Wednesday, April 21, 2010

“God doesn’t go to dead churches!”

Jesus Camp was one of the most interesting movies I have ever seen. The documentary follows the leaders of a cult sect of the Evangelical Church, highlighting their ideals of indoctrinating youth to follow their extremist views. The movie centers around a weeklong summer “camp” held for the youth as a way to teach and show them how to live according to the ways of Evangelism. The movie follows around specific children from ages 3 to 9, showing their growth as a result of these teachings, blended in amongst their family’s views and teachings. Although most of the movie is shot in and around the church, quite a few scenes show the youth “spreading the gospel” out into the community.

What is most interesting however, is the fact that this movie was not produced by an anti-religious organization as a way to “bash” Christianity. Ninety-five percent of the video is material of this extremist group. The other five percent is a Christian radio show host talking about the other group. This man sets up the source credibility. Because he admits to being Christian, his arguments against this group are strong because he also knows the bible and teachings that they use to justify their actions. Therefore the viewer is more inclined to believe him more because he appears to be educated in what he is talking out against. Also, having him in the video challenges the notion of “normalcy in Christianity”. Religious people are sometimes seen as crazy or fanatical, much like the Evangelical group in the video. Therefore this video against the Evangelical group is more effective because the viewer is presented the binary of the “good church” vs. the “bad church”.

Although cameras documented a full week of the camp, the video is only an hour and a half long. Therefore, the final cut is only a small selection of what actually happened. In order to convince the reader to also see this group as a “child brain-washing cult”, the producers chose very specific elements to include in their message. At one point, the leader of the cult discusses how what she is doing is similar to, but better, than the Islamic groups who teach their children to become bomber martyrs at a young age, because she is “teaching kids to be good”. This material is also connected with statistics like 1/3 of the population is under the age of fifteen. When talking to the youth, the leaders language include almost all of the verbs are imperative. They tell the children that they “must” pray and that if they want to go to Heaven they “have” to follow God and they “need” to tell others. When presented together, along with their imperative verb usage, these points only further bastardize the Evangelical church in question.

This video serves as a biased attack of an Evangelical church by questioning the normalcy of Christianity and education. The producers mask the logical and ethical appeals that this indoctrination is brain washing and corrupt by using creating an emotional space for the viewer. The video portrays the leaders as angry forces who compel the children to simply believe what they are teaching because they realize that brain washing is most easily done through children. Also, the producers clearly attack the political views of this Evangelical group by including hot topic issues like George Bush’s presidency and abortion. These two main issues are ones that tend to be very well debated, and ones that many people feel strongly about. Therefore, the producers chose to include these as a way to most likely create a very emotional experience for the viewer, and therefore, be more interested in hearing the message. I am more likely to be appalled at the images of the abortion sermons than I am at the idea of it.

Jesus Camp is packed full of images and ideas that are simply appalling. I had watched it before, but had not thought about it then as a propagandistic text. The second time viewing, however, I thought very differently of the material because I actually spent time picking out the stratagems of influence. This video is very effective because it simply asks the viewer to be appalled at what is bring presented through the producers, and not to question the material. Looking at it through this analytical lens, I better saw why they producers chose what they chose to represent, as well as how that was structured and presented through people in order to create a specific image.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thanks Corporate News!

One of the largest forms of propaganda present in our society is in the form of the news media. The world’s population relies on newspapers, magazines, TV advertisements, commercials, as well as a variety of other mediums, to deliver the daily activity in an appropriate and timely manner. However, as a society, we must keep a watchful eye on what we believe, because a lot of news media is selective biased. As quoted in “Age of Propaganda”, Walter Lippmann once stated “without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict sense…is impossible. In order to conduct a propaganda there must be some barrier between the public and the event” (268-69). Therefore, the news media strives to separate the public from the actual event as a way of controlling the ways in which the public interpret the event. While surfing the internet, I came across a replica of one of the WWII propaganda posters that we discussed as a class, on a website designed to offer more liberal news outlets. It was a picture of the blond-haired, blue-eyed, attractive female typing on a typewriter in front of a red, white, and blue flag. However, the one I came across on my own had a very different message; “WRITE WHAT YOU’RE TOLD! Thanks Corporate News! We couldn’t control the public without you”. What is most ironic about the new poster is that it is an anti-propaganda poster about corporate news; however, in being anti-propaganda, it acts as propaganda. The original poster gave the message that in order to be patriotic, happy, and attractive, you had to partake in the war even if only by becoming a stenographer for the U.S. This new design tells people that this image of the attractive blonde is nothing to be achieved because she has moved from being a liberated American to simply a pawn of a corporation. Instead of being an anti-WWII poster, this is a poster describing how corrupt the news is because it is chosen by corporations, and therefore censored. This poster works to publicize the bias existing in the news. First, journalists usually work in specific areas or “beats” and therefore events or stories that do not fall into a specific “beat” are often excluded from the news or are presented less accurately. Secondly, journalists work on deadlines and often do not have the time to fully research a story. Therefore, they often are left to contact the same sources, resulting in a one sided story (272). This poster calls attention to the fact that because journalists write about what corporations want and how corporations want, the news media is biased and non-representative of the worldly events and relations. One of the main reasons this poster is powerful is because we exist in a consumer driven society. Though news is supposed to be informative and honest, corporations and journalists strive to make stories entertaining in order to make money. Therefore, stories which are more gruesome or entertaining often appear in the media more then other news, which may be more important or affect more lives but are otherwise “boring”, appear more often. The main goal of this poster is to alert Americans who are not aware of the media’s bias or misrepresentation that our society is being controlled by corporate news in order for them to make profit (273). The poster strives to open our minds and eyes to the fact that what we see or hear in the news may not be accurate or all-encompassing of what is actually happening in the world around us. Pairing this message with the WWII image works to show how the government or news media can sometimes be “fake” by skewing what is presented.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Les Art of Pre-persuasion...

Propagandists use four specific stratagems of influence as a way to convince the general public to buy into their ideas. The first of these stratagems is called pre-persuasion. Per-persuasion is when the propagandists set the context in such a way that their idea, product, or selling point is most favorably.

According to Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson in their book Age of Propaganda, pre-persuasion "establishing how an issue is defined and discussed... a communicator can influence cognitive responses and and obtain consent without even appearing to persuade" (51).

After framing the situation to be favorable, they propagandists then work to set up the second strategy of influence: Source Credibility. In order to further pass their ideas off as favorable, the propagandists work to select favorable people, images, and situations that appeal to people. In order to be most effective, Pratkanis and Aronson say that the source chosen should be "expert and trustworthy (123). This is why a lot of companies and propagandists choose celebrities to endorse their ideas and products because they are seen as favorable in the public eye. we, as a general public, will often situate ourselves with the celebrity, and want to act as they do because we then can achieve the happiness, wealth, popularity, love, etc., that they have.

The reason why I included all of this background information is because I am trying to model the art of pre-persuasion. This past week, while watching TV, I watched a new episode of The Office. Now in the 6th season, The fictional paper company Dunder-Mifflin, who has been in financial difficulty for the entirety of the series, finally has been bought out by another company: Sabre. The two companies merge, and as Sabre takes over management, the Sabre manager makes the Dunder-Mifflin team watch the Sabre instructional video. The video describes all of the new policies that the workers must enact. The most interesting point of this however, is the fact that Christian Bale, who neither works for the company nor knows anything about selling paper, narrates the video. When the actual company owners comes to visit Dunder-Mifflin/Sabre team, the Dunder-Mifflin boss Michael Scott is sad to see that it is not indeed Christian Bale.

Though this is a fictional account, the pre-persuasion and source credibility are still played out for the viewer. The instructional video is set up to make the company and the new employees feel like they will enjoy the new policies. Christian Bale, the credible source, is important because it shows how Michael Scott was fooled into believing that Bale actually was part of the company.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


While I was checking my email on, an advertisement for the Fox News website showed on the left side of my screen. I was instantly drawn in, and clicked on the link to read the article “Police: Criminals in Haiti Raping Quake Survivors”. With Haiti being a hot ticket item in the news recently, after experiencing a horrific earth quake last month, as well as words like “Criminals” and “Rape”, the title alone was something I could not miss out on reading. However, when I read through the web page, I was quite disturbed. The article’s headline, listed at the top of the page, refers to the people performing the crime as Criminals. However, in the tagline below, they are simply called “bandits.” Next to the tagline is a large color picture of a crowd of Haitian people running though the rubble left in the streets from the earth quake. One of the men in the foreground of the picture is carrying a cardboard box, with the caption “A man runs with a box during sporadic looting in Port-au-Prince.” The other picture is of a child being carried on a stretcher with the caption being “French search and rescue workers carry a girl on a stretcher after she was pulled out from the rubble of the College St. Gerard.” I was instantly confused. To me, neither of these pictures had anything to do with criminals raping the survivors of the earth quake.
The article itself, being only five short paragraphs, is not the original full article. Fox News had taken a story by the London Times, and condensed the material, as well as changed the title. Therefore, readers of the Fox News story are only seeing what Fox News wanted to convey through their website. What is most interesting however, is the fact that very little material in the article is about any actual rape occurring. The first half of Fox’s article describes how 7,000 men from the penitentiary had escaped from the prison once the earthquake hit. The last few paragraphs describe one woman, living in a makeshift camp set up as a temporary living space for the Haitians, who “thought a rape had occurred” because she had heard men yelling outside of her tent, and saw “panties on the ground.” I was so disturbed by the article because the title clearly screams out RAPE. However, the actual information presented in the article talks very little about rape, merely speculating that the rapes are occurring. Also, I feel as though Fox News tries to draw readers in by using large colorful pictures, however, these images have nothing to do with the rape victims or criminals. I feel as though the writers of this generally considered conservative medium have used the “hot ticket” items of Haiti, “criminals,” and “rape” to draw readers in, and ask them to make assumptions of the bandits based off of only what Fox is presenting.
This article relies heavily on pre-persuasion to set up an experience for the reader to interpret the article in one specific way. Fox News wants to take control of the things that the reader will see first so by the time the reader actually reads the article, they will be predisposed to see the prisoners as rapists, and the Haitians as victims of rape, as well as victims of the other horrific events going on at this time. This article also relies on the readers emotions by making an appeal to pathos. Our society generally views rape as a terrible thing for someone to experience. Therefore, Fox hopes we will be sympathetic to the victims, and read this article. Ultimately, Fox wants us to see the situation from their point of view, and takes strides to skew the information slightly so we will be hooked into their views, and not think of questioning their credibility.,2933,584223,00.html

Friday, February 12, 2010

To blog or not to blog...'s not really a good question. I HAVE to blog for my writing class at WCU this spring semester, but I'm not really all that torn up about it. I have never been one to keep a diary, and besides my slight addiction to other social networking sites, I don't write for fun on a regular basis. As an English major, I am constantly writing, but I wouldn't always call that "fun."

So I'm going to give this a shot. Blogging should be fun, and I hope to write creatively, and perhaps inspire someone to think about something. I want to be hopeful and optimistic....

Propaganda. A word that, for me, elicits an immediate picture of a WWII cartoon drawing or a message from Uncle Sam wanting "You!" An image forced into the public eye to persuade. However, propaganda, I have learned and am continuing to see everyday, is way more complex.