My English 101 class spent the evening last night with Jack Bales, the Humanities librarian at UMW. Jack’s teaching style is wonderfully enthusiastic and rigorous. He worked us through the intricacies of database searching with dash and exactitude. He spent a bit of time discussing the reliability of sources using an example that may be old hat for some, but struck my class and I like a MAC truck. He did a search for Marting Luther King in google and clicked on the first link that was not an ad, titled “Martin Luther King Jr: A True Historical Examination” (here). The site looked relatively hospitable at first glance, an image of Dr. King, some bio info, a quiz for students, etc. Yet, Jack navigated down to the “Hosted by Stormfront” link to illustrate that this site was run by a group of white nationalists who where exposing the “truth” about Martin Luther King. Scary!!! A lesson on google and sources that will not soon be lost on anyone in that classroom.
After this, Jack took us on a tour of the library databases to prepare the students for their research projects. I had met with him before the meeting to discuss the particular research needs of the class would be conducting. The short version: the students will be expected to trace the history of advertising of a single product over the last 60 years in an attempt to examine what advertisements at different moments might tell us about a particular culture (in this case the U.S.) during distinct time periods (here defined loosely as decades). Jack did research in preparation for our class and delivered a compelling presentation on using the tools at UMW to find resources dealing with the history of advertising. Durng his presentation he used the example of negative political campaigning (how timely!) as the subject of his searches. He started off by linking to Lyndon B. Johnson’s infamous “Daisy Ad” from 1964 which sunk Goldwater and sealed the election for the Democrats. I have never seen this commercial before, and I have to say the visceral power of the visual rhetoric is remarkable (I have included the video from youtube below). During Jack’s search for resources on political ads in Lexis/Nexis and InfoTrac, we came across (and Jack had obviously done the preparation perfectly) articles on the the most recent riff of the Daisy ad, “These Are the Stakes!” -a contemporary derivation, this time by the GOP, that combines healthy parts of fear, terror, and paranoia capitalizing shamelessly on the 9/11 attacks (you can also view this commerical below, a la youtube).