All The Media’s Stereotypes

April 21, 2013

Dzhokhar & Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Boston Marathon crowd moments before bomb blasts, April 15, 2013. (http://www.mirror.co.uk)

Dzhokhar & Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Boston Marathon crowd moments before bomb blasts, April 15, 2013. (http://www.mirror.co.uk)

The mainstream American media was just one big, almost unbelievable fail this past week. Between the Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent hunt for brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the ricin letters to Mississippi GOP politicians and President Obama and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. In the last case, the one that killed and injured more people than two dumb asses in Boston. Yet, somehow, in a world in which the best answer should be “I don’t know” or “We don’t know yet,” media folks and their experts have been tweeting and reporting at the level of gossip for the past five or six days.

Usually a fairly careful journalist/columnist, Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post tweeting three hours after the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, “April 19: Anniversary of storming of Branch Davidian compound & the Okla. City bombing.” At that point, we didn’t even know the number of people killed, maimed or injured. Nor did we know the number of bombs that had exploded in Copley Square. Think, man, think!

The more famous comments of the week came out of CNN’s shop, though. John King had breaking news Wednesday afternoon that law enforcement officials had identified a “dark-skinned male” suspect. Being a White guy working in mainstream media means that you never have to say “I’m sorry,” apparently. Especially when all of his “breaking news” reporting turned out to be completely wrong.

Let’s not really analyze the so-called reporting of FOX News or the New York Post. You’d get more truth from a psychic doing a Vulcan mind-meld with Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s brain right now than you could from Murdoch’s news media world in a year.

Let’s also not forget many of the so-called terrorism experts whom guessed wrong about race, immigrant status and so many other details this past week. Not to mention reports whom apparently couldn’t find Chechnya on a map if the republic were blown up to 100x normal map size and they put a floodlight on it.

But the most disturbing — yet not very surprising — thing about the past seven days has been how the US media has engaged in a near-endless campaign of racial stereotypes, immigrant stereotypes, terrorism stereotypes, religious stereotypes, patriotism stereotypes, and hyperbole that attempts to defy history. A simple list should help:

  • Terrorist(s) = Arab Muslims
  • Males from the Caucasus = Caucasians, but not White
  • Muslims who commit a violent act = terrorists
  • Violent criminals = anyone not White (especially Blacks & Latinos)
  • Violent mass-murdering Whites = mentally disturbed (i.e., NOT terrorists)
  • Arab Muslims = immigrants, NOT US citizens
  • Indo-Europeans who are White (phenotypically) & citizens but not born in US = Immigrants
  • Boston = city terrorized like no city ever before

On this last one, I must put on my academic historian hat. As in — are you kidding me? Anyone ever hear of Boston in the years before and during the American Revolution? Or, in more recent times, the Oklahoma City bombing in ’95, 9/11 and Lower Manhattan, the DC sniper rampage in ’02? Or, if the idea here is that terrorism should only be viewed through the prism of those who feel terrorized, what about poor Blacks on the South Side of Chicago, in SE Washington, DC, or poor Latinos in cities like Albuquerque and Phoenix? Or, for that matter, innocent civilians in Yemen and Pakistan attempting to avoid being among the “collateral damage” caused by our drone wars for terrorist scalps?

And then, there was the need for release, for yelps of relief and cheers of joy over the successful capture of Dzhokhar Tsarneav late Friday evening, with chants of “USA! USA! USA!” included. Of course people should feel relief for the end of a tense situation. But let’s not get carried away with the tide here.

Stereotype quote taken from Annie Murphy Paul article (May 1998) in Psychology Today, January 16, 2011. (http://nwso.net/). In public domain.

Stereotype quote taken from Annie Murphy Paul article (May 1998) in Psychology Today, January 16, 2011. (http://nwso.net/). In public domain.

We know nothing of motive, but we do know that the police will return to its regularly scheduled racial and socioeconomic profiling in the coming days. We can’t wrap our collective heads around the idea that two assimilated White American immigrants decided to kill runners at the Boston Marathon. Yet we also somehow decided to culturally and legally un-Americanize them — something we didn’t do with Timothy McVeigh. Chants patriotic might be a way to show solidarity, but we refuse to come to grips with the racial/xenophobic and anti-Muslim psychology that comes with these impromptu outbreaks of so-called unity.

Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” remains just as relevant now as his tune about the American news media was three decades ago. Still, the completely centrist and biased, always-concerned-about-the-bottom-line media is a mere reflection of our narcissistic and imperialistic selves.


Celebrity Deathmatch Meets Brave New Media

November 15, 2010

 

A screenshot of Beavis and Butt-head as seen on ''Celebrity Deathmatch', November 15, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Deathmatchb%26b.PNG. Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws, and the stricter requirements of Wikipedia's non-free content policies, because: The image is being used in an informative way and should not detract from the show.

If MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch were still on the air, how well would it play in our uncertain and fear-mongered times? As an occasional betting man, the hilariously gruesome claymation standby would play well these days, especially if it were done as a SNL skit or as part of a Comedy Central routine. We’ve had so much furor recently over the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, Juan Williams and FOX News and Muslims, Keith Olbermann not asking permission to make campaign contributions from MSNBC, Rachel Maddow interviewing Jon Stewart in a black ops room. It seems to me that we need a new Celebrity Deathmatch series. Except that this one should just have journalists, commentators and politicians.

 

The theme music should be Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry,” with a two-pound, barely seared steak slammed down on a pearly white china plate, just so the blood can splatter and flow freely. The words “If it bleeds it leads — whether liberal or conservative!” scrolling across the screen. Let the folks who host

Pic of Bloody Rare Steak, November 15, 2010. http://davidwadegourmet.com/images/rare_steak.jpg. Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws because this photo is only being used for illustrative purposes.

WWE or MMA do the play-by-play for the matches, with Alan Colmes in as a more than occasional analyst.

 

It would be a spectacle well before the actual matches. Who would be the big draws? I’d start with Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly. The pre-match taunts would be beyond funny. Olbermann: “By the time this match is all over, the world will know that Bill-O The Clown really doesn’t have a brain!” O’Reilly: “That sonofabitch wouldn’t stand a chance against a working-class stiff like me!” But then the fight would begin. O’Reilly would get in a few punch, before Olbermann would turn on a gigantic fan with a stack of 20,000 pieces of paper in front of it. The thousands of paper cuts would gash O’Reilly so much that the top of his head would come off. Then, lo and before, the world would learn that Olbermann was right — O’Reilly really doesn’t have a brain!

Other draws for me would be Jon Stewart vs. Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh vs. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Glenn Beck vs. Rick Sanchez or Ed Schultz. One not-so-under undercard I wouldn’t mind seeing would be Rachel Maddow vs. Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN).  That would be a rolling-on-the-floor-with-laughter event. Maddow would wipe the floor with Bachman — literally face-first. But not before Bachman would make Maddow angry by breaking her geeky glasses early in the match.

The one thing that I would change about this Celebrity Deathmatch format is that there would be a playoff system, where there would be a final eight, leading to seven matches worthy of the Highlander series award known as “There can be only one.” An epic struggle that would involve boring opponents to death with speeches and monologues, with endless questions about media and objectivity, along with participants smashing each other in their heads with dictionaries and microphones.

I think that this version would sell. I can see it now. Millions of viewers gathering in front of HD TVs and iPhones, at bars and in arenas, watching week after week and season after season. Heck, I’d watch it even if FOX News was the home of this series. Even if it meant watching Joy Behar beat Nancy Grace to a pulp!


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