, which was really needed for this video targeting educators, and brings her best to a project. 2. You need to read the instructions and offers on apps and platforms as carefully as you need to read exam questions, to make sure you’re going where you need to go. 3. I think I’m starting to get most of how WeVideo works, and am even more impressed with what four tracks offers in flexibility and look. 4. Deadline extensions are a godsend. 5. Spring break is a nice concept, but is there always a payback when you get home?

Anyway, here it is – Eight Easy Tools & Eight Excellent Reasons to Enhance Instruction with Digital & Media Literacy. Don’t worry, the video is shorter than the title suggests.


I know there’s a lot of Tactic #3 in this photo, but that’s not what I’m focusing on in this blogpost

I mean, honestly, when has baring all not done the trick for capturing attention? Hence my title for this post, choice of “news story” image, and Tactic#6 – MAKE IT ALL ABOUT THE HEADLINE from Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying to kick off my picks for important, interesting or novel tricks of media manipulators.

I can’t say that this tactic is novel, but as a writer, I have found it both interesting and useful (the headline, not the boobs baring). It’s why I chose the title That’s What She Said as the title of the column I wrote, and again for my blog. It was my attempt to capture eyeballs, especially those of my male readers who might otherwise pass over a female writer. My column and blog post titles are similarly thought out and crafted to attract readers. While I didn’t make stuff up (we’ll get to that later) I did use wordplay as effectively and humorously as possible to “get elected” for readers’ attention.

I found the Walter Lippman quote that the “newspaper editor has to be re-elected every day” a very interesting implied comparison to the kind of media effort that goes into political campaigns. Many people are unaware that it’s the editors of most news sources who write headlines. It was a constant struggle for me as a columnist who survived seven different editors, to convince each one of them that my opinion piece title that I’d put time and effort into crafting, was not a headline for them to rewrite. Even with that background and insider media knowledge, I am constantly having to pull my eyes away from compelling headlines on social media and elsewhere, but have been burned enough times to know that it’s best to avoid the flame, especially if it’s overly bright. But if you really must see the rest of that headline story where British MP Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel puts the “broad” back in broadcast and does her double-barreled best for the Brexit cause, you can find that clickbait here.

Tactic #8: USE THE TECHNOLOGY AGAINST ITSELF McLuhan knew it. Holiday knows it. The medium is the message. Blogs, television, newspapers, film, social media all have their medium-specific codes and conventions and, as Holiday puts it, their “unique logic.” Of course, he then goes on to say that all media manipulators need to do is understand these demands in order to “predict, and then co-opt, how they act.” I get what Holiday is saying here, but I am not crazy about his tendency to paint all public relations professionals as well as all bloggers with this same coarse brush, and (at least as far as I’ve read and besides the obvious exposé nature of his book) omits saying that media consumers also need to be aware of and understand this and other tactics, and be able to act on that knowledge. Maybe he is more reflective and activist in Part 2? Maybe he also uses his book to introduce readers to the key questions and concepts of media literacy and other ways out of this mess that he admits to having helped create. The suspense is killing me.

Tactic #9: JUST MAKE STUFF UP Once again, not a novel tactic. This one was a staple of boys’ locker rooms since boys’ lockers rooms were a thing, right? But it’s taken on a menacing new face since moving into the White House. And do you notice how often that “face” is female these days? Is that because women are considered more trustworthy than men at this time in history? Will the female spokesmodels of this administration and many businesses today change that? Holiday’s take on this tactic was all the more disturbing for me because he names some of the sources (Huffington Post, Business Insider) I have trusted in the past. These days, I at least try to check sources and stories as often as possible, on sites like Snopes ,, or MediaBias/FactCheck  but also try to look into who it is doing the fact-checking, as this study by Chloe Lim does for me. Now I guess I have to check out Chloe Lim. 😦 How much time do we have to spend just to get some real facts now? I do love how this administration has brought about real-time fact-checking viewing options, like those available during the recent State of the Union address. Sad that it’s needed, but glad that it’s there. But I don’t want to roll over and get used to the fact that the controversy machine is bigger than the reality machine. Despite the fact that I proudly displayed a Question Reality bumper sticker for years, I’d like to be able to know how and where to find professional and trustworthy journalism outlets somewhere, and be part of an informed and media literate public armed with that knowledge. Is that too much to ask?

#COM416 LEAP#1 Analyze This! EnGENDERing a buzz

I decided to LEAP into the gender politics fray over the Gillette ad “We Believe”, posted to YouTube on January 13th. It wasn’t already on the Mind Over Media web site, so I added it – a first for me, but so easy! I’d love it if you visited the example page and share what you think about this ad as propaganda.

After that, you can look at my analysis of it. Happy viewing! See you online.

The FIVE GOLDEN RINGS of youth video production

Having spent a fair amount of time in doing video production myself, producing a community access program with local artists, and working with elementary age students on video production projects, I found a lot to reflect upon in reading the David Buckingham blogpost interview with Steve Goodman of the Educational Video Center in New York, and the Kristin Drotner chapter on the European Union’s evolving take on creativity and culture. I was especially interested in the perspectives on the challenges and benefits of locating youth video production in or out of school settings and on creativity and culture. So what follows are five of my own informed insights on the benefits of youth video production.

#1. Using a “strengths-based” instead of an “at-risk” view of even the most challenged youth, learning video production skills can support young producers’ talent, intelligence, dignity and agency and at the same time provide a vehicle to give them a voice in telling their own stories or exploring issues of interest to them and their communities. I found this dual outcome underscored in Film School Africa, one of the films being screened during Providence Children’s Film Festival 2019. It was also evident in my work with fourth through sixth-grade video producers in the Media SmART! Project in Providence schools, which used both during school and after school opportunities, and both curriculum related and student-chosen topics for video production. In fact, we discovered that some roles in video production, like audio engineer, actually helped some students with learning disabilities to focus on the task at hand because of the equipment used, inclusion in the collaborative project, and interest in the subject matter.

#2. Instead of the school to prison pipeline, providing digital media production education, skills and practice to youth, either in school or out, can provide opportunities for hopping on the “talent pipelines” or “media pathways” Steve Goodman mentions, towards careers in media. It’s even better when combined with media literacy lessons that help students become more astute media consumers as well as media producers.

Say, WHAT????

#3. Personal relevance equals interest and active involvement. As Steve Goodman puts it, “Students are always engaged when they get to choose the subjects for their projects, ask their own questions, tell their story and present it for public audiences in school and in the community.” Or as the first student featured in the Pioneer Middle School video states, “I like that this is a subject I might actually use, unlike other subjects in school where I might never actually use it in a real career.” :-O Now, we know that this young man may eventually be surprised at how his knowledge of English or Math comes in handy later on, but it’s a true statement about his feelings of relevance at this stage of his life that should be acknowledged by teachers and school system administrators alike. Oh, and check out how many of the skills listed in the graphic below are included in video production activities.

Can you say “ALL of them!”?

#4. Imagine. Create. Innovate. As Drotner points out, in 2009 – the European Year of Creativity and Innovation – the EU obviously got the connection between these vital human skills for students entering the talent pipeline and career pathways when they made them their slogan for the year. It indicated that they had an understanding of the significance of these aspects both for the individual and for society at large. They had cultural and economic significance, as imagination, creation, and innovation are key features of the digital revolution and the knowledge economy. And yet, I could find no mention of a US Year of Creativity and Innovation. Hmmm… Perhaps Europe is even more in tune with the need for free expression than the Land of the Free? Maybe due to a past that included this idea and implementation: “Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea.” – Adolph Hitler.

Today’s students have been weaned on digital media, for better or for worse, but one “for better” feature is that they come to video production with a wealth of digital technical and creative exposure that far surpasses any previous generation. Doesn’t it makes sense to harness and further educate that head start in schools? Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” He also said, “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”  Just sayin’.

And last, but certainly not least…

#5. Creativity is power, and creativity is an individual attribute that can be developed in everyone. It is especially necessary to counterbalance the stress and strain of life in the 21st century. Somehow, samurai warriors in the 12th century already knew about this need for balance. This Japanese military aristocracy understood that education in and practice of the destructive forces of battle required equal and opposite training in the creative forces. The samurai aspired to lives of spiritual harmony, devoted equally to the art of war and the fine arts, and are remembered and revered most today for their beautiful poetry, painting, ceramics, and calligraphy, as well as martial arts. Wouldn’t you prefer to be remembered for your most creative acts and manifestations? Wouldn’t anyone? Then why on Earth, unless some entity intentionally wants to hobble creativity at a young age, are we continuing to see funding cuts to the arts and humanities, and activities like video production for youth are so difficult to mainstream into education? Isn’t it time to advocate in a big way for the benefits of creating to learn?


How are today’s disinformation campaigns different than yesterday’s sideshow come-ons?

Step right up, ladies & gentlemen and all other categories of gender self-identification! Play the Bad News game and see for yourself the amazing, truth-defying, never before seen by the common human, techniques and practices used by skilled negative propagandists! Put yourself in the driver’s seat of this ride through the thrills and spills of conspiracy theories. Ply misinformation and disinformation at their unscrupulous best! Witness the incredible loss of your own moral code as you create your own fake news!

Well, that was fun, but…  

  • What is this game really all about? Learning how propaganda is created and spread.
  • Is it realistic or unrealistic? All too disturbingly realistic.
  • What did you learn from playing the game? The various techniques and practices unscrupulous “news makers” use to spread misinformation and disinformation.
  • What did you like about the game? The creative use of a game format to get players to recognize the techniques and dissemination methods of propaganda and disinformation. What did you dislike? That the instructions mentioned the dangers of telling obvious lies or disappointing my followers. It felt to me as though my “followers” were more likely to be disappointed when I was trying NOT to tell obvious lies. Is that an intended part of the takeaway?
  • What did you notice about yourself as a player? It was disturbingly easy to drop all scruples that got in the way of my becoming a propagandist of the lowest sort.
  • How has this game affected your understanding of misinformation, disinformation and fake news? It deepened my understanding of the techniques and methods used for same, and challenged my belief in the possibility of countering them.

How can democracy and humankind survive such tactics, you ask? Come and see for yourself! Next show, just steps away is the GOOD NEWS game. Don’t miss that one! Exit down the stairwell, and we thank you for playing along. 

Analyze This! LEAP#1

Well, I learned a lot more about how to use Adobe Spark for making videos, and also the limitations of the free format. Lots more to learn about audio record and play levels, and other platforms that allow more than :30 recording at a time, but for now, I’m tired of tinkering, and have a film festival to get to, so here it is…ready or not…LEAP#1!

Man in the Mirror from Gillette’s “We Believe” ad

#COM416 Look Who’s Back

A pivotal scene for me in the 2015 German satirical comedy Look Who’s Back was when Hitler was getting the computer and internet tutorial from Franziska and Googled “world supremacy”. The montage of that first experience of entering the world wide web rabbit hole, with cuts to Hitler’s fascination was priceless. It was that moment of adaptation Bernays (1928) speaks of when he wrote “The man who would most effectively transmit his message to the public must be alert to make use of all the means of propaganda.” (p. 167).  You can see in the cutaways to Hitler’s face that he immediately understands the power of this medium for propaganda, even to the point of noticing it’s German qualities. That same look of recognition is later mirrored on Fabian’s face when Hitler is recognized by Franziska’s demented grandmother who looks him in the eyes – the windows to the soul. In this way, I believe the film attempts to predict that perhaps only human contact and the lessons of history can overcome evil leaders and the worst aspects of both propaganda and humankind. The look of recognition is once again present in the final scene of the movie within the movie on the face of the actor who is playing Fabian, when Hitler speaks from behind him after he’s supposedly been shot and falls off the roof. We can’t get rid of him because he is a part of all of us. So, what’s it to be folks? Can we change that ending or not?