EAVI recently participated in the Lead On, Erasmus+ Youth Exchange in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria funded by the European Commission. EAVI’s Luc Steinberg went as the leader of the Belgian group and gave informal training on media literacy and critical thinking skills to young people from Lithuania, France, Spain and Belgium.
The sojourn to sunny Gran Canaria was a welcome site for those coming from the cold of Northern Europe. On our first day I was happy to discover that the participants were from a diversity of ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. This would later prove to be a challenge and an asset to the exchange as the participants, varying in age from 18 to 30, sought common ground and learnt to understand and accept their differences.
As the youth exchange aimed to focus on building media literacy and critical thinking skills, I gave a presentation on media literacy and later directed our attentions towards propaganda.
Presenting examples of propaganda used by both sides (Leave and Remain) in the UK referendum, I urged the group to dissect them by asking the following questions;
- Who created this message and what is the purpose?
- What techniques are used to attract the viewer’s attention?
- What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented?
- How might other people view this message differently to me?
- What is being omitted/left out?
Finally, I asked them to state why they liked or didn’t like these examples and whether or not they think their messages are effective.
As much of the Leave campaign’s focus was on limiting migration, I also dropped in an example of anti-migrant propaganda from my own country, Australia (seen below).
With each example, the participants engaged and were able to find meanings that were not apparent to them at first glance, often rousing that ‘a-ha’ moment; one of the reasons why media literacy educators say they do what they do.
From the example below, one participant identified the use of the hand icon at the bottom of the image as being similar to the famous patriotic appeal to the emotions, Uncle Sam’s ‘I Want You’ poster.
Participants also noted the use of quotation points to lend the image more authority.
The use of language was also important, for instance the irony that the text appears to be telling migrants to learn to read english but if they are unable to do so then how can they read her message?
I then asked them to break into groups according to their nationalities (Lithuanian, Belgian, French and Spanish) and find two examples each of propaganda from their own countries – one example they liked and one they didn’t like.
The examples they came back with were spot on. In each case the groups chose propaganda related to refugees and migrants in Europe and in each case the examples of propaganda that they liked were the ones using remix, parody and satire to combat the propaganda designed to make people fear migrants and refugees.
The videos below (sorry, no subtitles) are from the Lithuanian team. The first is an example of anti-migrant political propaganda from the Lithuanian Labour Party and features ‘normal people’ (an example of plain folks appeal) stating their fears about the increase in the number of migrants in Lithuania. The second example, from a late night variety/comedy TV show, parodies the first by reversing the fear of migrants and instead focusing on the fear Lithuania’s migrants have of people who support the Labour Party.
Throughout the week we did other activities to bolster our critical thinking and media literacy skills and I can’t wait to continue to develop more media literacy lesson plans and training skills for future opportunities like this. The reactions and feedback I received from everyone during and following my propaganda presentation made me believe that media literacy is really something that has the potential to change people’s lives.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the Lead On youth exchange and especially Socio Europe in Las Palmas for organising it and accepting EAVI as partners.