Propaganda’s Tree of Knowledge

Today’s Maxim: To be well dressed is a little like being in love

I teach propaganda—and the truth is, the class teaches itself.

Examples can be plucked like low-hanging cherries from the Propaganda Tree of Knowledge.

Writer Andi Zeisler—cofounder of Bitch Media—talks about how advertising is loaded with unquestioned assumptions about how notions of beauty abound.

Zeisler recently talked to my pal George Rede’s class at Portland State, noting that advertisements in Asia promote beauty as pale, white skin.

True: I saw ads galore in Bangkok–during my March visit–for creams and potions to whiten your skin.

My favorite is Snail White—made from the mucus of the gastropod mollusk.

Some ads are more subtle.

I was flipping through a magazine this morning and saw a perfume ad with this maxim:

To be well dressed is a little like being in love.

As Zeisler notes in her book, We Were Feminists Once, somehow the ubiquity of advertising has escaped our critical antennae, and we simply accept the view that the carapace represents our soul.

Our clothing reveals our love.

Our skin reveals our beauty.

Our hair…

Oh, forget it.

Just think of the snail’s shell as layers of calcium, minerals and bonding agents that protect the critter from attack.

And the shell serves as an excellent vehicle for steamy, garlicky escargot, n’est ce pas?

Crawling Snail

Illustration by Michael Halbert


9 August 2017

Michael Halbert’s illustration downloaded from his website








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.
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