by Tom McBride
Mindset List authors Tom McBride, Charles Westerberg, and Ron Nief.

This photo was recently posted at a liberal arts college under the heading ANTI-MINDSET. Included with the photo was the following quotation from the 2019 Mindset List.

  1. A significant other who is a bit “too Yoko Ono” has always created tension.  

A partner too hard to handle…hard for your friends to compete with perfection

Comment: The Anti-Mindset poster is a project in a course on “Critical Identity Studies,” the aim of which is to “explore mass media’s relationships to structures of power that…police ideologies.” An earlier part of the course description identifies these ideologies as the usual ones about class, gender, and race, and students are given an assignment to find manifestations of local “colonialisms” (sic) in the local community. Given this course description and assignment, what are we to make of the Anti-Mindset Poster? 

Here is an educated guess. The poster features three smiling (self-satisfied?) white men (I am one of them) and juxtaposes it to a quotation from these three white males about a woman of color, Yoko Ono. Let us take each of these items in turn.

First, it is entirely true that the photo (of the Mindset List authors) is of three white males. They are presumably used here in order to demonstrate that white males typically “police” ideologies about gender and race via the “mass media.” The poster creators, whose motives the campus was asked not to question, nonetheless felt free to question the motives of those whom they placed on the poster: they did not bother to ask any of us what we actually think about the topic of colonialism. We are males. We are white. That is enough for our Critical Identity Poster-Makers.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s plea in 1963 that people be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin apparently cuts no ice with the creators of the poster, imbued with ideologies for more rigid than any entertained by the authors of the Mindset List. Nor did they seem to have much regard for the personal feelings and reputations of those depicted on the poster. Our Critical Identity Poster-Makers, armed with politically trendy hammers placed in their hands by college and university professors, can find that even the popular light-hearted Mindset List is an awful nail.

Second, it is also true that the quotation is about Yoko Ono, a woman of Asian origin. The authors of the Mindset List, however, were only reporting some current jargon about how Yoko Ono has become a meme for a generation that missed her during her days as the spouse of John Lennon. She has been blamed, rightly or wrongly, for breaking up the Beatles. Thus her name has become shorthand for a significant other that creates tensions among friends. But for the poster-makers this report of some contemporary jargon by three white males is enough to clinch the case: The authors of the Mindset List are policing oppressive norms. One might be surprised that we are not wearing blue uniforms.

Third, the poster-makers have employed the art of damning juxtaposition, often used in the 1950s–the days of right-wing McCarthysim as opposed to today’s left-wing McCarthyism. Take one photo image from the Mindset List website and put it next to one sentence amid thousands on the site, and voila: You have slam-dunk evidence of white, indeed perhaps even colonial, oppression. This is a little creative guilt-by-association. Here the poster-makers use their facile cleverness in order to manufacture “proof” that three liberal white guys are The Man. 

The significant topics of race and gender deserve far better. This is defective, anti-intellectual work–an effort of sophomoric propaganda. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’s liberal arts education doing?


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