The Propaganda Remix Project

“Propaganda is the use of magic by those who no longer believe against those who still do.” – WH Auden

And Micah Wright, an artist specializing in the remix of old propaganda posters, is a magic master.

Wright has created an ongoing poster project known as the Propaganda Remix Project, a satirical collection of old military propaganda posters repainted to feature modern anti-(fill-in-the-blank after the dash) messages.

After 9/11, Wright became interested in the work of WWI and WWII poster artists and the patriotic messages they extolled. While this interest contributed to his idea for the project, he didn’t officially begin the Remix project until after seeing posters from the Bush Administration which reused old Nazi propaganda imagery.

Wright has worked in videogames, film, television, animation, graphic novels, and comics. He has released three books of political commentary which also feature his graphic posters: You Back the Attack, We’ll Bomb Who We Want!; If You’re Not a Terrorist, Then Stop Asking Questions; and Surveillance Means Security!!

His work has been featured in the New York Times, The Progressive, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and on Fox News.

Below are some of his remixed and re-messaged posters.

Wright's line, “a message from the Ministry of Homeland Security," adds a laughable satirical touch.

OPINIONS ARE DANGEROUS - A poster urging citizens to keep quiet.

A typical anti-war poster of Wright's, this one protests spending for the War in Iraq.

Another anti-war poster makes a mockery of U.S. policy.

Another poster comments on soldiers' usage of their GI bills.

A World War era support-the-home-front poster remixed to reflect modernity.

To view more of Micah Wright’s remixed war posters, click here.

The Pose Goes On

In keeping with the Uncle Sam tradition, I chose this spin-off as my next subject.

When you think about it, all politicians DO exhibit a characteristic Uncle Sam pose at one time or another, don’t they?

WE WANT YOU - Channeling Uncle Sam's favorite pose, modern-day politicians use it for the same effectiveness, primarily to encourage citizen involvement in politics.

Looking straight at the American public, they point their promises and emphasize alignment with U.S. citizens. Emphatically swearing to change this, better that, and improve everything, they sound good to eager ears.

Just as Uncle Sam recruited millions into the army, politicians today are encouraging involvement in politics by making citizens feel obligated to participate, else be viewed as lackluster patriots.

Uncle Sam wanted citizens to be on board with America and support the land of opportunity. Modern politicians recall his methods to rally support for themselves and lure the American public into feeling engaged in the political world.

With meaningful expressions (although Obama and Clinton don’t achieve the same level of sincerity as Uncle Sam), politicians remind the public that their votes matter, their ideas matter, they matter. And the people, unaware that this showing is mostly a put-on in modern day politics, naively eat it all up.

Rhyming Illustration Makes Obama Shine

Using the Obama ‘Hope’ poster by Shepard Fairey as inspiration, this illustration shows George Bush and John McCain in the same style, but with less than confidence-inspiring messages.

Bush, in characteristic ‘Bushism’ guffaw, looks rather a dope indeed. And Cain is certainly unlikely to haul in the necessary votes with such a clueless expression, and his prospects of taking office after the 2008 presidential election are summed up concisely with the word ‘nope.’

LINE 'EM UP - In this set of three similarly drawn illustrations, Obama shines next to then President George Bush and 2008 running-mate John McCain.

Only Obama, full of intention and contemplating a vision, shows any promise. He stands in sharp contrast to the two Republicans, which is the primary reason this illustration is so powerful. Bush and McCain look like amateurs next to Obama’s obvious sense of identity and purpose. Obama’s ‘Hope’ poster alone is effective, but stacked up against these two, it positively shines.

Obama is hope personified in this illustration—hope for the people, the country, and the future.

Street Artist Influenced 2008 Obama Campaign

Designed by Chicago-based street artist Ray Noland, this perfectly outlined work of stencil graffiti depicts Obama shaking the hand of America. While no year is listed, it was presumably done shortly after Obama took office. It’s similar to another Chicago piece featured a few postings ago which portrays Obama delivering his Inaugural Address to the American people.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - Chicago street artist and graphic designer Ray Nolan depicts newly elected President Obama shaking the hand of America in a tried-and-true gesture of trust and sincerity.

Demonstrated by the oldest gesture of friendship and trust in the book—the handshake—this piece is a spot-on representation of the relationship between the president and the American public. It makes no qualms about the expectations of the president, who gives his word to be honest and fair to U.S. citizens with the simple shake of a hand.

Dubbed “the creator of Barack Obama street art,” Nolan’s designs contributed to swells of support for Obama and his presidential campaign in 2008. His most significant contribution was the “Go Tell Mama” campaign, in which a number of materials—posters, buttons, t-shirts, etc—were mass screen-printed with the slogan “Go Tell Mama I’m For Obama.” The campaign was not limited to the streets however, but went viral with an animated video as well. While the campaign had its roots in Chicago, its accompanying images and message quickly spread to other cities like Detroit and New York, making Nolan a subject of mass influence.

GO TELL MAMA - The first poster in the "Go Tell Mama I'm For Obama" campaign initiated by Ray Nolan featured Obama's face surrounded by megaphones resonating with shouts of support. A rally on Obama's shoulders shows supporters picketing with signs containing messages like "Surge of Diplomacy."

Nolan continues to feature Obama in a number of his works, rallying the populace to back the president again as runs for reelection this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this YouTube video, street artist Ray Nolan talks to the Chicago Tribune about his “Go Tell Mama” campaign and other designs featuring Obama. 

Satirical Art Not Always Funny

For anyone who was seeking validation of virtually any rumor surrounding Obama back in 2008, it was handed down on a silver platter, courtesy of The New Yorker magazine.

The magazine’s July 21, 2008 issue featured on its cover a depiction of Barack and Michelle Obama that sparked some serious controversy in the realms of politics and journalism.

Standing in the Oval Office and wearing traditional Muslim garb, turban included, Obama was seen fist-pumping his wife, Michelle, who sports camouflage pants and an AK-47 slung across her back. As if that weren’t enough to hit home the point, an American flag is burning in the fireplace, while a portrait of Osama Bin Laden looks down approvingly at the fist-pump.

RISKY SATIRE - This illustration depicting Barack and Michelle Obama was the satirical cover of the July 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker magazine. Though published in an attempt to alleviate fears about Obama and his presidential campaign, it backfired by perpetuating misconceptions and generating controversy.

Yikes. Talk about confronting a touchy subject. No white elephants in that room. In an effort to put it all on the table, the illustration perpetuates every right-wing stereotype possible to paint the mother of them all: the Obama’s as terrorists.

Drawn by Barry Blitt, the illustration is titled “The Politics of Fear,” and according to a press release by The New Yorker, was intended to “satirize the use of scare tactics and misinformation in the presidential election to derail Barack Obama’s campaign.”

The problem? Not everyone gets the punch line.

While the cover was almost certainly published in an attempt to alleviate some of the prejudices and rumors about the Obama’s by making these misconceptions appear ridiculous and absurd, it missed the mark a bit. Somehow ridiculous got a tad too close to real. Considering that a lot of Americans are predisposed to be fearful of Muslims and to associate Islam with violence, especially after the 9/11 attacks, the publication of this illustration seemed a serious oversight on the part of New Yorker editor, David Remnick.

Instead of alleviating fears that many Americans may have had about Obama, this illustration reinforced them. It paints Obama to be a radical extremist, the worst of conservative fears. While it must have been intended to point out the ignorance of people who believed Obama lacked patriotism or was soft on terrorism, it paints him out to be both of those things, and in a complicated satirical way that not everyone understood. This cover is simply dangerous. Sad as it may be, too many people were (and still are) resolutely convinced that the rumors surrounding Obama were true, and this merely provided ammunition for their arguments.

This cover was not supposed to be a satire of Obama, but a satire of the misconceptions about him. But for a satire piece to be truly satirical and have the intended effect, it has to be presented in such a way that everyone can recognize the irony and laugh at the joke.

This one just wasn’t funny.