All signs point to an endless recovery!

Sean Kinsell has a cute post (titled "SLOW: stimulus area ahead") about something he considers a relatively minor annoyance, the spending of millions of dollars in highway funds for "economic recovery" signs:

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is spending $60,000 of its stimulus money on $2,000 road signs to highlight projects funded by the massive economic recovery package.

The large green signs mark about 30 of what PennDOT calls ''higher visibility projects'' statewide. Each denotes the project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and features the act's logo.

Nationwide, several million dollars are being spent producing the signs.

Sean questions the wisdom of pouring money into signs, even as he acknowledges that there are worse examples of government waste, and while I certainly agree with that, I'd like to look at the signs themselves.

Many people -- especially people concerned with environmental or esthetic beauty -- do not like signs, because they are ugly. Especially commercial signs. I can remember as far back as the 1960s, a beautify America campaign targeted highway signs for removal. Even though I'm a fierce libertarian and I think property owners ought to have the right to display whatever they want (or sell the space to whomever they want), I'm also a human being, and I don't like ugliness. And there's just something about seeing a beautiful view of, say, the Blue Ridge mountain range being blocked by a Burma Shave billboard that's just downright tacky. OTOH, these are highways, and drivers ought to be focusing on their driving, not rubbernecking over beautiful views. Still, there's something invasive about advertising of any sort; by its nature, it is designed to pull you in. To influence you.

Now, there's no denying that highway signs which warn you about falling rocks, unsafe speeds, and upcoming exits are there to influence you. Maybe even save your life.

Not only can't the same can be said for advertising, but I'm having a lot of trouble distinguishing between advertising and propaganda. Specifically, I'm having trouble figuring out just why is the federal government trying to make state highway departments put up non-safety related signs everywhere if not for propaganda purposes. Pennsylvania says it's taking a "middle-of-the-road" approach:

PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar said Pennsylvania elected to take a ''middle-of-the-road'' approach to the federal government's strong encouragement that the signs be put at every project site around the state, choosing only those that were most visible to the public.
So what is on these signs? The piece says they proudly display the logo of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Which means that this is what the federal government wants you to see everywhere as you drive from place to place:


Your tax dollars at work, right? Being spent on "recovery." First off (as I told Sean in an email), I don't especially like the word "recovery." It has a propagandistic feel to it, and even a therapeutic feel. It's psychological code-language for people who never get well by definition.

Recovery is a lifelong process! You know, it never goes away?

So now they have a website called (How much it cost, the Lord only knows.) Seriously, I wish I had not known about this, but now, thanks to the piece Sean linked, I do.

While the logo may have some artistic value, I know propaganda when I see it, and the above is clearly propaganda. And what's with the stuffing of the elements of the American flag into a circle, anyway? Why the green plant? Is American vegetation dying because of a lack of CO2 or something?

And why is there a little red cross inside the red gear? Surely there isn't a "health care" message hidden inside the "recovery" meme, is there?

Yeah, I know these are rhetorical questions, but propaganda by its nature invites them.

I probably wouldn't have made such a big deal out of the propagandistic stuffing of elements of the American flag into a circle if this wasn't so tediously evocative of yet another image we've all seen.


It's one thing to propagandistically evoke the campaign theme, but is it necessary to make the states and the taxpayers pay for it?

It all makes me worry that we'll never get out of this recovery.

posted by Eric on 07.18.09 at 10:54 AM


Thanks for the link, Eric. I was tempted to search out the "act's logo" myself, but I was afraid it would just ruin my day. Leaves of three, let it be!

Sean Kinsell   ·  July 18, 2009 11:15 AM

I find a good bit of what Obama's style to be Soviet-style propaganizing, in an attempt to create a Dear Leader-style cult of personality. However, and I am not a semiotician, I don't find the signage to be evocative of the Obama campaign logo. I just don't see it.

PS: If it's PennDOT putting up the signs, they'll be pock-marked, full of holes, and falling apart in six to eight months. Just like everything PennDOT builds.

Rhodium Heart   ·  July 18, 2009 11:45 AM

From July 1

Three vandalism incidents -- each involving electrical equipment damaged with gunshots -- caused more than 5,500 Pennsylvania Electric Co. (Penelec) customers in the Clearfield area to experience power interruptions late Friday into Saturday.

M. Simon   ·  July 18, 2009 12:14 PM

Why the green plant? Is American vegetation dying because of a lack of CO2 or something?

Either that, or it's meant to evoke the "green shoots" meme.

Joshua   ·  July 19, 2009 2:37 PM

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

filbert   ·  July 19, 2009 8:09 PM

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