Thursday, May 26, 2011

Paranoid Propaganda from the America of the 1950s

There were many threats to worry about in the 1950s and Communism was just one of them!


The United States in the 1950s is perceived to have been a bland, blissfully happy place with no crime, neighborhoods where people went out with their doors unlocked, and ever-growing material wealth.  Images of happy families on TV shows calmly solving problems and the 50s nostalgia exemplified by TV's "Happy Days" with the lovable greaser Fonzi and the Broadway play "Grease" and later film loosely based upon it are generally what come to mind when the 1950s are brought up in conversation.

"He May Be A Communist" is from the paranoid 1950s.

The reality of 1950s America, however, is quite different from the popular perception.  America was a democracy of fear--fear of Communism and the Soviet Union; fear of the homosexual "deviant;" fear of nuclear attack by the Russian Communists.

What was the basis of the fear of Communism in the 1950s?  Communism threatened America in several ways.  It is diametrically opposed to capitalism.  The Soviet Union and other communist states had a one-party system that held all power, while the U.S. has a two-party system with free elections.  Communist Russia had atomic weapons and was seen as a military threat to America.  The perception was that Communist states "enslaved" their citizens while the U.S. stressed the "freedom" of its citizens.  Communism threatened U.S. economic prosperity as well as religious freedom around the world--thus the U.S. believed it had to act.   China and Eastern Europe had fallen under the red tentacles of Communism and the United States was determined to stop its spread around the world.

Gay pulp fiction of the 1950s stressed the seamier, violent side of homosexual life.
Please click below to read the blog post by Michael Phillips entitled, Homophobia and the Birth of the Gay Civil Rights Movement in 1950s America.    It is an excellent essay on the fear of homosexuals during the 1950s.
"Boys Beware" is a homophobic propaganda film from 1961.

 The below is taken verbatim from Wikipedia post on the propaganda film, Duck and Cover (1951):

After nuclear weapons were developed (the first having been developed during the Manhattan Project during World War II), it was realized what kind of danger they posed. The United States held a nuclear monopoly from the end of World War II until 1949, when the Soviets detonated their first nuclear device.

There was much fear about an atomic attack from the Soviets during the 1950s.
This signaled the beginning of the nuclear stage of the Cold War, and as a result, strategies for survival were thought out. Fallout shelters, both private and public, were built, but the government still viewed it as necessary to explain to citizens both the danger of the atomic (and later, hydrogen) bombs, and to give them some sort of training so that they would be prepared to act in the event of a nuclear strike.

The solution was the duck and cover campaign, of which Duck and Cover was an integral part. Shelters were built, drills were held in towns and schools, and the film was shown to schoolchildren. According to the United States Library of Congress (which declared the film "historically significant" and inducted it for preservation into the National Film Registry in 2004), it "was seen by millions of schoolchildren in the 1950s."

"Duck and Cover" is a propaganda film from 1951 that tells us how to protect ourselves from atomic attack.

Copyright (C) 2011 Eric Brothers.  All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Propaganda for Birobidzhan: Stalin's Yiddish-Socialist Paradise in Siberia


A propaganda poster telling Jews about the paradise of Birobidzhan, the new Soviet-Jewish homeland.

Stalin pushed for a Yiddish-based Soviet-Jewish homeland, wanting Jews to become farmers and thus "productive" members of the Soviet economy and culture.  In fact, Stalin's pet project became the first official Jewish state since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., a few decades before the rebirth of Israel in 1948.

Train station in Birobidzhan where Jewish settlers arrived from the western Soviet Union.
"A nation," according to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, was "a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological makeup manifested in a common culture."

Soviet Jews did not fit Stalin's definition. Jewish poverty, unemployment, and overpopulation, as well as wide-spread anti-Semitism and pogroms after 1917, caused concern within the Kremlin. Many Jews lived in small towns and cities where they earned a living from petty commerce, retail sales, small-scale handicraft production, and unskilled labor.
A lottery ticket from 1929.  Revenues raised through lotteries helped cover costs of construction projects in the J.A.R.
In the 1920s, after it was determined that Jewish economic life was "ideologically suspect," the Communist party decided to transform Jews into farmers. This "normalization" would, in theory, weaken mass anti-Semitism and encourage Jews to become productive members of the economy and culture of the Soviet Union.
Propaganda poster from the one and only campaign to combat anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union (late 1920s).

Stalin pushes idea of Soviet-Jewish homeland

The Jewish homeland was to be located about 5,000 miles east of Moscow in the Soviet Far East. The plans to relocate Jews there, spearheaded by Stalin himself, began in 1924. Soviet policy in the 1920s focused upon the creation of national territories for minorities in order to normalize their status, and during the entire time of the Soviet Union being Jewish was considered an ethnicity or nationality.  The land became known as Birodbidzhan, and its official name was (and still is) the 'Jewish Autonomous Region' (JAR).

Here is a map of Russia today with Birobidzhan (Jewish Autonomous Region) in red.
Jewish settlement began in 1928, and the JAR was given its official status in 1934. The region -- about the size of Belgium -- was rich in natural resources in the north and had mountains and thick forests; there were large tracts of swampland and marshes. The pre-existing non-Jewish population (about 27,000) consisted of nomadic Siberian peoples, as well as Russians, Cossacks, Koreans and Ukrainians who mainly arrived around the turn of the century.

Concert version of song "We Came Here to Be Peasants" from musical called Soviet Zion which is about Jews settling in Birobidzhan in the 1920s and 1930s.

Here are some interesting links to information on Birobidzhan for students and non-students alike:


1) Here's a link to a virtual exhibition on Birobidzhan from Swathmore College.
2) Here's Wikipedia's post on Birobidzhan.  The sources at the bottom of the document are more important for students writing reports.
3) Here's an article about a Jewish revival in Birobidzhan from 2008.
4) Here's a link to my article about Birobidzhan published at Suite101.com called, "Birobidzhan: Stalin's Soviet-Jewish Homeland and its Revival"

This poster applauds the decision of the Central Executive Committee to establish by late 1933 a Jewish Autonomous Region with the borders of Birobidzhan.

A Soviet-style Palestine

The JAR was an experiment in creating a Jewish homeland with a secular Yiddish culture that was firmly rooted in socialist principles. The impoverished shtetl Jew would now become a productive comrade working the land while forging a Jewish homeland and new cultural identity. There were many comparisons with Jewish Palestine. One rice plantation migrant wrote in 1928, shortly after his arrival, "I thank you comrades. Here I am, getting settled, and will stop living like a 'Jew,' that is, as a luftmensch (an impractical contemplative person having no definite business or income). "

Propaganda poster promoting Jewish settlement in the Jewish Autonomous Region (Birobidzhan).

Jews poorly prepared for Birobidzhan

The "physical rebirth and renewal" of the Jews was not going to be an easy task. Many of the 40,000 to 50,000 Jews who were sent there from 1928 to 1938 did not remain. They either returned home or settled in larger eastern cities like Vladivostok. By 1939, Jews numbered about 18,000 of the 109,000 residents of the JAR. Only 25% of those 18,000 lived in the countryside, and not all of them worked in agricultural pursuits.

Shot from Soviet propaganda film, Seekers of Happiness (1936), which is about a Jewish family that settles in Birobidzhan.
Little was done to prepare the settlers -- many of whom had never worked the land in their lives -- for the hardships in an unknown and untamed area. The government failed to provide decent housing, food, medical care, and working conditions. Severe floods ravaged the region and some collective farms had to be started anew. Anti-Semitism was also an issue. Of the original Jewish settlers, few had any experience starting a farm from scratch.
Here's a brief video called Arrival in Birobidzhan (1936).


This is a 3-minute video on Birobidzhan.


The reliance upon Yiddish as the basis of culture was also limiting. Since the JAR was part of an anti-religious state, Judaism played an insignificant role in Birobidzhan. The purge trials of 1936-1938 robbed the region of its inspired leaders, who, in their trials, were charged with promoting Jewish culture in the JAR(!). Young Jews in Stalin's Soviet Union had opportunities to get ahead by moving to the cities of Belarus, the Ukraine and western Russia and learning Russian -- not the Yiddish of Birobidzhan.

This is the main street of Birobidzhan in the 1930s.

Please click here to read, "Birobidzhan: Stalin's Soviet-Jewish Homeland and its Revival" by Eric Brothers at Suite 101


Copyright (C) Eric Brothers 2011.  All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The World Trade Center in Advertising Before 9/11

This is an actual ad from 1979 that was published in Le Point. This has been verified by a reference librarian at UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library. The advertisement appeared on p.143 of the March 19, 1979 issue, #339.
The above ad from 1979 is quite an ominous visual. It is a stirring image and everything that good advertising should be. It features the WTC which was an iconic image of New York City. The shadow of the airplane against the building is simple yet striking. It tells the story the client wants to tell: when you travel to New York from Europe or Asia, call Pakistan International Airlines.

Flexon TV ad campaign that began in August of 2001 has a brief image of the WTC with an airliner heading straight for it. Watch carefully to catch it.

If 9/11 never happened it would be seen as just a great piece of advertising. It is possible that Osama Bin-Laden saw this ad at one time--and yet also possible that he never saw it. If he did see it, when he came up with the plan to fly planes into the WTC it may have been deep in his subconscious. If the ad or any reference to it is in his computer, it may come to light eventually.

Asbestos ad from 1981.
The above asbestos ad state quite simply that "Asbestos contains fire, cannot burn and holds up after metal and glass have melted down, giving vital time for people to escape." Except, of course, when a passenger airliner crashes into a building.

Texaco commercial featuring the WTC.

Print ad for The Squeeze (1987) starring Michael Keaton.
When considering the 9/11 attack, everything from before that day associated with the WTC falling, breaking, being squeezed, etc. seems ominous. Did these images contribute to the planned attack? Probably not. As mentioned above, the WTC is an iconic image and structure of New York. Thus destroying it was symbolic as well as an act of terror.

This video shows numerous representations of destruction of the WTC before 9/11 in advertising and entertainment.

Copyright (C) Eric Brothers 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Celebrities Gone Wild: Who's Careers Will Skyrocket When Dead?

Do you recognize that little girl who starred in The Parent Trap?  After Lindsay Lohan is dead, she will be an effective celebrity spokesman in advertising.
In my previous post, I discussed how dead celebrities make excellent advertising spokesmen.  In this post, I have selected three celebrities who probably will make a lot more money after they are dead--and then have really successful careers: Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, and Britney Spears.  This is not to say that I wish them dead, but if they had behaved better their earthly careers would not have imploded and thus would not have to wait until they croak to make a ton of money in advertising.

The above soused star, Lindsay Lohan, is a perfect example.  She was an adorable child actress and star, but once she became legal she thought that she could have it all.  And she has had it all: arrests, public drunkenness, drug abuse, assault charges, shoplifting charges, jail and nude pictorials.  It seems as if she is throwing away a career that many young people would die to have.  She's only 24 years old, but appears to be washed up and a Hollywood has-been.  She has been cast in a few projects that have "changed direction" and dropped her.  She also has been mentioned for some other parts--and has not been given a contract.  That's the kiss of death in Hollywood--to be mentioned all the time for roles and never actually gotten the part.

Here's a report on the washed-up has-been actress, Lindsay Lohan.

What company would hire her to showcase one of their products or services?  Perhaps bail bondsmen, but that is a limited market for a Hollywood "star."  That will all change when she dies and is in the ground.  Then her work will represent her.  She will be remembered for being a sweet child actress, not the drunken, washed up, unemployable adult actress she became while alive.  Then she will be selling all kinds of products--gin, whiskey, rum, beer, cigarettes, and legal services--and her estate will make a bundle of money!

The cash register will 'ca-ching!' when this guy checks out.
Mention the name Charlie Sheen and what comes to mind?  A suitcase full of cocaine?  Porn star girlfriends?  "Winning"; "tiger blood"; "a drug called Charlie Sheen"; and more "Sheen bites."  Someone whom you are terrified of meeting up with in a dark alley?  Bi-polar or insane?  Well, for one reason or another no companies want him to represent them in their advertising.  What could he promote?  Prostitutes?  Drug dealers?  They don't advertise. 

Here's Sheen singing his YouTube hit, "Winning."

Charlie Sheen UNEDITED version of his 20/20 interview.

Is this guy for real, the most original comic ever or completely off his rocker?  Watch the UNEDITED version above and his song "Winning" and send in a comment to this blog if you wish. 

Nonetheless, Charlie Sheen will be more popular when he is dead.  He may live to be 100 but he may croak tomorrow.  What happens when someone dies?  Everyone remembers the good stuff he or she did or said.  There will be nostalgia for Charlie Sheen.  His current episode of wackiness will be remembered fondly, not with horror and derision.  Then the advertisers will come knocking at his estate's door--and he will rake in the cash--and be loved more than ever.  All the other dead celebrities will be jealous of how successful Sheen will become.  He will sell cars, liquor, cigarettes--plus big-ticket items that will rake in big bucks for his heirs.

It's hard to believe that not that long ago, Britney Spears was a hot chick that many people wanted to have sex with.
Britney Spears seems to be making a comeback, but she still lip-syncs her songs in concert, smokes cigarettes, and at 30 her voice may be shot.  Listen to her re-mix of "S & M" with Rhianna in my post on Britney;  her voice sounds weak and not inspired at all when compared to Rhianna.  The days of her big-money advertising days are over.  Yes, she makes money for product placement, but she used to be featured in Super Bowl Pepsi commercials.  But that was before she married that creepy guy and threw her career down the toilet.   

Parody of Britney by Mad TV "Lick My Baby Back Behind"

Nobody will pay her to advertise products.  What image will come to mind?  Britney shaving her head?  Smashing a car window with a baseball bat?  Letting every photographer in Hollywood take pictures of her clean-shaven snatch as she and Paris Hilton (another great role-model for young girls) exited a car?  She could advertise for porn, but she more or less has done that already.  

Parody of "Would You Hold it Against Me?" called "Who's Got No Common Sense? Me!"

But when Britney sings her last note (that's a metaphor, by the way) her career will take off like a rocket.  The Britney we all (well some of us) loved will be back through the magic of video and digital technology.  The bad stuff will be forgotten.  She will then be beloved.  Everybody loves a dead celeb.  Then the Pepsi, Toyota, and other advertising execs will form a line at her crypt to get a piece of the dead version of her.  Then she will make big bucks in advertising.  Then we will forget the pregnant-smoking trailer trash woman Britney turned into the last few years.

In Dead Celebrity Heaven the way we want to remember them: Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and Britney Spears.

Copyright (C) 2011 Eric Brothers.  All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dead Celebrities Make Better Advertising Spokesmen

John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe both made "comebacks" to pitch the Citroën automobile in 2010.
Over the years, celebrities who are no longer with us have been appearing in advertisements, either as spokesmen or "atmosphere" in commercials that feature several of them.  While there is definitely a creepy element to this, there are benefits as well.  Benefits?  How is that possible?

Here's John Lennon in a Citroën commercial.

Well, first of all, the ad agency and the client won't have to worry about the celebrity not showing up or hiding in his/her dressing room having a tantrum--or a bottle of Jack Daniels. 

Chris Farley "returned" for this ad campaign in 2006.
They also won't demand as much of a salary as when they were alive.  And the sponsor won't have to worry about perks and a fancy dressing room.  Dead celebrities are indeed popular, but don't command the money that they once did.
Argos, the British general goods store, "recruited" crooner Bing Crosby to promote their Christmas 2010 catalog.
When you "hire" a dead celebrity, there is instant credibility.  After all, if Bing Crosby advertises Argos, shouldn't everyone shop there?  The client doesn't have to worry about whether or not a star is "overbooked" and thus not available.  Plus there is an ever-growing catalog of dead celebrities who are "available" to pitch products and services.

Tough guy Steve McQueen has been "hired" to sell Ford cars.
When you hire a dead celebrity to push a product or service, you are guaranteed that he or she will not do anything embarrassing that will be reported in the mass media that will adversely effect sales.  How many companies have hired Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears to pitch products?  But that will change when they are six feet under.  Then their antics can be controlled--and you will see them selling everything from whiskey to birth control products.   

This is an effective way to use dead celebrities in advertising.  All four of them--Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Belushi and River Phoenix--died from drug abuse, which makes the use of their photos meaningful to the message of the ad for Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Dead celebrities are much easier to direct.  They don't argue with the director about "motivation" and other actor crap.  If you want Cary Grant standing among a bunch of cartoon insects, he won't give you any lip about it.  And they don't forget dialogue or say the wrong words.  Either the words coming out of their mouths exist on film and video already, or technology can make them say whatever is needed for the product.
The late John Wayne "appeared" in a commercial for Coors beer.

What kind of products will this guy be selling soon?


Copyright (C) 2011 Eric Brothers. All Rights Reserved.