May your gander be proper

tshirt jepMy propaganda students presented final projects in class yesterday, showing how propaganda can be subtle or overt.

And always present.

Students sliced through the veneer of million dollar campaigns that convince you to drink milk, vote Republican, quit smoking and spay your dog.

Most illuminating is the propaganda that appears to be proper.

We call it proper-ganda.

For example, one student showed how pit bulls earn the reputation as baby-killers.

Turns out neutered pit pulls can be gentle, ranked high in terms of sweetness by the American Temperament Test Society.

Problem is some bull dog owners fail to spay their dogs (neutering helps curb aggression).

Or consider the “Got milk?” campaign.

Milk producers saw consumption dive during the 1980s and began promoting the product big time.

They used actors, comedians and sports stars to shill milk.

One claim is that drinking milk helps you lose weight but data supporting the claim are sketchy.

As for indigenous denizens, proper-ganda is rampant.

One student pointed out that Manifest Destiny, taught as part of every American school curriculum, gives the rights of the New World to those who discovered it.

The rationale?

Settlers embraced the proper way to carve out a living. Indians did not.

The phrase Manifest Destiny says it all.

Settlers were endowed with the moral authority to claim the territory.

Their rights were manifest by their very being.

Indians, on the other hand, just happened to be here: a random act.

At the core of the message is the notion that settlers were superior—morally and spiritually.

Their god endowed them with these traits, thus paving the way for westward expansion.

Teddy Roosevelt captured such sentiments in his 1896 book, The Winning of the West:

The truth is, the Indians never had any real title to the soil; they had not half as good a claim to it, for instance, as the cattlemen now have to all eastern Montana, yet no one would assert that the cattlemen have a right to keep immigrants off their vast unfenced ranges. The settler and pioneer have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages.

Thus, savages lacked the proper authority to claim their homeland.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, ethics, film, framing, Indian, manifest destiny, milk campaign, native american, Native Science, news bias, Roosevelt, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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