The Design of Dissent

Having cancelled my DirecTV service some months back and with the summer network schedule lull I have had a good deal of time away from the TV. Because shows like Lost, 24, and Arrested Development don’t resume again until fall, there is nothing to watch, which is generally good, it being summer and all. This break has given me a chance to rediscover some of the great PBS programming that I have been neglecting. In addition to some excellent travel and cooking shows, and of course NOVA, there’s the weekly news show: NOW – previously NOW with Bill Moyers – currently just Now.
Last week’s show, NOW: The Design of Dissent was an interview with graphic designer Milton Glaser – famous for designing the I (heart) NY imagery, the buttons created for The Nation (and shown at right) and more. Amidst some political waxings, Glaser mostly discusses how graphic design can and does change people’s perspectives.

That’s the thing that makes you most crazy the idea of this passive acceptance of an authority. We thought we weren’t that kind of people.

The show’s themes correspond with a like-named exhibit at the School of Visual Arts and a similarly like-named new book by Glazer.

I think it’s a rather simple-minded idea that if you examine government, those that have the least dissent are those that are most totalitarian. That is, in fact, the manifestation of dissent that defines democracy, (because) it means that there are oppositions to power that are freely expressed and that minority opinion is also considered to be worthwhile. Generally speaking, dissent comes out of a sense of fairness that something is wrong. Power is being used unfairly, and there has to be some manifestation or complaint about it.

I’ll try not to quote the entire interview and instead encourage you to read the full interview transcript. I will mention however, that this is what I have always believed – that dissent does not equal disdain. On both a national level and in terms of jobs I have had, I always felt the greatest need to voice dissent, when I cared the most. It isn’t worth arguing for thing A to improve, if you don’t give a damn about thing A. It surprises me upon how many people this point is lost.
Another interview with Glaser on a similar topic.

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