Reading Advertising and the Media


This Study Guide prepared by:

Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

Elaine Bontempi, M.Ed.

Catherine Kerley


Learning Objectives


Upon successful completion of this chapter, the learner will be able to


1.  Describe how advertising shapes the consciousness of the readers.

2.  Explain the impact of biased or slanted news media presentations.

3.  Describe how language creates illusions and triggers fantasies.

4.  Analyze print, television, and media presentations and identify the unstated messages are encoded in the images, presentation, language, and overall layout.

5.  Explain how cultural values and stereotypes are either perpetuated or subverted through advertising and news media presentations.




Stuart Ewen and Elizabeth Ewen, Stuart Ewen & Elizabeth Ewen (1982) `Prologue: In the Shadow of the Image' from Channels of Desire: Mass  Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness, New York, McGraw-Hill, pp.1 - 9.

Stuart Ewen is Professor of Media Studies and Chair of the Department of Communications at Hunter College. He is also a professor in the Ph.D. programs in History and Sociology at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of the acclaimed Captains of Consciousness, Channels of Desire, and All Consuming Images, the last of which provided the foundation for Bill Moyers's award-winning PBS series, The Public Mind. He lives in New York City.

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. On her way to and from work, Maria Aguilar sees two advertisements that apply to her.  The products are
    1. Herbal Essence shampoo and Tampax tampons.
    2. Preparation H and New Extra Strength Bufferin.
    3. Colgate toothpaste and Noxzema shave cream.
    4. Uncle Ben’s rice and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
    5. Preparation H and Colgate toothpaste.


  1. Salvation is gauged by
    1. the Parish priest.
    2. consumerism.
    3. income.
    4. the New York Post.
    5. one’s ability to live roach-free.


  1. Frank Miller feels that movie images betrayed him and now he camps out across from the White House while
    1. another movie star cuts veteran’s benefits.
    2. waiting for Star Wars tickets to go on sale.
    3. Western Civilization declines.
    4. reading the New York Post.
    5. the Middle East build up an arsenal of weapons.


  1. For years, Aaron lived in fear of
    1. shampoo.
    2. Captain Kangaroo.
    3. dancing roaches.
    4. the vitamin clown.
    5. television.


  1. If these vignettes are viewed together, they reveal
    1. a pattern of life;
    2. the dullness of Americana.
    3. how bad life in New York City can be.
    4. that people will read anything as long as it claims to be academic.
    5. advertising works.


  1. All these events bear the
    1. the proof that more people buy name brands.
    2. vitamin clowns are scary.
    3. footprints of history that weigh upon us.
    4. roach motels don’t work.
    5. you can’t go back to Carolina after living in New York.


  1. American’s live in a world where _____________ are everywhere.
    1. images.
    2. name brands.
    3. Jordache jeans.
    4. roaches.
    5. diet products


  1. The consistent presence of images is
    1. pleasing to the eye.
    2. what keeps us from being bored.
    3. helping visual learners.
    4. strengthening our economy.
    5. unavoidable


  1. The history that unites the seemingly random routines of daily life
    1. fights consumerism.
    2. predicts the downfall of capitalism.
    3. embraces consumer society.
    4. is stuck in modernity.
    5. helps advertisers know what images damage children.


  1. This history suggests new
    1. advertising campaigns.
    2. patterns of social, productive, and political life.
    3. ideas about how to sell to children.
    4. areas of study in academia.
    5. opportunities for advertisers.


Before You Read

List five images from advertising campaigns that come to mind.  Where did you see them?   Do you think that their impact is what the advertiser expected them to have?  For example, a billboard of the Marlboro Man on the side of the highway next to a high-crime district may carry a different message than the image on the back of a magazine.  Why?  How?

After You Read

Take a field trip to a shopping destination such as a mall or a supermarket and jot down where you see advertising images.  Describe what the images are, where they appeared, their size, and what they were associated with.  Do the images have different messages in different settings?  What are they?  For example, an ad for premium vodka on the back of GQ magazine may communicate a different message than a billboard for vodka seen by people traveling to and from downtown, but on a highway adjacent to high-crime slums.  In one setting, the vodka suggests privilege, and in the other it suggests escape and/or privilege that is just out of reach, except while drinking the premium vodka.  Explore the thoughts that come to mind as you contemplate these.

Web Links

Mark Dery. “PR! A Social Review of Spin!”


“Interview with Stuart Ewen.” adbusters magazine.


“Cyberspace and the Evolution of Fordism.”  Digital Fordism.


“Digital Materialism.”  Digital Fordism.


Overcoming Consumerism.


Consumerism and New Capitalism.


Waste a Lot, Want a Lot: Our All-Consuming Quest for Style.


Stuart Ewen talks about his history of hype, the public relations industry, saving. the planet, etc.


Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of Consumer. Culture



Dave Barry, "The Most Hated Advertisements" The Miami Herald, 1997.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. His column appears in more than five-hundred newspapers in the United States and abroad. In 1988, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Many people are still trying to figure out how this happened. Barry has also written a total of twenty-two books, although virtually none of them contain useful information. Two of his books were used as the basis for the CBS TV sitcom Dave's World, in which Harry Anderson played a much taller version of Dave.

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. Dave Barry discovered that his readers hate some advertisements so much that they
    1. sold their TVs.
    2. boycotted all the products that offended them.
    3. stalked the people in the ads.
    4. fantasize about acts of violence.
    5. sent a steady flow of hate mail to the companies.


  1. Some of Barry’s readers expressed hatred of the Snuggle Bear by writing
    1. “Die, Snuggle Bear Die!”
    2. “he’s not so fresh.”
    3. that they wanted to run over him with their cars.
    4. that they wanted to  burn him at the stake.
    5. that he was worse that the Pillsbury Dough Boy.


  1. Apparently, the little girl in the Shake ‘N Bake commercials
    1. is thought to be Gomer Pyle’s illegitimate daughter.
    2. is REALLY hated by Midwesterners.
    3. is loved by Southerners.
    4. is from New York City.
    5. is REALLY hated by Southerners.


  1. In response to the Kathy Lee Gifford cruise ship ads, one reader wrote
    1. “Kathie Lee’s mom shakes chicken in hell”;
    2. “first person to push Kathy Lee overboard get an all-you-can-eat buffet.”
    3. “Die, Kathie Lee, Die!”
    4. “I hope someone puts Drano in her drink.”
    5. “I hope I see Kathy Lee on my cruise!”


  1. Some people have fantasized about watching
    1. their dog rip the Snuggle Bear to shreds
    2. the little girl in the Shake ‘N Bake ad choking on a chicken bone.
    3. the Pillsbury Dough Boy suffering in their microwave.
    4. local car dealers getting hit by Mack trucks.
    5. the people in Mentos ads getting a lobotomy.


  1. Many people would like Candice Bergen
    1. to come back on as Murphy Brown.
    2. to replace Kathy Lee on those cruise ship ads.
    3. to hit the little girl in the Shake ‘N Bake ads.
    4. to get hit by an Infiniti.
    5. to shut up about the dimes.


  1. The guy in the Infiniti ads talks about the cars like they are
    1. sliced bread.
    2. Renaissance art.
    3. genuine Chevrolet.
    4. as cheap as fabric softener.
    5. a car someone would actually want to buy.


  1. Many consumers are confused about what Chevrolet means by
    1. “genuine.”
    2. “like a rock.”;
    3. talking about baseball and apple pie in a car commercial.
    4. shouting at the consumer like they’re idiots.
    5. “America’s truck.”


  1. The old guy with the kid in the Nissan commercials
    1. has caused a decline in Nissan sales.
    2. refused to sign for another series of commercials.
    3. has increased Nissan sales by 75 percent.
    4. left Nissan for a better deal with Taco Bell.
    5. makes consumers want to call the police.


  1. Older readers are most offended by ads for
    1. Shake ‘N Bake.
    2. Nissan.
    3. Ensure.
    4. Coors Light.
    5. Mentos.


Before You Read

Make an extended definition of what constitutes an annoying or irritating advertisement.  Find three examples and explain what you find offensive about them.

After You Read

Interview three people about two ads they hate.  Ask why they hate them, then describe your findings.  Does this indicate something about advertisers?  Are they out of touch with their audiences?  Or, are offensive ads effective because people remember them?

Web Links

Dave Barry.


The Infomercial Toilet.


God So Hated Advertising Men That He Never Made A Whole One.


Unique Selling Proposition.


Britain's most irritating ads.




Malcolm Gladwell, "The Coolhunt" The New Yorker, March 17, 1997.

Malcolm Gladwell is a writer for The New Yorker.  He is also author of The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.  The focus of his writing has been an analysis of the emergence and development of fashion trends, and their relation to advertising.

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. Gladwell refers for DeeDee and Baysie as
    1. fashion wannabees.
    2. fashion gurus.
    3. typical California girls.
    4. the Lewis and Clark of cool.
    5. freaks of nature.


  1. What everybody seems to want these days is
    1. a new pair of Reeboks.
    2. a window on the word of the street.
    3. cool jobs.
    4. a job that pays a lot for talking to home boys.
    5. a Japanese style cabin.


  1. The fashion paradox is that the better coolhunters become,
    1. the easier it is to find the trends.
    2. the trends become shorter lived.
    3. trends become too repetitive.
    4. fashion starts to trickle up.
    5. the more elusive the cutting edge becomes.


  1. The first rule of cool is
    1. make it up as you go along.
    2. the quicker the chase the quicker the flight.
    3. if you stop looking for it, you’ll find it.
    4. Dallas is light-years ahead of the cool game.
    5. the main trendsetters are in the Midwest.


  1. We need coolhunters because
    1. they keep the economy flowing.
    2. they create more jobs in the fashion industry.
    3. someone has to get paid for using words like “rad” and “totally”.
    4. cool changes so quickly.
    5. without them we’d all be dressing like Peewee Herman.


  1. DeeDee uses teen speech
    1. because it’s really cool.
    2. because she doesn’t know any better.
    3. to set herself apart.
    4. Because of both a and c.
    5. because she’s a stupid Valley girl.


  1. DeeDee is convinced ____________ is happening.
    1. Liverpool.
    2. Japan.
    3. Dallas.
    4. Chicago.
    5. Zimbabwe.


  1. Coolhunting is a collection of
    1. spontaneous observations and predictions.
    2. carefully calculated predictions.
    3. mapped out fashion correspondences.
    4. what trickles down from haute couture.
    5. West Coast trends.


  1. The cool place to buy sneakers in the Bronx is
    1. Footlocker.
    2. Athlete’s Foot.
    3. Mr. Jay’s.
    4. Just for Feet.
    5. Dillard’s.


  1. Studying how ideas spread is a good way to understand
    1. communication.
    2. how trends work.
    3. trickle down theory.
    4. trickle up theory.
    5. why DeeDee uses teen speech.

Before You Read

Contemplate this statement:  “Cool is in the eye of the beholder.”  Do you agree or disagree?  Take a position and defend it with examples from your life.

After You Read

Spend two days on your own “cool hunt” and list what you have found to be the latest “cool” trends.  What are they and what makes them “cool”?  Who is doing it or wearing the styles?

Web Links

“White Trash: The Construction of an American Scapegoat.”

Streetwear Everywhere.


Idea epidemics.



Too Cool for School?


The Word Spy:  Coolhunter.


How to Totally Know What's Cool.


Cool Occupation: Trend Spotter.



Jean Kilbourne, "How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel" published as "Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt" in Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. Touchstone, 2000.


Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. is internationally recognized for her pioneering work on alcohol and tobacco advertising and the image of women in advertising. A widely published writer and speaker who has twice been named Lecturer of the Year by the National Association of Campus Activities, she is best known for her award-winning documentaries Killing Us Softly, Slim Hopes, and Pack of Lies. This year she received a special recognition award from the Academy for Eating Disorders. She is a visiting scholar at Wellesley College, has served on the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and been an adviser to two surgeons general. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. According to Kilbourne, men ____________ and women ____________ with the essential aid of a product.
    1. ensnare, conquer.
    2. give in, are liberated.
    3. conquer, ensnare.
    4.  are enslaved, rule.
    5. are boring, rock.


  1. Kilbourne claims that sex in advertising is pornographic because it
    1. offends her.
    2. fulfills our sexual desires.
    3. exploits the power of female beauty.
    4. rewards sexy women with money.
    5. dehumanizes and objectifies people.


  1. Women are especially cruel judges of
    1. fashion.
    2. men’s buns.
    3. the Kennedy family.
    4. men’s sexual behavior.
    5. other women’s sexual behavior.


  1. According to Antonia Novello, the former Surgeon General, ______________ is the single greatest cause of injury to women.
    1. high heels shoes.
    2. battery.
    3. advertising.
    4. car accidents.
    5. muggings.


  1. Ads don’t directly cause violence, but they do cause
    1. a state of terror.
    2. passion.
    3. increased sex drives.
    4. homophobia
    5. indifference.


  1. The latest territory to be exploited in ads is
    1. Wyoming.
    2. food.
    3. our economic system.
    4. men’s bodies.
    5. children.


  1. Although ads can often be funny, it is never a good thing to
    1. objectify dogs.
    2. objectify humans.
    3. assume all construction workers are built like the Diet Coke guy.
    4. let women ogle men.
    5. read Nietzsche.


  1. Women, especially women of color, are sometimes ______________ in ads today.
    1. sexy.
    2. nude.
    3. roadkill.
    4. looking at men’s buns.
    5. hostile and angry.


  1. “Image clubs’ in Tokyo allow men to
    1. dress like school girls.
    2. sing karaoke with school girls.
    3. be more sophisticated than women.
    4. act out fantasies with “school girls.”
    5. drink until they pass out.


  1. As an advertiser, Calvin Klein specializes in 
    1. over priced clothes.
    2. breaking taboos.
    3. jeans that are way too tight.
    4. charity fund raisers.
    5. only objectifying men.


Before You Read

If advertising “sells” perfection and the attainment of the unattainable, what does this create in the mind of the person who is bombarded by it?  What is the impact on one’s self-esteem?  How could it cause anxiety?  Describe two ads and their overall impact on the psyche.

After You Read

Find three print ads that illustrate the points made in the article.  Describe how they could be harmful or helpful to a woman, and relate the elements you see in the ad to specific sections in the article.

Web Links

Calvin Klein Ads.


Calvin Klein Controversies.


Resisting the Culture of Violence & Exploitation that Surrounds Us.


Sexism and Sexuality in Advertising.


A Plain School Uniform as the Latest Aphrodisiac.



Clint C. Wilson and Felix Gutierrez, "Advertising and People of Color" in Race, Multiculturalism, and the Media. Sage, 1995.

Clint C. Wilson II is professor of journalism in the School of Communications and graduate professor in the Graduate School of the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University. He was recently named director of the Black Press Institute.  Dr. Wilson is the author of numerous articles, essays, and books.

Multiple-Choice Questions

  1. Santa Fe railroad used Native American children in their ads to show the ______________ passengers could expect.
    1. fun.
    2. depressing poverty.
    3. type of food.
    4. service and sights.
    5. integration.


  1. The advertising industry portrays minorities through
    1. the requirements of legislation;
    2. the filter of Anglo eyes.
    3. anime.
    4. accurate ethnic portrayals.
    5. pre-Civil Rights ideals.


  1. The advances made by Blacks and Latinos were not _____________ by Native Americans and Asians.
    1. shared.
    2. believed.
    3. trusted.
    4. celebrated.
    5. condoned.


  1. Native Americans protest the use of
    1. successful Latino images.
    2. the integration of Native Americans into ads.
    3. camera on reservations.
    4. tobacco.
    5. racial terms names and images.


  1. Many ads featuring Asian images are
    1. racially insensitive.
    2. anime.
    3. funny.
    4. too silly for American audiences.
    5.  only shown in England.


  1. Asian women who appear in ads are depicted as
    1. Hello Kitty.
    2. Native Americans.
    3. China dolls.
    4. dating Black men.
    5. taking care of Anglo men.


  1. Native American images are no longer used as noble savages or cartoon characters, instead they
    1. are only used as sports mascots.
    2. stereotyping Anglo Americans.
    3. mocked on new TV shows like Wolf Lake.
    4. have disappeared from advertising.
    5. mystified on X Files.


  1. Asians are still stereotyped in ads and are rarely
    1. considered a stable market.
    2. presented in integrated settings.
    3. presented without bangs.
    4. fashionable for corporate ad campaigns.
    5. depicted in television ads.


  1. Ads on network television often appear to be more ________________ than the shows they support.
    1. racist.
    2. segregated.
    3. entertaining.
    4. realistic.
    5. fully integrated.


  1. Advertisers discovered that Blacks could be integrated into ads
    1. without triggering a white backlash.
    2. as long as there were more whites in the ads.
    3. with Asians and Latinos.
    4. that sell alcohol.
    5. for Tommy Hilfiger.


Before You Read

Define and describe what you would characterize as racial insensitivity.  Does it ever occur in advertising?  If so, provide examples.

After You Read

Can you think of ads that treat white, dominant culture individuals in a racially insensitive way?  Would it matter if whites were subjected to racial slurs – after all, don’t they deserve it?  Argue your case and use examples.

Web Links

Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.


Native American Mascot Boycott page.


Parliamentary hearing into racism in advertising.


Ads show racism the red card.,7492,620245,00.html

Racism in Advertising is No Laughing Matter.


Rob Walker, "Diet Coke's Underwear Strategy,", July 10, 2001.

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. When this article was written, Diet Coke was promoting itself with the tag line
    1. Just for the Taste of It.
    2. Do What Feels Good.
    3. Great taste Without the Calories.
    4. That Certain Something.
    5. Candoodle.


  1. In the ad mentioned in the article, the man’s wife first wears
    1. black undergarments.
    2. a roomy pajama top.
    3. nothing.
    4. a black dress.
    5. jeans and a t-shirt.


  1. From this ad, it seems as though Diet Coke wants to be a familiar as
    1. husbands who do laundry.
    2. your most comfortable pair of jeans.
    3. a roomy pajama top.
    4. your laundry hamper.
    5. your old underwear.


  1. Walker asks, who among us entertains a wistful nostalgia for 
    1.  comfy jeans.
    2. our mother’s underwear.
    3. white panties.
    4. black panties.
    5. our father’s underwear.


  1. The narrator of the ad says there is something _____________ about thin, washed out cotton underwear.
    1. disappointing.
    2. disconcerting.
    3. reassuring.
    4. suspicious.
    5. pathetic.


  1. This ad suggests that Diet Coke as reassuring as
    1. sturdy jeans.
    2. your mother’s underwear.
    3. mutual funds.
    4. laundry baskets.
    5. brand new panties.


  1. When men usually make a connection between their wife’s underwear and their mothers, he is
    1. having an epiphany.
    2. cheating on her.
    3. suffering from how-did-I-get-here angst.
    4. emotionally disturbed.
    5. sick.


  1. Maybe the “certain something’ in this Diet Coke ad is
    1. perverted childhood fantasies.
    2. a resigned sense of fatalism.
    3. the realization that he married his mother.
    4. the realization that the thrill is gone.
    5. the bad aftertaste of Diet Coke.


  1. The narrator of this ad is
    1. Tom Cruise.
    2. Matt Damon.
    3. Anthony Hopkins.
    4. Robin Williams.
    5. Ben Affleck.


  1. You can view Diet Coke ads at Diet after installing
    1. Macromedia.
    2. Flash 5.
    3. Java.
    4. Director 8.5.
    5. PageMaker 6.


Before You Read

What are soft drink ads really “selling” when they develop their campaigns. Is it the flavor, or is something else?  Describe and support your argument with examples.

After You Read

Take a look at new soft drinks and the ads for them.  How and when does the article give you a new perspective on the ads?  Describe your reactions and use examples.

Web Links


Diet Coke Resources.


Diet Coke Ads.


The Joy of Pepsi.


50 Years of Coke Ads.




Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, “15 Questions about the Liberal Media” in Through the Media Looking Glass. Common Courage Press, 1995.


Jeff Cohen--columnist and commentator--is the founder of FAIR, the New York-based media watch organization. His columns have appeared in such dailies as USA Today, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Miami Herald. For four years, he co-wrote the weekly, nationally syndicated "Media Beat" column (with Norman Solomon) for Creators Syndicate. Cohen is the co-author of four books -- Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News (1997); Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News (1995); The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (1995); and Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Pundits (1993).

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a nationwide consortium of public-policy researchers. He is the author of Media Beat, a nationally syndicated column on media and politics that appears in the San Francisco Examiner and other daily newspapers.  A longtime associate of FAIR, Solomon has written op-ed articles on media issues for many papers, including the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Newsday, New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Baltimore Sun.  Norman Solomon's ninth book, The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media, a collection of "Media Beat" columns, was published in 1999 by Common Courage Press. Solomon's other books include three previous collections of columns co-written with Jeff Cohen-- Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News, (1997), Through the Media Looking Glass (1995) and Adventures in Medialand (1993) -- as well as The Trouble With Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh (1997), False Hope: The Politics of Illusion in the Clinton Era (1994), The Power of Babble: The Politician's Dictionary of Buzzwords and Doubletalk for Every Occasion (1992), Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media (co-authored with Martin A. Lee, 1990) and Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America's Experience With Atomic Radiation (1982).

Multiple-Choice Questions

  1. Liberals are apt to be denigrated as _________ while moderates are presented as _____________.
    1. idiots, brilliant.
    2. hypocrites, trustworthy.
    3. academic snobs, in touch with the common man.
    4. having too many causes, being single minded.
    5. ideologues, free of ideological baggage.


  1. Most outlets __________ Clinton’s selection of David Gergen.
    1. condemned.
    2. praised.
    3. laughed at.
    4. were sickened by.
    5. rejected.


  1. The media ____________ White House conservative appointees and ______________ liberals.
    1.  rejects, supports.
    2.  challenges, applauds.
    3.  cheers, laughs at.
    4. discards, condemns.
    5. applauds, challenges.


  1. Clinton’s tax hikes on the wealthy were called
    1. Meager.
    2. class welfare.
    3. tax reform.
    4. Giveaways.
    5. ideological baggage.


  1. National outlets have been _____________ Clinton and Carter than Reagan and Bush.
    1. easier on.
    2. nicer to.
    3. more neglectful of.
    4. tougher on.
    5. more resentful of.


  1. The first two political pundits to aooear on national TV everyday are
    1. Beavis and Butthead.
    2. Homer and Marge Simpson.
    3. Pat Buchanan and John McLaughlin.
    4. Phil Donohue and Oprah Winfrey.
    5. William F. Buckley Jr. and Ralph Nader.


  1. Conservative writers from ______________ represent “the left”.
    1. The Wall Street Journal.
    2. The Daily Oklahoman.
    3. Mother Earth News.
    4. Mother Jones.
    5. The Rolling Stone.


  1. Shows on public television that are supposedly liberal are supported by
    1.  Rolling Stone.
    2.  the Republican Party.
    3. the Communist Party.
    4. conservative corporations.
    5. The Wall Street Journal.


  1. The first TV host in history to be allowed to use his/her national politics to campaign everyday for a presidential candidate was
    1. Rosie O’Donnell.
    2. Oprah Winfrey.
    3. Phil Donahue.
    4. Rush Limbaugh.
    5. Pat Buchanan.


  1. Even in liberal cities, radio talk shows are dominated by
    1. Rush Limbaugh.
    2. Howard Stern,
    3. right-wing hosts.
    4. Ralph Nader.
    5. Bill Maher.


Before You Read

Do you consider yourself politically conservative, liberal, or moderate?  How did you arrive at that designation – what are the defining qualities of your political stance?  Do you tend to like to read material that reinforces your beliefs, or do you like to be challenged or provoked?

After You Read

Describe five ways in which a person’s political leanings result in the unconscious application of “spin” to a current event or a recent development.

Web Links

Examining the "Liberal Media" Claim.


Myth: The U.S. has a liberal media.


Liberal? Media?


Conservative Top 40.


Examining Corporate Media Ownership and The Resulting Conservative Bias.


Kevin Williams and David Miller, "AIDS News and News Culture" in Questioning the Media, Sage, 1995.

Multiple-Choice Questions

  1. The main message of the British AIDS campaign was that AIDS
    1. only threatens homosexuals.
    2. isn’t a real problem in Britain.
    3. can be cured by having sex with a virgin.
    4. only threatens intravenous drug users.
    5. poses a threat to everyone.


  1. Compulsory testing for the AIDS virus
    1. Is a necessity.
    2. Was rejected.
    3. Was approved.
    4. Was demanded by Lloyds of London.
    5. Is required for all job applicants in London.


  1. People with AIDS (PWA) is a label that avoids defining those with AIDS as
    1. Just medical objects or blameworthy.
    2. Gay.
    3. Drug users.
    4. Victims.
    5. Heterosexual.


  1. On British TV News, the most common type of AIDS story was about
    1. the problem in the gay community.
    2. the number of heterosexuals with AIDS.
    3. testing centers.
    4. the government’s AIDS campaign.
    5. AIDs in Africa.


  1. A large number of news stories were about
    1. AIDS camps.
    2. possible cures.
    3. AIDS in other countries.
    4. AIDS in prisons.
    5. AIDS in the military.


  1. The most common types of interviews were
    1. gay AIDS victims.
    2. government officials.
    3. celebrities with AIDS.
    4. celebrities heading up AIDS fundraisers.
    5. medical and scientific experts.


  1. When looking at how TV news covers AIDS, it is not simply who gets on, but a question of
    1. how they are used in TV news stories.
    2. how famous they are.
    3. how pitiful they are as an AIDS victim.
    4. how much they charge to be on the news.
    5. how many other news shows they have been on.


  1. The government’s information-giving was questioned by
    1. the Gay Men’s Chorus of London.
    2. PWA.
    3. Magic Johnson.
    4. voluntary organizations.
    5. Lily Tomlin.


  1. Medical and scientific sources have a high degree of ______________ in the eyes of television personnel.
    1. entertainment value.
    2. advertising pull.
    3. Credibility.
    4. Notoriety.
    5. Knowledge.


  1. Some groups argued that AIDS health education was really
    1. a joke.
    2. propaganda aimed at heterosexuals.
    3. too expensive to continue.
    4. propaganda aimed at drug users.
    5. propaganda aimed at homosexuals.


Before You Read

Do you think that the news needs to provide more or less coverage of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the rest of the world?  Why?  Provide three rationales for your position, with examples.

After You Read

Describe five ways in which a person’s political leanings and the news culture result in the unconscious application of “spin” on the way that AIDS is reported in Africa.

Web Links

AIDS Education Global Information System.

The CDC National Prevention Information Network.

AIDS News on the Net.


World AIDS News.



David McGowan, "The America the Media Don't Want You To See" excerpt from the introduction of Derailing Democracy. Common Courage Press, 2000.



Dave McGowan grew up in Southern California, where he studied sociology and psychology at UCLA, obtaining a degree in the latter. For the last ten years he has worked as a general contractor throughout the greater Los Angeles area. He currently resides in the San Fernando Valley, where he is researching yet more government malfeasance for his next book.

Multiple-Choice Questions

  1. The American free press is
    1. a bald-faced lie.
    2. a joke.
    3. a multi-tentacled machine.
    4. driven by advertising.
    5. the envy of the world.


  1. By outward appearances, the US seems to have
    1. good looking news anchors.
    2. the epitome of a free press.
    3. unfiltered news.
    4. an overly liberal media.
    5. a conservative media.


  1. There are clear warning signs that _______________ relationship between the media and corporate military powers exists.
    1. a mutually respectful.
    2. a sick and twisted.
    3. an increasingly incestuous.
    4. a purchased.
    5. a decreasingly innocent.


  1. The illusion of a free and competitive press has become ingrained to the point that it is
    1. nearly universally accepted as a truism.
    2. obviously a lie.
    3. proof that Americans are brainwashed.
    4. laughed at by other governments.
    5. ridiculed daily on the news in other countries.


  1. The “truth” offered by the media is 
    1. a perfect example of how our free press works.
    2. always presented from both sides of the issue.
    3. rarely found.
    4. often disputed in the foreign media.
    5. a systematic and deliberate distortion of reality.


  1. Sometimes, something more insidious is at play than 
    1. international terrorism.
    2. O. J. Simpson.
    3. mere distraction.
    4. willful misrepresentation.
    5. advertising sales.


  1. When a problem is identified, it is defined
    1. in the narrowest of contexts.
    2. in the most complicated of contexts.
    3. at a 7th grade comprehension level.
    4. as something the Russians did to us.
    5. in terms of who is in the White House at the time.


  1. In general, the broadcast media is not meant to
    1. Confuse.
    2. Enlighten.
    3. Educate.
    4. make fun of other countries.
    5. ridicule our government.


  1. The media entertains and distracts attention away from
    1. whatever essential information is being withheld from the discussion.
    2. the president’s personal life.
    3. Cartoon Network.
    4. Politically Incorrect.
    5. boring material.


  1. A nation that only has the illusion of public debate only has
    1. the president to thank.
    2. a snowball’s chance.
    3. a few years before a major shift happens.
    4. the illusion of democracy.
    5. the illusion of free press.


Before You Read

When you read the newspaper, a news website, or watch television news, are you under the impression that certain news stories are given priority, or portrayed in a light that causes distortion?  Describe examples of that.

After You Read

Describe the impact of the fact that many large news outlets are part of large media empires or multinational conglomerates.  For example, what does Disney own?  Does the fact that Disney is affiliated with have any bearing on how certain movies or television shows will be described or promoted?  Explore other similar situations, and describe potential areas of conflict of interest or chaos.

Web Links

Freedom Of Press Or Media Manipulation?


Media Manipulation.


Report on Media Manipulation Plot Refuted.


Derailing Democracy.


Center for an Informed America.



Mark Crispin Miller, "Advertising: Seeing Through Movies" published as "Advertising” in Seeing Through Movies. Pantheon Books, 1990.

Mark Crispin Miller is a media critic, professor at New York University, and the author of Boxed In: The Culture of TV.

Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. Plugs for Coca-Cola in movies works as
    1. rock videos.
    2. cheap gimmicks.
    3. subliminal inducements.
    4. free advertising.
    5. educational broadcasts.


  1. The subliminal impact of Coke plugs arises not only from their cinematic camouflage, but also from
    1. the ads that runs before the movies start.
    2. the theatre’s endorsement of Coke.
    3. illuminated blackboards.
    4. sly refinement of company policy.
    5. rich and pleasant associations.


  1. Coca-Cola has used movies to
    1. stigmatize the competition.
    2. sell more Coke.
    3. buy Columbia Pictures.
    4. glamorize their can.
    5. get cheap celebrity endorsements.


  1. Columbia pictures went beyond omission of rival images to
    1. shed deepening warmth on their products.
    2. parodying rival logos.
    3. buying up film studios.
    4. deliberate sabotage.
    5. replacing Pepsi with Stolichnaya vodka.


  1. In movies, Pepsi is
    1. the choice of no one.
    2. the choice of a new generation.
    3. rarely used.
    4. made fun of.
    5. often replaced with Coke.


  1. Cinematic product placement has become so common that it now
    1. takes away from the story line.
    2. has no effect of the viewers.
    3. has to overly obvious to be noticed.
    4. ends up on the cutting room floor.
    5. sustains the industry.


  1. In the 80s, the plugging process became
    1. Rationalized.
    2. common place.
    3. Taboo.
    4. a curse.
    5. too much trouble to deal with.


  1. In recent films, the use of products makes the fictive setting
    1. even more fictive.
    2. Silly.
    3. more believable.
    4. Confusing.
    5. seem like an ad.


  1. In the world as advertised, the label or logo
    1. can be blinding.
    2. clutters the screen.
    3. is rarely obvious.
    4. shines forth like the full moon.
    5. is often parodied.


  1. When shoved into the spot light, the product
    1. falls on its face.
    2. gives dialogue clues to the actors.
    3. distracts the viewer.
    4. rarely gets the scene right in less than 15 takes.
    5. upstages the star.


Before You Read

What are five possible outcomes of having Coca-Cola products appear in high-budget films?  Explain and describe possible scenarios.

After You Read

What do you think might be some possible negative outcomes for having products appear in films?  For example, could having Coca-Cola products appear in older films that one is renting make the viewer associate the products with older films, and thus seem out of date?  Or, might it help the product seem timelessly popular?  Take a position and support your argument with examples.

Web Links

Interview with Mark Crispin Miller..


Hard Sell.


Product Placement.


The Product Placement Bible.


The product placement monster that E.T. spawned.


William Lutz, "With These Words I Can Sell You Anything" from Beyond Nineteen Eighty-Four : Doublespeak in a Post-Orwellian Age. National Council of Teacher's of English, 1989. 


Multiple-Choice Questions

1.      A “weasel word” is

a.      part of hate-speech language.

b.      “slippery” language which can “weasel” in and out of contexts, which implies deception.

c.       language used in PETA ad campaigns (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

d.      affiliated with “vassal grammar.”

e.      None of the above.


2.      Weasel words are

a.      as hollow as any egg sucked dry by a weasel.

b.      filled with advertising double-speak.

c.       good at appearing to say one thing when in fact they say the opposite, or nothing at all.

d.      all of the above.

e.      none of the above.


3.      According to the author, the biggest word or phrase used in advertising doublespeak is

a.      legal-ese.

b.      “the best.”

c.       “help.”

d.      “before it’s too late.”

e.      “if you respond within the next 30 minutes.”


4.      What does “virtually” mean? 

a.      not in fact.

b.      Almost.

c.       Actually.

d.      absolutely.

e.      In fact.


5.      Product packaging often includes the following: 

a.      the words “new and improved.”

b.      the word “new” when there has been a “material functional change” even if that is very slight, such as a color change.

c.       the word “improved” even though the idea of “improvement” is so subjective as to be undefinable.

d.      all of the above.

e.      None of the above.


6.      The word “like” is used so often in advertising that its impact seems almost magical.  A phrase including the word is

a.      a simile, and thus it is figurative, not literal language.

b.      often used in poetry.

c.       not scientific or objective, provable fact, but requires, at best, a judgment call.

d.      all of the above.

e.      b and c only.


7.      When Anacin’s slogan, “contains twice as much of the pain reliever that doctors prescribe most,” is used, the phrase is unfinished because

a.      it doesn’t name the doctors.

b.      it leaves out the rest of the comparison – as much [as ....].

c.       it is an inside joke about doctors’ significant others always having a headache.

d.      “the pain reliever” is a euphemism for euthanasia, and it is an encrypted message designed to program the masses into supporting doctor-assisted suicide.

e.      The doctors named faced malpractice suits.


8.      The primary mission of advertising doublespeak is

a.      to create an illusion of something positive.

b.      to be as vague as possible in order for the reader’s mind to “fill in the blanks.”

c.       to turn on the mind’s fantasy-generating capacity.

d.      to trigger positive associations.

e.      all of the above.


9.      The secondary mission of advertising “weasel words” is

a.      to provide full disclosure.

b.      to protect the manufacturers by including small-print legal terms and disclaimers.

c.       to maintain “truth in advertising.”

d.      to imprint the minds of millions with subliminal political or governmental mind-control messages so that we are converted into a world of zombies

e.      none of the above.


10. The following individuals use “weasel words”

a.      advertising executives.

b.      Politicians.

c.       greeters dressed up as larger-than-life Disney Characters at Walt Disney World.

d.      students when explaining why they need an extension on the deadline for their term paper.

e.      all of the above.

Before You Read

Why are the most effective ads ones which engage the emotions and trigger one’s fantasies and deepest desires? What are a few of the ethical issues in arousing emotions in order to “sell” a concept, product, or idea? 


After You Read

Make a list of your favorite ads, or ones you find very effective.  Discuss each one and elaborate upon what it is about the ad that makes it effective.

Web Links

Jeffrey Schrank. “The Language  of Advertising Claims.”

Edward F. McQuarrie, David Glen Mick. “Figures of Rhetoric in Advertising Claims.”


“The Language of Advertising.”

“Top Ten Slogans of the Century”  advertising age.


Michael Parenti, “Methods of Media Manipulation” in 20 Years of Censored News, eds. Jensen & Tomorrow. Seven Stories Press, 1997.


Michael Parenti is an internationally known author and lecturer. He is one of the nation's leading progressive political analysts. His highly informative and entertaining books and talks have reached a wide range of audiences in North America and abroad.


Multiple-Choice Questions


  1. No communication system can hope
    1. to reach every audience.
    2. that everyone will believe them.
    3. to report only the truth.
    4. to report everything.
    5. to always get away with propaganda.


  1. Parenti wants to know what principle of ___________________ is involved.
    1. Storytelling.
    2. Selectivity.
    3. Political power.
    4. Carelessness.
    5. Discombobulation.


  1. The corporate mainstream media __________________ territory that might cause discomfort to those who hold political power.
    1. usually stumble into.
    2. dive headfirst into.
    3. exist in the midst of.
    4. set up camp in.
    5. rarely stray into.


  1. The most common form of media manipulation us
    1. Advertising.
    2. Brainwashing.
    3. suppression by omission.
    4. prescription medication.
    5. suppression by inclusion.


  1. When omission proves to not be enough to manipulate the audience, the media move from ___________ the story to ____________________.
    1. ignoring, making fun of it.
    2. barely mentioning, ridiculing the media who covered it.
    3. ignoring, supporting it.
    4. ignoring, vigorously attacking it.
    5. ignoring, firing and publicly humiliating the TV anchor.


  1. The act of labeling predefines a subject without
    1. any explanatory details.
    2. attaching anything positive or negative.
    3. Cause.
    4. attacking it.
    5. suppressing it.


  1. Many labels can be misleading.  One example of this is the label
    1. “military intelligence.”
    2. “ a strong defense.”
    3. “social reform.”
    4. “organized labor.”
    5. “child welfare.”


  1. When the media pass on official lies without adequate confirmation, they are participating in
    1. false balancing.
    2. preemptive assumption.
    3. the dismantling of social reforms.
    4. democratic dialogue.
    5. face-value transmission.


  1. The most effective propaganda relies on __________ rather than _____________.
    1. false balancing, labeling.
    2. framing, falsehood.
    3. slighting of content, face-value transmission.
    4. falsehood, framing.
    5. the liberal media, right wing conservatives.


  1. The essential rhetorical constructs of “Learning Never to Ask Why” are __________.
    1. active voice and personal subject.
    2. the Toulmin scheme.
    3. the rhetorical triangle or pathos, logos, and ethos.
    4. passive voice and impersonal subject.
    5. comma splices and run-on sentences.



Before You Read

Describe a recent example of propaganda in action.  Is propaganda sometimes to obvious to be effective, or is the fact that it can be obvious even more persuasive?

After You Read


Imagine that you are in charge of the Propaganda Department of the Armed Forces of a small country.  It is your job to develop propaganda against your neighboring country in order to make it popular to tighten border controls and charge a $100 fee for an “entrance visa.”  Develop two propagandistic documents; one which uses labels effectively, the other that frames falsehood. 


Web Links


Monopoly Media Manipulation.

Media Manipulation Window.

Michael Parenti Political Archive.

The Terrorism Hype.

Michael Parenti Archives.



Trudy Lieberman, "Slanting the Story." Introduction from Slanting the Story. New Press, 2000.

Lieberman is a contributing editor of Columbia Journalism Review. She is a senior editor at Consumer Reports. This article reflects her conclusions, not those of Consumer Reports.

Multiple-Choice Questions

1.                  The American free press is

a.      a bold faced lie.

b.      a joke.

c.       a multi-tentacled machine.

d.      driven by advertising.

e.      the envy of the world.


2.                  By outward appearances, the US seems to have

a.      good looking news anchors.

b.      the epitome of a free press.

c.       unfiltered news.

d.      an overly liberal media.

e.      a conservative media.


3.                  There are clear warning signs that ___________ relationship between the media and corporate military powers exists.

a.      a mutually respectful.

b.      a sick and twisted.

c.       an increasingly incestuous.

d.      a purchased.

e.      a decreasingly innocent.


4.                  The illusion of a free and competitive press has become ingrained to the point that it is

a.      nearly universally accepted as a truism.

b.      obviously a lie.

c.       proof that Americans are brainwashed.

d.      laughed at by other governments.

e.      ridiculed daily on the news in other countries.


5.                  The “truth” offered by the media is 

a.      a perfect example of how our free press works.

b.      always presented from both sides of the issue.

c.       rarely found.

d.      often disputed in the foreign media.

e.      a systematic and deliberate distortion of reality.


6.                  Sometimes, something more insidious is at play than 

a.      international terrorism.

b.      O. J. Simpson.

c.       mere distraction.

d.      willful misrepresentation.

e.      advertising sales.


7.                  When a problem is identified, it is defined

a.      in the narrowest of contexts.

b.      in the most complicated of contexts.

c.       at a 7th grade comprehension level.

d.      as something the Russians did to us.

e.      in terms of who is in the White House at the time.


8.                  In general, the broadcast media is not meant to

a.      Confuse.

b.      Enlighten.

c.       Educate.

d.      make fun of other countries.

e.      ridicule our government.


9.                  The media entertains and distracts attention away from

a.      whatever essential information is being withheld from the discussion.

b.      the president’s personal life.

c.       Cartoon Network.

d.      Politically Incorrect.

e.      boring material.


10.              A nation that only has the illusion of public debate only has

a.      the president to thank.

b.      a snowball’s chance.

c.       a few years before a major shift happens.

d.      the illusion of democracy.

e.      the illusion of free press.


Before You Read

Describe two examples of biased journalism, or a “slanted” story, one which dealt with a political theme, and another which dealt with a well-known corporation or celebrity.  What was the slant?  What was the underlying reason for “slanting” the story?



After You Read

Do you think that the press is truly “free”?  Are there risks for journalists in the United States?  What would be “dangerous” stories to pursue?  List three and explain why you believe they would be dangerous or damaging to a journalist’s career.

Web Links

Freedom Of Press Or Media Manipulation?


Media Manipulation.


Report on Media Manipulation Plot Refuted.


Derailing Democracy.


Center for an Informed America.


Slanted to the Left.


'You give us 22 minutes - we'll give you slanted news'.


Another Perspective.


Visual Analysis

click to enlarge

Mego Elastic Super Heroes, 1980

Essay Questions

1.  How do the images of the “Elastic Super Heroes” both reinforce and undermine the original comic book characters, Batman and Superman?  If you owned the rights to Batman and Superman, would you like this product and this ad?  Why or why not?

2.  What on earth was the artist thinking????  !!  These images are unintentionally (we hope!) campy.  How?  Why do these images make most adults smirk to themselves?  Think of the readings in the Film chapter -- esp. those on Queer Theory.  How could a Queer Theorist have a heyday with these products?

click to enlarge

Coca-Cola ad: July 1963.

Essay Questions

1.  What are the messages in this ad?  Although it was released in 1963, does it apply to 2003?  How would you update the ad?

2.   Would this ad be effective if you did role reversals or race reversals?  Think of various scenarios using racial stereotypes and describe how they would change the message in the image.  For example, what if this were an Asian woman dressed as a geisha surrounded by Hispanic men wearing sombreros, holding up Coca-Cola bottles?  Explore three different scenarios.

click to enlarge

Daniel Green Slippers, May 1958.

Essay Questions

1.  What do you imagine would be the target market for this product?  How do you know?  What is the fantasy being evoked?  Is the ad selling comfort or the illusion of leisure, travel, and privilege?  Explain how you arrived at your conclusions.

2.  If you were to update this ad, how would you do so?

click to enlarge

General Electric Hairdryer.

Essay Questions

1.   Oooh, groovy, baby!  Wow!  Is this woman fashion-forward, or what?  She’s cool without being too counter-culture ... how does she pull that off?  Describe the messages in this ad in a pre-blow-dryer age. 

2.  Describe the how the following components add meaning to the overall message of the ad: 

a.      the color scheme.

b.      the appearance of the model.

c.       the flowers.

d.      the background pattern and setting. 

Who do you think is the target market and what are their values, at least as assumed by the ad designer?  How do you know?


click to enlarge

Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro, Feb 1968.

Essay Questions

1.   What are the messages in this ad?  What does purchase of either of the cars seem to promise the buyer?

2.  How would you update these ads for today’s market?  Why?  What would you change first?   What would you keep the same?  Color?  Layout?  Types of drivers?  Setting?  Explain your reasoning.

Read and Respond

Please visit these websites and respond:

Slanted Sources in NewsHour and Nightline Kosovo Coverage.


Through a slanted lens.



Emperor’s New Clothes.

Please write a response to this question

After reading these articles, what are the primary reasons for “slanting” the news and news presentations?  List three reasons, and provide examples and support from the articles.


For this module, you will provide up to 7 to 10 links that
are chapter-specific. We have begun asking for some many destinations
because if a link dies, we can simply remove that link and still have a
viable module. This cuts down on the maintenance of the site dramatically.

“Women’s Bodies in Sports Ads.”

Daniel Chandler.  “Media Semiotics.”

Edward F. McQuarrie and David Glen Mick. “Figures of Rhetoric in Advertising Language.”


Richard Taflinger.  “I Want It, I Want It Now:  Greed and Advertising.”


Richard Taflinger.  “Psychology of Consumer Behavior.”


Richard Taflinger.  “Live and Let Die: Self-Preservation in Advertising.”


Archive of print ads.



The Advertising Parody.


False Advertising:  A Gallery of Parody.