The Power of Images to Affect Cultural and Political Discourse

In an article from almost 25 years ago, J. Francis Davis, a media education specialist, listed six myths consistently invoked and reinforced by the media. The amazing and sad truth is that these myths are as prevalent today as they were at the time this article was written. They include:

MYTH #1. The world is a dangerous place and we need guns, police and military to protect us.

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MYTH #2. Leave it to the experts (who are usually white men).

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MYTH #3. The good life consists of buying possessions that cost lots of money.

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MYTH #4. Happiness, satisfaction and sex appeal, just to name a few, are imminent – and available with the next consumer purchase.

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MYTH #5. Your body is not good enough.

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MYTH #6. Businesses and corporations are concerned for the public welfare.

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You can read a full delineation of the nature of these memes as well as examples of images found in advertisements, movies, television, newspapers and books supporting these myths in Davis’s article, here.

As Collins and Skover wrote in David Skover and Ronald Collins, Commerce & Communication, 71 TEX. L. REV. 697, 716 (1993):

Ours has become a commercial culture in a[an] … intrinsic and pervasive sense. The beliefs, ideas, and behaviors that mold or reflect our national character are now re-created in a product’s image. Once this occurs, the old norms take on a new meaning inseparable from the commercial ethic.”

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Recognition of the importance of images to affect both conscious and subconscious effects of messages are well understood in litigation too, as attested to by just a sampling of articles, here, here, and here.

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