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January 29, 2014

Obama’s State of the Union Goes PowerPoint

Ready as I was to do the usual — to riff on my own screenshots from the television broadcast, along with published news photos — something curiously different happened watching the SOTU last night. Having given up cable after moving to the Bay Area, I pulled up three feeds on the computer, NBC, C-SPAN and the White House. Anyway, before I knew it, I was consumed by the White House feed with its multimedia component and the way Obama, his words and the slides were playing together. (Excuse me, by the way, if the Administration has done this “Obama-enhanced slideshow” thing before, but I’d still guess a lot of people are new to it.)

What with our White House “Photo Access” Salon scheduled for February 9th, what has been on my mind these days is how much the White House communications product can be termed political propaganda and how much it’s genuinely informational and fostering constructive engagement. If nothing else, last night’s online State of the Union broadcast by the White House, combining slides and live video, opens the door to still one more way technology is modifying and expanding political communication.

What you see below are The Bag’s live tweets with screen shots I took from the White House feed. Let me say up front that the tweets — with the exception of the guy in the cornfield and the Iran nuke threat — run to the cynical and the propagandistic. Still, I have to say there’s a lot to like about this new delivery. Above all, I admired the Administration’s effort when it came to information that can quickly make eyes glaze over that was suddenly enlivened.

Along with the frames leading this post, here are a few more screen grabs that never made it to Twitter that show some more moves.


Putting a face on unemployment using invited guests in the First Lady’s box.

I don’t think they’re examples. Those are Republican legislators in the red, I believe, and this is a genuine wedge issue.

And Kentucky’s Republican Gov, also in the First Lady’s box, is with us.

… Now, I can understand if some of you think this is largely digital lipstick on a pig. With the problems we’re facing though, I’m hoping that — on top of the greater marketing and entertainment value — it also leads to better bacon.

(screen grabs: WhiteHouse.com)

  • psychohistorian

    Thanks for the presentation because I don’t watch TV any more.

    It certainly does seem much more powerful but then, what will be the real results? I don’t know if we will ever be able to point to this type of media combination and say it changed the course of discourse. Probably it will now be used more by the cretin puppets of the plutocrats (Erickson) to show Wendy Davis chopping up early stage fetus and such…..GAG! I think I will stay away from TV.

    I do like bacon and don’t like lipstick.

  • black_dog_barking

    Times have changed. In the prime years of my grandparents, pictures were a novelty. The written and printed word was their main source of information about the world outside their experience. Effective use of the written word took a lot of experience, both from the writer ( conjuring mental pictures from written words ) and from the reader ( efficiently decoding those words ).

    Well change has come. Drastic change in just my lifetime. Pictures are now ubiquitous and easy to produce and publish. Both writers ( producers ) and readers ( consumers ) must adapt.

    It may seem like propaganda especially since the Madison Avenue advertising complex was an early adopter of the visual alternatives to the written word. But visual images are also a genuine communications medium and a VERY effective medium at that.

  • David

    It was interesting seeing life imitating art, as the President adopted Stephen Colbert’s presentation style from his The W0rd segment.

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