If you’re only here to find out the answer to the title of this post then just feel free to skip all of the socialogical blabber about PR and international image to the video at the bottom of the page.
I’ve been continuing with my Propaganda, PR and Misinformation module’s research over the course of today, to try and determine a question I’m going to pose for the final essay I’m meant to deliver at the end of the module. It should preferably be something that ties in with visual communications and design, but it’s hard to find how to tie them together without making it seem forced in some way.
I guess the aim of design in some ways is to visually represent a business or client in some way, to give them a means of being seen by the public as a whole. If we’re good designers we’ll be able to do this in a manner that is flattering to the business or client we dress in our designs. No matter how we design there’ll be some sort of positive bias put onto our work, that emphasises why people should buy from a company, and this has been the aim of marketing and design since post-war capitalism. To create a brand that people trust.
In modern society it seems that countries now try to brand themselves in some way, and none more blatantly than the United States. But what is it that makes Americans, who celebrated en masse on the streets on the day of Osama Bin Laden’s death, distinguish themselves so clearly from the Islamic nations they saw do the same on numerous occasions?
It is the constructed ‘brand’ of the United States which allows for people to seperate themselves from their enemies so clearly. America adorns itself with countless symbols, the flag, the colours of red, white and blue, the American bald eagle, the wild west, all of these are symbols which have reached mythic status in the collective conciousnes of the American people. These symbols give the citizens of America a sense of patriotic identity and pride, being part of this idealistic nation that has constructed it’s image so carefully. Media can contrast this with other nation’s ‘brands’ and aesthetics and show a lack of similar branding and imagery as apparent evidence for difference in culture, opinion and morality.
Leaders themselves also have to undergo this branding process, being glorified to the level of celebrities. In Nazi Germany Hitler wanted the Fuhrer to be seen as the historically mythic hero, a recurring character in many cultures. He wanted to be elevated, so that the public had a specific person and focal point at which to aim all of their adoration, to make the institution of the Nazi regime seem more human and relatable in some way. We can see a more modern evolution of this principle in America again, in the form of Ronald Reagan.
Reagan embodied many of the classical symbols of what it was to be ‘American’. And when he came to power he had already been a celebrity for quite some time, having had an already successful career in the film industry, in his twenties and thirties as an actor, as you can see below in a film which I’m sure you can agree looks like a total hoot! (sarcasm)
Many would argue that Reagan was elected over any of the experienced politicians of the time due to his already substantial celebrity status. His recognisable face meant more to many people than the years of experience in the American politics system which his rivals posessed, suggesting that he was elected on an almost purely emotional basis, rather than on rational judgement of him being best for the job.
Not only this but he acted as the best branded ‘facade’ that America could ask for, being an actor meant his whole career had been spent trying to emotionally manipulate masses of audiences through the silver screen. Translating this to politics allowed the American government an unprecedented ammount of control over it’s image, through its primary representative, the president. This shift in politics to a less rational and more emotional response from voters was reflected in the media too.
The media has always been key in determining the image of a nation, once again the USA proving a particularly good example of this. Fox News frequently adorning itself with the aforementioned symbols of America, to help cement the idea of US citizens feeling like they can be part of this community, that this American image is both enticing and aspirational. In recent years news media has also become gradually more sensationalist, turning politics into some sort of entertainment show. This could have been catalysed by competition for ratings with other news channels, or indeed the recent need to fill 24-hour rolling news channels with enough content to maintain a viewership that will earn the news network a profit.
A superb example of this can be found below, in Sky News’s coverage of the pacific Tsunami of 2009, constructed almost to look like a cinematic teaser trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster.
Regardless of the cause, the result is an overly dramatised form of news, where the exhaggerated is almost impossible to distinguish from the rational. This, along with the image of a nation being so carefully built, to the extent actors are elected president, then pulls into question how we can distinguish what is actually happening in politics, and makes us question if we are perhaps living in some sort of post-modern society, where politics has become a simulation of itself, dramatised into some form of reality television.
OKAY, RANTING DONE. These are just attempts to try and produce a cohesive argment to flesh out for my final propaganda essay, but being 900 words it’s almost half of what my final essay length will be. Hmmm, might need to focus a little bit more. Some talking with my lecturer might help a little bit.