How Pepsi Got Visual Rhetoric So Wrong

Pepsi Ad

Kendall Jenner appears in Pepsi’s “tone deaf” ad that has since been pulled.

Pepsi’s ad staff may have been trying to strike a similar tone to Coke’s famous “Hilltop” 1971 ad However, Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner “Live for Now” advertisement misses the mark with the visual rhetoric choices the sponsors made.

Much of the criticism has focused on the ad’s unrealistic portrayal of a protest march as a pleasant outing, as well as its featuring of a rich and beautiful white model as a hero.  Such images trivialize racially-charged issues as well as the protest process.

Edward Boches explains the difference between the Coke and Pepsi ads: ““The ‘Hilltop’ spot wasn’t attempting to dramatize a real event. It was clearly contrived [visually] and invented as a moment. The Pepsi spot is attempting to recreate a protest march and in a very unrealistic way. Two, the promise of the Coke spot was a simple sentiment and a wish. ‘We would like to teach … as in ‘like to.’ It was a wish.”


Instagram Reacts to Pepsi Advertisement

Instagram exploded with meme images such as the two below that satirize the Pepsi advertisement.  What is the point of these images?  Perhaps that complex and racially charged situations cannot be solved by a Pepsi.

Drink Pepsi, Not War

A post shared by comicbookgirl19 (@comicbookgirl19) on

The great Pepsi fiasco of 2017 is giving me LYFE today

A post shared by comicbookgirl19 (@comicbookgirl19) on

Read a Variety of Opinions, Not Just Those You Agree With

Supreme court hearingAnna Dubenko, in the New York Times, reminds us that, as critical thinkers, it is important to find well-respected voices on both the left and the right of any particular issue.  Because of  today’s fast-paced and divisive news cycle, that isn’t always easy.   So, she has provided links to recommended articles from both sides of current issues, as well as a few from the center:  Go to the article to read Dubenko’s complete rundown.

From the Right

• From National Review on the Supreme Court hearings: To smear Neil Gorsuch, the Left has created and attacked a straw man.”  [Remember that a straw man is a logical fallacy.  See the explanation in Praxis.]

• From The Weekly Standard on immigration:  “It is easier to decide who we don’t want here than who we do.”

• From The Federalist about the alt-right movement:  “You thought Bane was a movie character; turns out he’s a political avatar.”

From the Left:

• From Jacobin on the Supreme Court hearings:  “Originalist textualists are no less activist than their peers. They’re just less open about it.”

• From In These Times on the Trump administration:  “Heritage isn’t an appendage of the Trump administration’s radicalism. It’s the heart of it.”

From New Republic on Trump’s relationship with the media: “In declaring the media the ‘opposition party,’ Bannon may have actually done it a great favor.”

From the Center

From Lawfare on various judges who have offered responses to Trump’s immigration ban:  “Why are so many judges being so aggressive here?”

Some things to do/to discuss after reading the articles Dubenko suggests:

  • Why would one want to read editorials and articles written by credible writers you disagree with?
  • Pick another issue and find a conservative, a liberal, and a centrist opinion on that issue. Discuss the differences in their arguments.  Are the writers at stasis [see the section on stasis in Praxis.]



Apply the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Possible Fake News

In an era of fake news, students need a standard way to evaluate sources they find on the Internet. Many librarians recommend using the CRAAP test, which was created by Meriam Library at CSU at Chico.  CRAAP is an acronym for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose.  The following graphic is a short-cut reminder of the criteria.  A fuller explanation of the topics follows:


————————– from Buford Library,—————————-

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

By scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = worst, 10=best possible) you can give each site a grade on a 50 point scale for how high-quality it is!

45 – 50 Excellent | 40 – 44 Good | 35 – 39 Average | 30 – 34 Borderline Acceptable | Below 30 – Unacceptable



Doomsday Clock Ticks Closer to Midnight


On Jan. 26, representatives of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a compelling gesture of visual rhetorical,  moved their symbolic Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds, making the reading two and a half minutes until midnight.  The clock’s time setting is a rhetorical visualization of dangers to humanity that could cause extinction.  The current clock setting is the closest to midnight since 1953, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. tested hydrogen bombs.

Bulletin’s Science and Security Board explained their recent action:

“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change … This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”

The impact of the clock image, ticking toward doomsday, grabs the imagination in ways simply a textual warning might not.  The Doomsday Clock, said physicist Lawrence Krauss at the Washington Press Club event offers “a rare opportunity to reach the global public directly.”

Activities: 1)  Discuss the visual impact of the Doomsday Clock set at two and a half minutes to midnight.  How does it make you feel about humanity’s danger of extinction?  2) Research the history of the Doomsday Clock and the recent action of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  Do you think the scientists were wise in  choosing the Doomsday Clock as an attention-getting device?  How so?



Trump Advisor Coins Term “Alternative Facts”

Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternative facts” when describing White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s inflation of the attendance at President Donald Trump’s  Inauguration in Washington.  Spicer had stated during his first appearance before the White House Press,  “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period. Both in person and around the globe.”  The “around the globe” figures are up for interpretation, but photographic evidence clearly contradicts Spicer’s statement, as do other estimates of the crowds at those events.   The photos below compare the crowd from President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration (right) with that of President Trump’s 2017 event. (The visible white spaces in the latter picture are tarps protecting the grass.)



Conway was being interviewed by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Jan. 22. when she first used the term “alternative facts.”  The Internet and the media quickly picked up the phrase.  Spicer, Conway and other Trump supporters appear to believe that what they assume are negative public perceptions of mainstream journalism allow them to dispute the media’s assumptions and advocate Trump’s version of reality.   Todd, however, quickly corrected Conway’s use of “facts” saying, “Look, alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”


Possible assignment:  Discuss 1.) What are “alternative facts?” (See also the Praxis-Blog posting on “post-truth politics.”) 2. ) How have these terms been used in recent months in relation to the presidential election and transfer of power?

Also, 3.  Have you been confused by “alternative truths”? How so? 4.) Is it important to be able to differentiate between real truth and alternative truth?  How can you do that?



If Martin Luther King Had Sneezed


A master rhetorician, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often used repetition in his speeches to make critical points.  Sometimes, he did it to involve his audience, who would often chant along on the repeaed line.  One of his best-known repetitons came in his  “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address (April 3, 1968), which made light of a near-fatal assignation attempt a decade earlier. Dr. King had been stabbed in the chest with a letter opener.  Doctors had feared to remove the knife before he reached surgery because it was lodged so close to his heart: they told Dr. King afterward that if he “had sneezed” with the knife in his chest, he could have died.

 Dr. King in his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, repeated the line “If I had sneezed,” recalling that dangerous moment with dry humor.

“I, too, am happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

“Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters.”

“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in interstate travel.”

“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Ala., aroused the conscience of this nation and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.”

“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.”

“I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

Source:  ttps://

Post-Truth Politics

lieThe Oxford English Dictionary named “post-truth” as the word of the year, defining the adjective as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” They chose the word because of a spike in the frequency of its use this year, first with the political debate preceding the United Kingdom referendum on leaving the European Union, then with the United States Presidential Election.  Presidential candidates argued not just about policies but about the existence or non-existnce of climate change, the existence or non-existence of voter fraud, the need or lack of need for a wall between the U.S and Mexico, and so on.

The Economist adds other examples of post-truth politics: “Members of Poland’s government assert that a previous president, who died in a plane crash, was assassinated by Russia. Turkish politicians claim the perpetrators of the recent bungled coup were acting on orders issued by the CIA.”

The rise of post-truth has been aided by changes in the media and rise of social media:  According to the Economist,.”The fragmentation of news sources has created an atomised world in which lies, rumour and gossip spread with alarming speed. Lies that are widely shared online within a network, whose members trust each other more than they trust any mainstream-media source, can quickly take on the appearance of truth.”

Possible Assignments:  Students can Google the word “post-truth” to locate blogs and articles that discuss the topic.  What is post-truth?  What are the “truths” that are being disputed? What are the dangers of social media as a primary news source?  Ect.  Discuss in class and/or write arguments about a post-truth issue.