Posts Tagged ‘Media representation’

Someone once made me aware that Bosnian refugees that came to Australia (1992-1995) were received with open arms and true compassion. This is not the case for refugees coming today from e.g. Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq or Bhutan and I cannot help but speculate in the reason for this. The only thought I can come up with is “cultural differences”, or even better “expected cultural differences”. I am not going to elaborate on that, but perhaps there are some countries that appears more similar to us than others and that we find it less threatening to invite them to our own countries. I write “expected cultural differences” because most of the time refugees come from countries far away and we do not know much about them. The little we know often stem from the media and therefore it can be said that we are dependent on the media for information about refugees.

ABC’s “Media Watch” revealed in an episode how Seven’s “Today Tonight” depicted a very uninformative, untrue, wrong and deceitful portrayal of refugees in Australia. Although everyone is not watching Today Tonight it shows that mainstream media has the power to influence our perception of refugees with lies, and this strengthens the argument that we need a more diasporic media. Alongside the mainstream media there need to be a more ‘sustainable media capital that allows for the possibility for self-representation’ (Salazar 2012).

Diasporic media can help ‘socialize migrant communities into their new environments’ and teach the host country about their cultures, background and stories in a less intimidating way (Khorana 2014) – and without the lies. It gives immigrants and refugees a chance to create their own self-image and to represent their identities without signs and codes imposed by others (Rodrigues 2001 in Salazar 2012).

Reference:

Khorana, S 2014, ‘Diasporic Media’, Lecture, BCM310, University of Wollongong, 19 May.

Rodrigues, C 2001 ‘Fissures in the Mediascape: An International Study of Citizens’ in Salazar, JF 2012, ‘Digital stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’, Journal of Community, Citizen’s & Third Sector Media & Communication, no. 7, pp.65-84, http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/detail?sid=29db6760-d6fc-4a72-9d83-4476b8796ecb%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=ufh&AN=79551905

Salazar, J.F 2012, ‘Digital stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’, Journal of Community, Citizen’s & Third Sector Media & Communication, no. 7, pp.65-84, http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/detail?sid=29db6760-d6fc-4a72-9d83-4476b8796ecb%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=ufh&AN=79551905

Stereotyping has existed for a long time, and a lot of the generalizing that occurs today has its origin in historical events like wars or colonialism. Such events often spark insulting and trivializing images of the other and a use of propaganda which promote feelings of hate (Khorana, 2014), and these images, or stereotypes are very hard to get rid of. In old Western movies it was the Mexicans and/or the Native Americans that were depicted as villains and savages and in modern Hollywood we are introduced to Arab and Muslim terrorists (Khorana, 2014). As the media contributes to these stereotypes they communicate a negative and false representation of other cultures.

Interestingly though, after the war on terror, propaganda has become less effective and the acts of warfare has become more transparent in the media and therefore it has become increasingly important to communicate ‘positive’ representations of our enemies so that we appear as ‘good-doers’ in the midst of our wars (Alsultany, 2013).

Evelyn Alsultany (2013) therefore talks about a new type of race representation in the US after 9/11 which blends negative and positive traits of an ethnic group; she calls it “simplified complex representations“. It challenges traditional stereotypes but also justifies discrimination by contributing to a multicultural ‘illusion’. For example; TV-shows and films have incorporated patriotic Arab or Muslim Americans into their plots who assist the Government in fighting terrorism to counteract stereotyping, in TV-dramas they are often victimized to create empathy, sometimes we are led to believe that they are the leading terrorists but later it is revealed that it was someone else (‘flipping the enemy’), and in news media we are often first given a disclaimer (“these are not Islamic practices”) before we are told about the brutality of Islam.

Alsultany (2013) argues that such representation “do the ideological work of justifying discriminatory policies” because simultaneously as the Arab or Muslim American is e.g. victimized, the storyline often also express that it is unavoidable due to the national security crisis, and in the news media diversity and complexity is loosely mentioned but the majority of evidence supports the negative outlooks of the ethnic group.

References:

Khorana, S 2014, ‘Race and Representation’, lecture, , BCM310, University of Wollongong, 05 May.

Alsultany, E 2013, ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, Project Muse, vol. 65, no. 1

Words can reveal, conceal and confuse.  So can pictures, sound bites and the art of the media language in general. We absorb what we read and hear without any filters because it sounds truthful and reliable. Our world-view can become much distorted because we do not get the full story which often is hidden behind these words.

Guide grabs like “War on terrorism”, “The refugee-crisis” and “Yes we can” all draw our minds to certain issues, but often fail to reveal all truths. They appear as vague phrases which melt the concrete into the abstract.

The Guardian, among others, has recently reported of Obama and his newly signed order to support Syrian rebels. Words like “secret intelligence” and “non-lethal” assistance appear to me as decorated words.