Thursday, October 16, 2014

Design Plan for Visual Analysis

My purpose is to highlight the reactionary sentiment that dominated American Anti-Communist propaganda during the 1950's. By analyzing four posters, and emphasizing the role of minorities in each, I will prove that the Red Scare was only partly concerned with the spread of a repressive ideology throughout Europe and Asia: in large part, it was also a mechanism of perpetuating social imparity within the US. In this light, I will also undertake an exposé of the collective psyche at this time, which presents itself as a classic example of the phenomenon of psychic projection, insofar as it is evident that America projected its shadow (its own oppressiveness) onto the Soviet government. Consequently, I wish for my audience to gain a critical perspective on US culture and politics. This way, they will be able to assume a more active, thoughtful role in the political process.

My audience consists of young voters in high school or college, whose political opinions have still not ossified, and who have at least some background in United States history. They may be those who are apathetic, or they could be blindly patriotic. In either case, I will motivate them to reconsider their views. By emphasizing the social consequences of something even so remote to them as Soviet expansion during the mid-twentieth century, I will evince the urgency of their political participation. I shall also make clear that pride in one’s country is not necessarily pernicious, but that jingoism is. Democracy depends on an informed, decisive electorate.

The context is approximately half a century removed from the posters’ inception.  It is likely that the audience may only have a limited understanding of the Red Scare, of which only their grandparents probably have any immediate recollection. It will be necessary, then, that I provide a brief historical account. In addition, I realize that I am writing in a time characterized by some as one of increasing political polarization. This could have an undue influence on the audience’s reception of my piece, as their perception of what they believe to be my ideology will determine whether they thoughtfully consider my argument.   I may have to address this issue, or at least make clear my intentions (which are partly to demonstrate that governments, just like people, are imperfect, and possess a “shadow” side).

As always, I would like to establish an authoritative ethos with my audience. I shall try to find reliable sources to corroborate my claims (much of what I know about US History I learned last year in my AP US History Course; unfortunately, I no longer have access to the textbook).

Though I often consider myself as apolitical, I may employ a patriotic pathos. I will make an appeal to nationalist sentiment by asserting that a true nationalist who is concerned about the integrity of American government would not blindly believe in its absolute goodness. Rather, they would view representative democracy as the best possible form of government that nevertheless depends on a plurality of interests (to obviate the oppression of a minority by a majority, or vice versa) and a system of checks and balances.
Nonetheless, logos will be the most prominent appeal in my paper. I will focus on the posters’ visual composition (which includes typeface, vectors of attention, saturation, and hue), text (the meaning of the text and its use of ethos, pathos, logos) and the interface between text and image, as well as intertextuality (the way that all three posters interact to manifest a paternalistic attitude towards minorities). I will moreover present an alternative point of view that suggests that at least one of the US government’s presumptions concerning Stalin’s regime were unfounded; ergo, the Red Scare was, to some extent, a disproportionate and even a mendacious response to Soviet expansion.

In the posters themselves, I shall discuss pathos, ethos, and logos: how they use garish colors, sans serif typefaces, and peremptory statements to capture attention and evoke fear (pathos); how they make ethos a matter of patriotism by ways of a dichotomy (“us vs. them”), accentuated in their contrasting depictions of each party and jingoistic declarations; how they utilize a downward vector of attention to imply social entropy; and the logical fallacies present in the text (such as hasty conclusion) (logos).

The selection of posters was based on their implicit views of minorities (as weak, inferior, easily corruptible, naïve, innocent).

The medium is a formal academic paper written in MLA format that will include three photographs (reproductions of the posters).

Concerning arrangement—I will first present the posters whose central figure is a woman, and then juxtapose these with a third poster that, prima facie, does not appear to be related (an African American appears who does not seem to be an important character, but still reinforces the leitmotif of the first two posters). I am still considering what I shall use for the fourth image. One poster I am considering employs an image of a young girl to demonstrate the US government’s pure intentions in giving aid to European countries during the Soviet blockade. In retrospect, I would present this image first in order to establish a contrast with the nefarious purposes apparent in the other three posters.

To test my composition, I shall participate in peer review in class. I may also have one or more of my current or former instructors review it. 

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