Archive for the ‘Communications & Media’ Category

‘Shop Off Their Heads!

June 24, 2010

"Wait. So you're telling me this isn't real?"

When Joseph Stalin began into his Axl Rose-like descent into maniacal paranoia, he had comrades who “betrayed” him not only murdered, but wiped from the pages of history, as well. His propaganda squad would use literally erase Stalin’s ex-henchmen from photographs in an attempt to purge even the memory of his enemies from the collective consciousness.  Of course, Russians drink so much vodka that resorting to this crude revisionism was probably unnecessary, but I guess Uncle Joe was kind of a dictator about stuff like that.

So, flash-forward a few decades and look who’s taking an exacto knife to the history books now: the anti-smoking crowd. According to the UK’s Daily Mail, a British museum features a giant poster of Winston Churchill above the main entrance – but his iconic cigar has been Photoshopped out! Not only is this unsavory from a historical standpoint, but now Churchill looks like Dick Cheney. (If Dick Cheney wasn’t a draft dodger.)

According to the article, the origin of the Photoshopped image is “a mystery,” but this isn’t the first time that the anti-smoking lobby airbrushed a famous stogie. On the cover of a British school textbook, a cigar was removed from the mouth of a renowned engineer to avoid “offense.” Now, I’m not trying to stand up for the tobacco industry – I would be totally fine if BP used the bodies of Big Tobacco execs to stuff up the oil geyser in the Gulf. However, let’s leave revising historical record to psychotic totalitarians, shall we?

“He who controls the Photoshop controls the future.” –George Orwell

“Why are you trying to chop off history’s dick?” –Sigmund Freud

Speaking of creepy fascists (what a coincidence!) The Washington Times ran a Photoshopped photo of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan wearing a turban today. This fraudulent picture was apparently meant to illustrate neo-con Frank Gaffney’s conspiracy theory masquerading as an op-ed involving Shariah law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wall Street bailout. The only thing that makes less sense to me than the logic of this article is the fact that Gaffney – who previously tried to blame Saddam Hussein for the ’93 World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings – somehow runs a “think tank.”

Nice job, right-wingers. I could have done it better with safety scissors and a glue stick.

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Salt: Still Safer Than Anthrax and Tastier, Too!

June 1, 2010

You'll know that the food industry lobbyists have won when you start seeing ads for this new "protein shake" popping up at your local health club.

Despite government health experts’ claim that cutting salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year, the processed food industry is “working overtly and behind the scenes” to “delay and divert” potential regulation or guidelines.

According to the New York Times, trying to get corporations like Kellogg, Kraft Foods and Cargill to cut back a little on the salt is like trying to get a tweeker to reduce their meth  consumption – they just don’t wanna give up those little white crystals.

Corporate “flavorologists” argue that processed food tastes like “cardboard” or “damp dog hair” without added sodium, so unless you want crackers that taste like a homeless guy was sleeping inside of them or cookies that taste like a mutt’s wet ass, you better just learn how to deal with that hypertension, grandma.

Well… actually, they admit that you can make processed food taste better simply by using fresher ingredients instead of just dumping more salt into them, but that would “risk losing profits.” So instead of investing in healthier food, the food industry is throwing millions and millions into a massive marketing push with junk science and PR front groups like “The Salt Institute.

This is how the folks from The Salt Institute unwind after a long day at the propaganda factory.

Here’s my favorite clip from the Salt Institute’s Web site (and when you’re reading this, just remember that this is all funded by corporations that sell globs of chemicals designed to look and smell like food with names like “Green Slime” (a children’s cereal) and “Chicken Rings”):

Most are unaware of the 14,000 known uses for salt, how it’s produced and our success in ensuring the environmental compatibility as it provides the foundation for the quality of our lives. Mankind evolved from the sea and we have a saline “sea” within us as do all fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Environmental author Rachel Carson is best known for her book on birds, but she also wrote The Sea Around Us offering this insight: “When the animals went ashore to take up life on land, they carried part of the sea in their bodies, a heritage which they passed on to their children and which even today links each land animal with its origins in the ancient sea.”

Excuse me while I wipe a salty, delicious tear from my eye – but you’ve just gotta love the corporate behemoths responsible for FrankenFoods and the dominance of factory farms quoting the godmother of the modern environmental movement. These guys must have giant, genetically modified balls to feed us propaganda so ridiculous that if irony was a dude his head would have just exploded.

Cargill’s “Salt 101” campaign is another wonderful case study in corporate psychology and ethics. In response to more and more scientists warning us that excess salt leads to terrible health problems and premature death this company launches an pro-salt advertising blitz that suggests “sprinkling it on foods as varied as chocolate cookies, fresh fruit, ice cream and even coffee.” This would be like if the gun industry put up ads saying “Shoot More People!” so they could increase bullet sales.

Cargill even recruited Food Network celebrity chef Alton Brown to push the “put salt on everything” message. “You might be surprised,” Mr. Brown says, “by what foods are enhanced by its briny kiss.”

Mr. Brown, you can kiss my briny ass – I hope my butt sweat enhances the flavor.

This is the only Salt that I think we need more of…

Lake Pirates Mess With Texas

May 30, 2010

Mexican lake pirates don’t scare me nearly as much as the thought of Tea Baggers in wet suits.

If you thought old white people were going crazy about having a black president, just wait until they find out about this. According to FoxNews, the newest threat facing our nation is… MEXICAN LAKE PIRATES!

Bassmasters beware, here’s how Fox describes the situation: “The waters of Falcon Lake normally beckon boaters with waterskiing and world-record bass fishing. But this holiday weekend, fishermen on the waters that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border are on the lookout for something more sinister: pirates. Twice in recent weeks, fishermen have been robbed at gunpoint by marauders that the local sheriff says are “spillover” from fighting between rival Mexican drug gangs.”

Will Texas call in the Air Force to defend Americans' right to waterski?

When the US media was covering the Somali pirates, they ignored the fact that most of the “pirates” were basically just fishermen who had been screwed over by multinational corporations that were poaching their fish and dumping nuclear waste into their waters. So I’m not going to rush to judge these so-called Mexican lake pirates before I hear their side of the story – They could have a perfectly valid reason for fucking with the Texans. Maybe the Texans were blasting really crappy country music and the Mexicans just couldn’t take it anymore, so they stole their radio.

Anyway, I’m just worried that the US Navy – which has been training dolphins to fight terrorists – might try to enlist some freshwater dolphins to take on these lake pirates. It’s bad enough that the military has drafted marine mammals into the War on Terror – it would really be a shame if they turned dolphins into border guards, too.

Let me see your papers.

Don’t Ask Rush Limbaugh to Take Care of Your Plants Next Time You Go on Vacation

May 20, 2010

Judging by the view from Rush Limbaugh's apartment, the coastline still looks fine. (Yes, Rush actually owns this place -- but who's his interior decorator? This looks like the bedroom of Jimmy Buffet and Marie Antoinette's offspring.)

Rush Limbaugh is still pretending that the BP oil disaster is no big deal, despite the fact that the Louisiana coast is now greasier than Mickey Rourke. Rush serves up more whoppers than Burger King – he claimed for years that nicotine isn’t addictive – so I never really considered the guy Mr. Wizard, in the science department, but his latest claim is even more absurd than the décor of his $14 million New York apartment.

Rush dismissed the devastating effects of this environmental catastrophe by saying that “oil can be a great fertilizer.”

Wow, I can’t wait for the next nuclear plant meltdown so I can hear Rush defend it by claiming that all that radiation will be like free chemotherapy for people with cancer.

Rush Limbaugh's heart. (Just kidding, it's really a tar ball, but what's the difference?)

It Would Make Sense if You Had the Memory of a Fruit Fly

April 6, 2010

“9/11 was an inside job!” What's next -- Rudy Giuliani joining the Truthers?

Even though talking about John McCain is more 2008 than telling people “I drink your milkshake,” this little tidbit is just too ridiculous to pass up.

Old “Crazy Train” McCain actually told a Newsweek reporter: “I never considered myself a maverick.”

This is like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suddenly saying  “I’ve always been cool with Israel” or if George Bush came out and revealed that he actually can read.

Steve Benen over at Washington Monthly sums up the migraine-inducing hypocrisy of this statement:

“In 2008, McCain’s television ads described him as “the original maverick.” When McCain and Sarah Palin would routinely take different positions during their national campaign, aides insisted this was to be expected from ‘a couple of mavericks.’ A quick search of McCain’s Senate website turns up several dozen references to the senator being a ‘maverick’ — in some cases, press releases, instead of quoting McCain by name, would simply note, ‘The Maverick said…’ McCain’s website for his Senate campaign does the same thing, using ‘McCain’ and ‘Maverick’ interchangeably, as if they were practically the same word.”

Jeez. If John McCain is willing to distance himself from the maverick label, you’ve got to wonder what other startling revelations we might need to start preparing ourselves for…

"I have a confession to make... this isn't my real hair."

"Deep down, I've always been more of the sensitive artist-type."

"I've never really conidered myself inspirational... hope is for suckers. You should all just go home, because nothing will ever change."

I Helped Legitimize a Genocidal Regime and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

January 17, 2010

Sorry folks, pack up your shit, we have some cabanas to build

Back in 1980, The Dead Kennedys released “Holiday in Cambodia,” a blistering critique of entitled Western attitudes towards impoverished and war-torn nations. If the New York Times is familiar with this punk rock anthem of bitter resentment wrapped in sarcastic disgust, they clearly didn’t get the joke.

Of all the tourist destinations in the world, this year the Times selected Sri Lanka as the “number one place to go in 2010.” How edgy! How provocative! How… fucking morally bankrupt are the editors at the New York Times?

Just two days before the Times offered this extremely lucrative endorsement of this “island, with a population of just 20 million, [that] feels like one big tropical zoo,” they ran another article about Sri Lanka. This article was about Sri Lankan soldiers committing war crimes by executing blindfolded-and-bound prisoners of war and the government of Sri Lanka not really giving a fuck.

While the travel piece does allude to the decades-long civil war that finally “ended” last year after the Sri Lankan government went on a merciless killing spree against Tamil rebels and all the innocent children and other civilians who happened to get in their way, the NYT writer is ready to move on from that nasty little episode and explore “this teardrop-shaped island off India’s coast, rich in natural beauty and cultural splendors.”

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any sweeter: “Decimated by the tsunami in 2004, the surrounding coastline is now teeming with stylish guesthouses and boutique hotels.” Awesome! No more of those stinky fishing villages with their grubby little huts… but if you really want to beat the crowds, you might just want to skip Sri Lanka and head straight for Darfur. I hear the dust storms aren’t too bad this time of year and when the New York Times writes about it next year, you’ll be able to say you were there first.

And Maybe Karl Rove Will Replace Heidi Klum on Project Runway

July 30, 2009
I know that making fun of George W. Bush in 2009 is about as fashionable  "jorts" (jean shorts), but some ideas are just so awful they demand to be ridiculed.

I know that making fun of George W. Bush in 2009 is about as fashionable "jorts" (jean shorts), but some ideas are just so awful they demand to be ridiculed.

Newsweek just posted an article on their site titled “Why Obama Should Make George W. Bush his Mideast Envoy.”

Um, I guess since he’s not eligible to run for Mayor of New Orleans and we already have an abassador to the UN, this would be the one other job that he would be totally perfect for. And maybe Dick Cheney could get a “green job” in the renewable energy sector. I bet it would be really good for the old guy’s heart to get a little exercise putting up solar panels, climbing around on those roofs, getting a tan… and I could totally see Donald Rumsfeld as the new president of Code Pink. I mean, Madea Benjamin must be tired of screaming her lungs out and getting arrested all over the place. It’s really time for her to pass the torch, and if there’s anybody who knows about war criminals, it’s ol’ Rummy – I think pink would look good on him, too. Very flattering with his high cheekbones.

Actually, wait a second… now that I think about it… Newsweek must be smoking crack.

bush

Would You Like That Protest Regular or Super-Sized?

July 12, 2009

Unfurling massive banners has been a common tactic in the activist’s toolbox for a long time. When the media consistently ignores or distorts your side of the story, you often need to go to extreme lengths just to get recognition. Hanging a giant sign is a crude way of weighing in on a complex issue, but it’s often the only way for groups to inject their perspectives into mainstream coverage that often focuses on only a very narrow spectrum of the debate.

The influence of forest defenders and their climbing skills honed from many years of setting up tree-sits to protect Redwoods along California’s north coast has had the effect of dramatically increasing the scale of actions over the last decade or so, with banners getting bigger and going higher than ever before. When the Olympic torch passed through San Francisco last year, this action on the Golden Gate Bridge made headlines around the world (except for China):

nytimesggb_small

Last week, Greenpeace generated some buzz by hanging this enormous banner on Mt. Rushmore making a pretty vague demand for President Obama to show more leadership in tackling climate change. It didn’t generate as much coverage as the Bridge action, though, probably because there’s a lot more willingness in the media to smugly wag a finger at China for its human rights abuses than to give air time to the idea that Obama should be more aggressive in fighting climate change.

rushmore

Although this isn’t a banner drop, it’s another example of the super-sizing of protest imagery. This message went up on San Francisco’s Bernal Hill last week, shortly before the charges were dropped against four of the SF 8 — eight black men, including several former Panthers, who had been wrongfully accused of the 1971 killing of a white cop.

FreeSF8_Bernal2

While gigantic banners and protest signs can be effective in some cases, as their use becomes more and more popular, the novelty will wear off, defeating the very purpose of using them to raise awareness. Activists will need to become increasingly creative with their actions in order to generate spectacles that can’t be ignored, visually shocking situations that just grab the world by the eyeballs and force it to gawk, and hopefully think about what they are beholding, at least for a few minutes. Here a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Attach an enormous set of testicles to the Statue of Liberty to raise awareness for transgender rights.
  • Put a massive blunt in the mouth of the giant Thomas Jefferson statue at the Jefferson Memorial to call for more compassionate marijuana laws. Because cannabis is good for people with cancer and glaucoma and, you know, Jefferson grew hemp or something.
  • Unroll a giant rubber on top of the Vatican to protest the Pope’s insanely destructive anti-condom policies. This one might be kind of a logistical nightmare to pull off, so it would probably be a lot easier just to put a body condom on the actual Pope, himself, like this:
    body condom

If Muslims are the New Nazis, Does That Make Republicans the New Gypsies?

June 11, 2009
Is this the new face of the white supremecist underground?

Is this the new face of the white supremacist underground?

Crazy people are everywhere. There are crazy lefties who think that Dick Cheny was the mastermind behind 9/11. There are crazy conservatives who think that Obama is the antichrist. There are crazy Christians who think Jesus wants them to gun down doctors, crazy Muslims who think that Allah wants them to blow up fancy hotels, and even crazy college Republicans who think it’s OK to rap about Ayn Rand.

But these people aren’t representative of the larger groups to which they belong—they are nut-job extremists. So even though it’s convenient to condemn a whole group for the actions of some of its fringe “members,” it’s not really fair.

However, it’s totally reasonable to examine how leading voices of these movements respond to extremists in their midst and draw limited conclusions based on those responses. And while most high-profile pundits in the right-wing media and blogosphere have been quick to denounce the disgusting actions of James Wenneker von Brunn, the man who murdered a guard (R.I.P Stephen Johns) at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC today, Debbie Schlussel’s analysis of this incident is just too bonkers not to be called out.

According to Schlussel, the people who should really be blamed for today’s pathetic shooting spree carried out by a 89-year-old white supremacist who had previously written a book praising Adolph Hitler are… MUSLIMS!

“Mr. Von Brunn has been on this planet for 89 years, and he didn’t feel comfortable shooting up a Holocaust museum until now—this new era of ‘tolerance,’ in which we must tolerate the most extremist Muslim behaviors and sentiments,” Schlussel wrote. “Make no mistake. Muslims created this atmosphere where hatred of the Jews is okay and must be ‘tolerated’ as a legitimate point of view.”

Obviously, there’s no need to explain why this argument has more holes than a Osama bin Laden target at gun range in Texas. However, before getting to the really crazy part (just wait), it’s worth mentioning that Schlussel’s articles have been published in the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Jerusalem Post, and, according to her bio, “Her online fan club is the Internet’s second largest for a political personality—behind only Ann Coulter.” The point being that she is not an obscure blogger, but a pundit whose voice is heard and legitimized by a large and influential audience.

Now, here’s the really, really crazy part of her arguement:

“Moreover, not only do White supremacists and neo-Nazis work with Muslims in many, many documented cases and investigations*. But they are basically one and the same. The only difference is that one guy is named James and the other guy is named Ahmed.”

There you have it, folks: Muslims are the new neo-Nazis… the neo-neo-Nazis. Oy vey.

*No, she doesn’t cite any examples, because I don’t think there are any.

By the way, if you ever wanted to see a couple of Tucker Carlson wannabees bustin’ mad flows about the capital gains tax rate, here ya go:

The Taliban More Popular Than Republicans

May 5, 2009
lolduncan

Former RNC chair Mike Duncan recently told his fellow Republicans that they need to “do it in the Facebook, with the Twittering.”

What’s the difference between the Taliban and the GOP?

The Taliban has a better PR team. No, seriously.

You may remember a few months back when Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) raised a few eyebrows by suggesting that the GOP could learn a little something about political strategy from that other underdog party — the Taliban. “One can see that there’s a model out there for insurgency,” he told National Journal editors.

Explaining how the GOP might look toward those masters of persuasion in the Taliban for insight, Sessions said, “They went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes.”

Well, if the Republicans want to keep up with the Taliban, they’ll have to try a lot harder, because in the time since that interview, they haven’t been doing so hot. Quick recap: Rush Limbaugh’s enormous face everywhere, Michael Steele talkin’ about a hip-hop makeover, Norm Coleman loses to Stuart freakin’ Smalley, Arlen Specter flees for bluer pastures and teabagging teabagging teabagging! What’s next? Will John McCain’s ol’ campaign buddy Joe the Plumber say something even stupider and more bigoted than anything he’s said before, like how he would never let “queers… anywhere near my children”? Oops, just said that.

So the GOP “insurgency” is on a roll like a Hummer with four flat tires.

Meanwhile, the Taliban — a group not usually noted for their public relations savvy — has really improved their communications skills. According to Time magazine’s new article “Why the Taliban Is Winning the Propaganda War,” “The same Taliban that once banned television now boasts a sophisticated public relations machine that is shaping perceptions in Afghanistan and abroad.”

Motivational DVD’s, a pirate FM station called “Mullah Radio,” fancy press releases and staged photo shoots — the Taliban spin doctors have apparently been working hard to capture those hearts and minds, and it seems to be paying off. In recent weeks, the Taliban has moved deeper into Pakistan, prompting The News International, a leading English newspaper, to call the Pakistani government’s failure to “evolve a counter-narrative to the Taliban propaganda” that fills airwaves and newspaper columns a “dereliction of the highest order.” (via Time)

So let’s review: A bunch of dudes who have spent much of the last decade hiding in caves between guerilla battles with the strongest military force in world are totally kicking ass, according to mainstream Western media. And the Republicans? They couldn’t even figure out how to get their shit together on Twitter.

So maybe emulating the Taliban was a little too advanced for the GOP. Maybe they should try setting their sites a little lower and see if they can keep up with Ashton Kutcher first.