The Problem with Bite-Sized Political-Propaganda Videos

Hi, friends. How many of you have seen five-minute-or-less informational videos making the rounds on social media? Prager U, AJ+, and several other media outlets create them.

Why is this a thing (and why is it bad)?

The “bite-sized” video is a popular format for social media because it boils down a large, nuanced concept to a brief, easy-to-digest chunk. Whether the topic is “conservative” or “liberal” (ugh, gotta love arbitrary partisanship assigned to every social issue), the goal is to wrap up a big idea in a little package…often with fun graphics flying around on a green screen and/or ukelele music in the background. I’ve seen it with toxic masculinity, gun laws, racism, abortion rights, minimum wage, and everything in between.

These videos inevitably exclude some contextual info due to time constraints, so what gets left out depends on the “agenda” the media outlet favors. Worse yet, the way the video’s host talks about “the other” is often contemptuous and infantilizing, simplifying them into broad descriptions of their interests, their motivations, their fears, etc. People who watch these videos are essentially spoon-fed cherry-picked facts, yet they can walk away feeling educated on the subject. The unfounded confidence (or unfounded sense of superiority) these videos can inspire makes me uneasy.

What inspired this post…

…was, funny enough, NOT directly related to the American election cycle. But this post has increased in relevance because of the current political climate. Anyways...

Article: “How Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Planet,” The NY Times. Photo: Wong Maye-E, AP.

A couple months ago, I read a book about global poverty wages. Chapter after chapter, in country after country, real individuals shared stories of their horrible living conditions, physical abuse and sexual assault, long hours and persistent injuries, trying to feed their families on inadequate wages, and more. The book also contains story after story of their attempts to unionize (even at the risk of violence and death), their protests, their strikes, and their hard-won victories of a few less hours here, a few more dollars per paycheck there, etc.

I thought it’d be interesting to look up videos about fair trade to learn more, and I came across this–

This video upset me because the host reduces all the struggles and all the achievements of third-world workers to a simple narrative–“They need these factory jobs, so we shouldn’t worry about it (stop complaining about fair labor practices; that’s just a silly first-world indulgence).”

I think people of all political flavors can logically agree that if we, the hyper-consumers of this beautiful planet, create demand for fair labor practices and sustainably-made products, the corporations will have no choice but to follow our lead. Our wallets have the combined power to influence the market. Money talks, y’all.


When you encounter videos like these, just take them with a grain of salt, and remember, when simplifying a complicated issue, information is bound to be left out. In other words, do your research!

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Let me know in the comments.

[Warning: More posts vilifying propaganda and promoting sustainability incoming]

7 comments

  1. It’s more than just videos. Anyone who communicates about any big topic will inevitably only tell one biased side of it, whether they intentionally try to mislead or not. It’s the nature of both humans and nuanced ideas. I take issue with a lot of online journalism for the same reasons you listed, and I wish there was an easy fix. 😕

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There are a number of long format Youtube shows out there that delve a little more deeply into issues. The Rubin Report, The Portal, Ben Shapiro, Bishop Robert Barron, PBS Frontline, Jordan Peterson. Opt for long format either Liberal or Conservative and become more educated on topics, while trying to remain unbias.

    Like

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