“Advertising agencies have tried openly to sell presidents since 1952,” wrote Joe McGinniss in his seminal 1969 book, The Selling of the President 1968.
And the fact that his observation seems almost quaint in today’s media-saturated political culture suggests that we’ve failed to heed the warning.
Today, more than ever, presidential candidates aren’t so much presented to us as they are sold to us like products—packaged, branded, and target-marketed to various consumer groups. It’s hardly an ideal way to choose leaders, but how many of us, especially young people, ever stop to think about that, much less factor it into our voting?
Sounds like a great topic for classroom study, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, the bright folks at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image have put together an online exhibition entitled The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012, an exhaustive archive of campaign commercials accompanied by free, common core standards-based lesson plans in English Language Arts and Social Studies.
It’s all you’ll need to launch your own eye-opening study in media literacy and critical thinking.
Check it out for yourself. Visit The Living Room Candidate today.
—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio
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