|Click the pic to see Stewart's call for remixing McConnell's campaign ad.|
[After the jump: More on this, w/ the Daily Show clip and ideas for soundtracking lessons for media literacy]
Potentially, the remixed Super PAC ads with images produced by McConnell will barrage the public in various media in the voting season without allowing voters to see who has funded the messages while McConnell maintains distance from accusations of negative messages or misinformation that may come from provocative ads. Thus, Stewart's call for his fans, who mostly share his disdain for McConnell's politics, to make a remix mockery of McConnell's campaign ad images, also calls attention to the political economy of the campaign ads. Why does Stewart pose his call to remix as "just plain fun" and not as political activism? Why does he not encourage the remixes to expose the systematic obfuscation in campaign financing rather than simply mocking a candidate's appearance? Colbert did it. Is Stewart so cynical of his audience that he believes they would rather spend time making absurd laughs for kicks (at the expense of a single Senator who is a lock for re-election), than pointed laughs to address institutional change? I'd love to hear what students think of this, and what you think your students would think. Can grassroots media culture and activism compete with big media politics? I hope so. But I would rather see more mobilization for systemic change, which I think we can add to Stewart's call to remix, by having this conversation around the clip, and following it up with opportunities for students to develop their own political remixes (soundtracking any politician they choose to critique their message and image). To get a bigger audience, you could even post your work on any political figure to the Twitter thread Stewart suggests. Your group can also follow this meme as it unfolds at Know Your Meme, to see whether/how remix culture responds to Stewart's call.
I have found that the simple act of soundtracking a common set of images with my students makes for a worthwhile media literacy experience--even with experienced media producers. While such exercises are often done as a means to practice editing software (synching images with music, editing to fit changes), the real magic comes in the reflective discussion about what works, what messages come through, what fails to communicate, and how different people find different ways to interpret remixed media. Using a common video sequence helps to focus reflection on the effect of music choice and editing for soundtracks. But you can also do this low-fi. My colleague David Cooper Moore and I did a remix lesson with a huge group of Girl Scouts in Philadelphia where pairs of kids chose music to synch with a Girl Scouts promotional ad. We had kids use a video player and an mp3 player set up on each terminal in a computer lab (but you could also use a VCR and a boom box, 80s style!--also, headphone splitters are key for collaborative editing in a lab). In pairs, first they viewed the ad without sound. Then, they listened to a bunch of song options, discussing the messages of each in relation to the message of the ad. They tried out playing the songs from different starting points to synch with the ads, made their final choices, and shared with the group. Some chose music to support the message lyrically, some chose music for the feeling and pace, and a few chose comedic juxtaposition. We viewed each, discussing the different messages created by the soundtracks, and a troop of remixers sallied forth into the world...
[Actually, we also included a bit around copyright and fair use as well, which we introduced with these school house rock style music videos; find more materials for teaching copyright and fair use from the Media Education Lab here].