Even in the highly competitive world of magazine covers, it’s hard to miss the latest issue of Salvo. A stark mannequin face, flanked by two other mannequins, stares out, a large computer cable port embedded in its forehead. The headline: “Under the Influence: The Media and Their Messages.” Above the picture is the slogan “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”
Not exactly the reverential attitude toward the media that we typically encounter in … well, the media. And that’s the point. Salvo actually uses some of the new media’s favorite tactics -- flashy layouts, trendy graphics, short bursts of information -- to get readers to think critically and reassess the messages the “mainstream” media bombard us with daily.
Sure, most of us old enough to drive know that advertisers try to sell us things and the media bring some bias to the table. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune. We’re surrounded by the same tricks all the time, so it’s easy to lose our ability to be critical.
Take the obesity epidemic. It’s the fault of all that readily available fattening food, right? No, Salvo contributor Denyse O’Leary writes. As a child in the 1950s, she ate plenty of high-calorie food -- “greasy grilled cheese sandwiches, heaps of buttered potatoes drowned in rivers of gravy, and huge banana splits whenever we could get them.” But, O’Leary writes, she and her friends were also active -- riding bikes, swimming, running -- for hours every day. Unsupervised, at that.
The protected kids of 2007 follow a similar diet, but they exercise mainly their thumbs on the latest video games. “Today’s children will ride bikes and stay slim if their parents take them on bike trips,” O’Leary writes. “But the parents must then forego working overtime to pay for their next big purchase. Thus, our affluent society makes good health a question of choice, not chance.” Good luck finding that message in Time and Newsweek!
Then there are the ads we see daily. How good are we at dissecting them? Before you preemptively award yourself a passing grade, read “Advertising from A to Z” by Salvo editor Bobby Maddex. You’ll learn the “Language of Ads” -- 10 basic types of advertising tricks, from the Weasel Claim to the Scientific Claim. (What exactly is the “Retsyn” in Certs, anyway?) You’ll get a primer on “manipulation techniques” and pick up the “keys to ad analysis.” Chances are, it’ll affect the way you watch television or flip through a magazine. For that matter, you’ll become a savvier film-watcher after screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi explains how films have changed society and why some that are technically brilliant offer a depraved worldview.