Anyone watch the cable drama "The Americans"? I've heard it's good, but now I'm convinced to give it a try after reading this great piece about it. I'm sharing the link because it's a superb piece of cultural criticism — a great model for how to take a piece of popular culture and connect it to social discourses, historical points of view, and many of the themes of our syllabus.
And yet, there is something deeply disturbing about The Americans, a sense that it presents recent history through adversarial eyes to toughen us, to encourage us to absorb certain moralistic criticisms of capitalism as a means of acclimation to deprivation and toil.
Two good explainers provide basic background on the situation in Ferguson, Mo., and the case of Eric Garner in New York.
Here are the New York Times videos reporting from Ferguson after Michael Brown's shooting. As you watch, experience the videos as objects of communication — pay attention to the information being reported, of course, but also what information is highlighted, what is left out, what frames are being selected (both literal, in terms of camera positioning, and theoretical, in terms of Gitlin and Schudson), that music being used, etc.
Participation! Consider: No reporter is seen or speaks in the above video. Does that mean it is unbiased? What factors does Schudson outline that contribute to bias, and where might they be present here?
Participation! Toward the beginning, the man with the sign reading "Propaganda: It Won’t Be Televised — Pay Attention" — he looks at the reporter filming him and adds, "I know you seen it, tell the truth, tell the truth!" What truth, and why does he believe it is not getting out by other means? Relate his expression about propaganda to the readings that addressed earlier propaganda fears.
— Pay attention to the discussion here about the original choice of Michael Brown photo used and picked up by the news media. What frames are at work there, and how? How does this relate to Schudson's explanation of selection?
— Think about the reporter's final comments. What photos of you or other information about you is out there on social media that could be similarly misconstrued?
Of course, I have to wrap things up with some pop music ...