Branding Occupy Wall Street

Broad image of occupy wall street posters

(Image Credit: Michael Nagle, Getty Images via In Focus)

During the past week Occupy Wall Street has gained increasing media attention. The movement, initially called for by the group Adbusters, began in earnest on September 17th when protesters first began to occupy Zuccotti Park. This initial act seems to have largely been met with bemused ambivalence, and while there was originally a single demand articulated by Adbusters in their July call to action—that “Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington”  (Adbusters) –things were quite murky by the time the occupation took shape. Much of the media attention that the movement has gained, especially during this surge in participation, has focused on the apparent lack of concrete demands set forth by OWS. This confusion is misplaced. While the list of hopeful outcomes is amorphous a clear sense of oppositional branding has been developed   from the wealth of signs and images created through the movement. OWS demands that we put a hold on our love affair with notions of prosperity that put us in a double bind. 

Two Sex-Scandals: Focusing in on the Problem

Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Maria Schriver

AP Photo/Chris Pizello via NY Daily News

Given the increasing hullaballoo surrounding this week’s two sex-scandal stories (Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger), this image of Schwarzenegger and soon-to-be ex-wife, Maria Shriver, strikes me as paradigmatic of how these scenarios seem to play out: focus in on brooding, somber (occasionally apologetic) male politician; blurry, out-of-focus female victim in the foreground.  While the impetus behind these stories is supposedly exposing  the men that “done them wrong,” it’s often the women who suffer most from the media backlash.

Visualizing the Economy and the Rhetoric of Infographics

via Mother Jones, "It's the Inequality, Stupid"

Infographics can provide visual drama and emotional impact to otherwise incomprehensible and dry numbers. As Ladysquire's recent post on The 12 States of America demonstrates, they can be particularly good at capturing income inequality. The image from Mother Jones above is another nice example of the striking disparity among Americans' perception of wealth distribution, what they wish it were, and what it actually is.

Sexy. Sputnik. Science.

Obama at science fair

Image Credit: Associated Press

Via Gothamist

In January’s State of the Union, President Obama called this “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” Since then, I’ve been curious about how the administration would visualize the core message of that speech, which foregrounded science, education, and innovation. Exhibit A: the Beatles-esque tableaux above, from last week’s visit to an NYC science fair.

Jackie Speier - Toward a Better Pro-Choice Rhetoric

(Video Credit:  CSPAN)

Last week, I wrote about some striking historical and cultural shifts in anti-abortion rhetoric.  Namely, I argued that the pro-life movement has been so persuasive largely because in their verbal and visual rhetoric, they have successfully turned babies into the primary object of the viewer's identification and sympathy.  I also argued that a successful pro-choice rhetoric would return women in need of abortions to the center of the frame.  I was heartened by Representative Jackie Speier's (D-CA) speech on the floor of the house, this week, where she talked about her own experience.

When Humor Hurts - Domestic Violence PSAs (part one)

Image credit: The OPCC via YouTube

H/T to Rachel for suggesting the topic sending me the clip

Although Halloween is behind us, and we've packed up the glam make-up and eaten all the goodies, I'd like to call your attention to an interesting use of bunny suits I recently came across.  Or, perhaps "interesting" isn't quite the right word... inappropriate, insincere, ineffectual... these seem more apt.  While this ridiculous domestic violence PSA has already been addressed by Irin Carmon over on Jezebel, I think there are some more fundamental issues we can tackle from a rhetorical standpoint.  Ultimately, the commercial leaves me with questions about when humor actually hits the mark and when it just goes horribly wrong.

Fall 2010 Rallies


The Restoring Honor Rally held on August 28, 2010 and the Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear) on October 30th were two media-led rallies with the former appealing to the political right and the latter mainly to the left. The images featured in the SoundSlides presentation above are from both of these rallies. 

"Putting the 'Man' in 'Manifest Destiny!'": Making Populist Iconography and Queer Historiography in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Image Credit:  Theatre is Easy

Even though my Rhetoric of the Musical class has finished up, I can’t quit musicals.  When I heard that Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a musical I’d discovered when I was preparing my class, was moving to Broadway, I decided that it was the perfect karotic moment to tackle this rich topic.  The musical’s Gothic visuals, emo music, and satirical presentation of American politics combine to bring audiences to consider not only American populism but also the act of history making itself.

Excuse me, but there's some prejudice on your face


Photo of a large-ish man with a banner reading "Patriotic Resisance" across his back

Photo credit:  Pargon, Flickr Creative Commons

There are plenty of negative things to be said about the Tea Party, particularly in the wake of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally:  that the movement's appropriation of the words and images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln represents the deployment of unreconstructed white privilege at its worst, that it is controlled by corporate and media elites with a vested interest in obstructing a Democratic agenda (note the Tea Party's inexplicable support of the Citizen's United decision, which seems completely out of step with their populist ethos though perhaps somewhat consistent with the libertarian ideal of unfettered markets). 

Digitizing Revolution

Iranian Election Protest From Above

Image credit: mousavi1388 on Flickr

I wanted to call this post "The Revolution will be Twittered," but Andrew Sullivan (whose coverage of the Iranian protests has been ongoing) beat me to it. But we could also have gone with "The Revolution will be liveblogged, YouTubed, or Flickred." Here in the states, the development of events in Iran has been accompanied by a critique of the (at least initial) lack of coverage on cable news and the widespread reliance on new media technology to cover the events of the protests. In this case, it's hard to ignore the power/potential of these technologies in getting information out of a country that has tried to close its digital borders by shutting down Internet access and intensifying restrictions against foreign media correspondents.

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