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Critical Thinking in the Age of Neo-Liberalism: Part I

June 21, 2021

I have been using the Branded Alphabet for more than twenty years as a teaching tool on critical thinking.

Of course, I always have to update it, with every new White House administration, sometimes during administrations, as key staff changes are made. 

This version of the Branded Alphabet includes members of the Biden Cabinet, since those seats have now been filled.

The Branded Alphabet media literacy exercise is a great way for people to:

  • Understand the pervasive nature of advertising in our society and how we are all being targeted by advertising campaigns.
  • Understand how the news media functions and how they decide what information to give us, when to give it to us, and how to give it to us.
  • Juxtapose the Branded Alphabet with the current administration cabinet as a way to demonstrate the gap between our knowledge of products vs our knowledge of politics.
  • Understand how the media system is constructed in such a way as to make consumerism a priority over an informed public

We invite you to test your knowledge, by participating in this Media Literacy Exercise. First, see if you can identify the product for each letter of the alphabet. Second, see how many people you can name in the Biden Cabinet, along with what position they hold in his administration.

Now think about why it is easier for people to identify branded products, than to identify politicians that have a significant impact on policies that affect all of our lives. Some of the most common reasons that people give are:

  1. The products have been around for decades, but administration officials change regularly.
  2. The images of the alphabet are different, colorful and engaging, whereas the image of politicians are very similar.
  3. As a society we are inundated by commercial images, but the faces of administration officials are only on certain news channels or websites that focus on national politics.
  4. We consume products, but we don’t consume politicians. 

Can you come up with more reasons why we know more of the Branded Alphabet over members of the Biden Cabinet?

In Part II of this post, we will then discuss how much or how little people know about the actual members of the. Biden Cabinet. 

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