Double-Consciousness of the Media Essay
Double-Consciousness of the Media
Gerald Early refers to the term “double-consciousness” in his 1992 article on Malcom X, entitled “Their Malcom, My Problem” as two things that were bound together in the Negro individual: both blackness and Americanness, which were options that had meaning only when they were measured against each other. Separately, they offered the Negro individual nothing.
The public media in the United States has this same problem of double-consciousness: on one hand they want to inform the public about current events that are actually going on, and yet the issues of high sales and high rankings are brought about by media reports on sex scandals, brutality on television, and scandal. Only if they are measured against each other do they have any meaning—current events that tell the truth will not pay the bills if other forms of media are offering to the public sex scandals, distortion of the truth to increase sales, while draws the public to that station, magazine, or newspaper.
Double-Consciousness of the Media In 1953, John Swinton, former Chief of Staff for the New York Times and newspaper journalist, gave a toast that portrayed what truth in journalism was really about, There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with.
Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job–the business of the journalists is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread–We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings, and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities, and our lives are all the property of other men.
We are intellectual prostitutes (Swinton, 2007). With this in mind, Gerald Early’s article entitled “Their Malcom, My Problem” attempts to explain why truth is destroyed for sensationalism and increased sales or popularity. When Early looked at why his views had changed regarding Malcom X’s views on black power and truth, it felt “awkwardly out of date; there was something about the nature of Malcolm’s raillery that now left me unprovoked, something about his quest for humanity that left me unmoved.
” The words that Malcom X had previously spoken as truth had now changed in meaning, leaving no impact for Gerald Early anymore. Truth in media changes on a daily basis, leaving the public just as empty and meaningless inside as Gerald Early felt when reading the worlds of Malcom X. Glorified scandals are just an example that draws the public’s attention away from current events on television, in newspapers, radio, or magazines. Sex and exaggerated news are also well-known methods to outsell current events in the same media area.
In order to catch up, current catchy titles to increase public sales are formed which seldom are truthful, such as “Global warming doom grows ever nearer”, “Wages are Stagnant”, “Increasing the minimum wage will help the millions of poor workers”, and “Gasoline is a conspiracy—going up or coming down! ” They are made to fan the emotions of the public, reaching negatively people they can influence—similar to the angry words of Malcolm X for the young blacks.
“As Malcolm claims angrily, “I am a creation of the Northern white man and of his hypocritical attitude toward the Negro” (Early, 1992). These words spout anger and are made to bring instantaneous results from a black audience who are ready to become angry, and possibly even a white audience. We realize the words are not true, as we are what we want to be—we are not made in one specific way which allows no change—yet they still bring emotions to the surface for a response, which is what the media is attempting to do when they alter the truth to increase sales.
Gerald Early was labeled as not being “black enough” by young blacks that he taught, while the media today is accused of not being “truthful enough” by the public that fully realizes they are being handled a line, yet does not really know what to do about it. Gerald Early says that during the 60s, “ belonging to an all-black institution was like wearing a badge of inferiority” (Early, 1992). And today, belonging to a division of the media that stays with truth and current events is just as low in sales, as if it were also wearing a badge of inferiority.
Like Malcolm, who asserts that blackness is a source of honor and accomplishment, not degradation and shame—truth and honesty also wear these badges of honor, but sales are higher in the media for thriller events, sex, and brutal or horror pictures that have nothing to do with truth and honor. Games for children are on the rise for murder and killings of gang members, violent activities, etc. as compared to less brutal ones. Watching Britney Spear carrying her children around with no underwear on seems to have more of an impact than the death of neighborhood soldiers in Iraq who are fighting for our rights and those of another country.
Who defines what is important in the media? Supposedly it is the public as they are the ones who buy the magazines, the books, the games, movies, watch the television shows, and so on. Is it the public who wants brutality, a lack of truth which makes a fairy-tale world of reality shows on television that really has nothing to do with reality, sensationalism that is almost on the point of absurd? Or is it the power of only a selected few behind the media sales with the money, promoting new products and media headlines for increased sales with the public very little in mind?
The angry black youth in Early’s “Malcolm X” article has the same desire as the public today, which is a desire for truth and answers—as did Gerald Early, who grew up just as angry yet focuses on “scholarly pursuits, graduating cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974” (Answers. Com, 2007). To control this anger as a young man, he “spent six months monitoring gang activities through the Crisis Intervention Network before resuming his course work at Cornell University” (Early, 1992).
He faced head-on what originally had caused his anger as a young man, eventually teaching further the subject of Afrocentrism, and African subjects regarding the heritage of the black person. Maybe what the media should do is face head-on what the public wants as Early did, instead of cowing-down to the money individuals who tell them what to say, do and think in order to make even more money. Individuals such as Richard Salant, who used to be the President of CBS News, once said, “Our job is to give people not what they want, but what WE decide they ought to have” (HEALL, 2007).
Another leading person, Richard M. Cohan, Senior Producer of CBS political news, said, “We are going to impress OUR AGENDA on the coverage by dealing with issues and subjects that WE choose to deal with” (HEALL, 2007). These statements more than demonstrate we are being hand-fed what we should know by those who have a hidden agenda. How many of us have sat down and watched the news, picked up a paper to read the headlines, or purchased a magazine based on what was on the front?
And how many of us have heard of children being butchered, drowned, or kidnapped; someone disappearing within blocks of our homes; or some new law being passed that may take our rights away, yet we simply shrug and walk away. As we listen to the news on television of the war, we continuously see and hear of dead bodies of children, men and women in massive amounts until we become numb to it. Unfortunately, we have become so intoned to this sort of thing, headlines of this sort do not mean anything to us anymore.
Like Early in his later interpretation of the words of Malcolm X, current events seem to more or less feel watered down anymore with less impact due to the overload of violence, where normally, it would reach deep within the heart and soul. Yet at a later time in our life or under different circumstances, those same words may take on a new meaning, “But as I sat on the couch working my way through the narrative [of Malcolm X] that afternoon, I found much of what I’d been moved by so long ago coming back to me with remarkable force” (Early, 1992).
Children who see the violence on television, movies, or play violent computer games become powerfully influenced as they watch or play these tools. An example is a neighborhood child who asked me if I had seen that cool movie on TV about some airplanes which had ran into some tall towers in New York—that question was asked the day after the terrorist attack on the world trade center. The AACAP (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry) has proven that violence on TV causes imitative behavior, and demonstrates changes in personality and personal traits ” (AACAP, No.
13, 2002). • They become immune or numb to the horror of violence • They gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems • They imitate the violence they observe on television • They identify with victims, victimizers or certain characters. According to AACAP, It has been found that children who have behavior issues, such as “emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be easily influenced by TV violence” (AACAP, No. 13, 2002).
Another negative influence on the behavior of adolescents and children is the violence in the news that is portrayed in such a manner to increase sales, not to portray the actual truth. AACAP shows that, “Seeing and hearing about local and world events, such as natural disasters, catastrophic events, and crime reports, may cause children to experience stress, anxiety, and fears” (AACAP, No. 67, 2002). Copycat syndrome has also been added to this as what children see, they become or imitate. Due to this sort of behavior, the news has been added to the list of shows requiring rating for children to see.
Conclusion The media is becoming nothing short of propaganda that is controlled by a select power that not only has the money, but the position to control what is being sent out to the public. This influences what the public sees as the truth, what they feel is normal, what is popular, and what is morally or ethically acceptable by society—but whether this is the actual truth or not is questionable. Unfortunately, this is damaging the public perception of reality, in addition to greatly influencing our youth, adolescent, and children to what reality actually is or is becoming.
The latest rage of reality forces people to question their own reality within their homes, their families, and their relationships—all so the powerful media giants can become more powerful, more in control, and more financially rich. The only way this can be changed is by the public itselfwho refuses to buy any form of media or media controlled activities that are negative and distort reality on any level, instead of sending the message otherwise through increased purchases and sales.
The public also needs to speak out loud against such control, seeking the truth as it actually is—not as children who need to have their lives under someone’s thumb for the issue of monetary gain. Too much truth is only too much if it is not the real truth—too much brutality, lack of consciousness or empathy, indecency, or changing the media to make a buck—that is what too much consists of. We are not children who need a rich man to baby-sit what we view, read, or partake in. We, as parents, can decipher what our children see or play with. If it is too violent, then we as a parent have not chosen well and it is our own fault.
It is about time we become responsible for our decisions, not letting someone take it over so if something doesn’t work out well—we then can blame someone else instead of ourself. References AACAP, or American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2002). Children and TV Violence. Facts for Families No. 13. Retrieved on 3 February 2007 from http://aacap. org/page. ww? name=Children+and+TV+Violence§ion=Facts+for+Families AACAP, or American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2002). Children and The News. Facts for Families No. 67. Retrieved on 3 February 2007 from
http://aacap. org/page. ww? section=Facts+for+Families&name=Children+And+The+News Answers. Com (2007). Gerald Early. Retrieved on 3 February 2007 from http://www. answers. com/topic/gerald-early Early, Gerald (1992). Their Malcom, My Problem. Harper’s Magazine. Retrieved on 3 February 2007 from http://faculty. smu. edu/jdbradle/Earlytext. asp HEALL, or Health Education Alliance for Life and Longevity (2007). Media Blacks out the Facts, or “We are intellectual prostitutes”. Retrieved on 3 February 2007 from http://www. heall. com/medicalfreedom/mediablackout. html