Keep Your Brands Off My Country

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Expanding upon my post, “Notes on a Scandal” from a few days ago, I want to point your attention to another incredibly relevant, well written argument on the effects of commercialization and drive for profit on media. If this is a topic that you’re interested in, check out Robert McChesney’s Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. I haven’t read the whole thing yet but what I’ve read so far is an accessible, clearly articulated case for greater media regulation which looks at the micro and macro level of the current media landscape, arguing that the media is fundamentally shaped by commercial interests in a number of pervasive ways.

While I’m on the topic, this CNN headline (“Obama Poised to Rebrand America, Experts Say”) caught my eye yesterday. The article discusses the work Obama seems poised to do toward restoring the United States’ standing in the world. I thought the choice of the word “rebrand” was incredibly interesting, especially since I’d just written my blog post about the overpowering encroachment of commercial mentalities and agendas into the news media. Though this article wasn’t about politics, exactly, seeing “Obama” and “branding” in such proximity made me think about a theme that crossed my mind often over the course of this election cycle– the idea of branding as an absolutely crucial element of politics. This is particularly evident during election cycles and I think one reason for Obama’s great success was his and his team’s incredible understanding of this fact and mastery at establishing a compelling, cohesive, appealing brand. Of course, I think for the most part, Obama’s branding did not represent false advertising–I really believe he is the real deal, a product of the highest quality, to continue the metaphor. But it’s certainly undeniable that his ability to create a narrative, a rallying call, a multi-platform, modern, stylish media campaign, was one of the keys to his campaign’s success.

I’m sometimes fascinated to think of what Presidential campaigning must have been like a hundred, even two hundred years ago. It’s almost incomprehensible. And it’s certainly interesting to think about how the media saturation not only changes the face of politics, particularly electoral politics, but how it changes the profile of who can be successful in the political arena and how that success is achieved. I wonder–do we know more about our candidates and politicians now that every little detail of their platforms and their personal lives is constantly dissected and redissected, ad infinitum, or is it possible that what Pat Aufderheide calls the “media smog” actually makes it more difficult to see the forest for the trees, more difficult to discern the truth as we are inundated with ever more information?

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About Katie Heimer

I'm a graduate student of media studies at the New School. My main academic interests in the field center around issues of women in the media (both in terms of representations of and access to) and the overlapping issues of media reform and education. This website will serve as a chronicle of my progress and growth, both intellectually and personally, as I navigate my master's of media studies.
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