Tag Archives: media

Race Relations in the United States

Anyone who thinks racial tension in the United States is a thing of the past is probably a white person in an all white zip code. One has to look no further than mainstream media to see that race is an automatic seller. People eat it up. It’s sexy, dramatic, and it automatically forces people to choose a side. Divide and conquer.

Race in the Media

But I have to ask myself: “Am I racist?”

The answer is no. I don’t think so. When I see a black person, Hispanic, or whatever I do no immediately pass judgement. In fact, I really don’t think anything at all. I think that is the ultimate sign of non-racism. You are apathetic towards it. I do not feel the need to compensate positively or negatively because a person happens to be lighter or darker than myself. When you think about it – it kind of seems silly.

Then I think about the media. Cases like Trayvon Martin or the latest supreme court decision regarding Affirmative Action immediately conjure feelings of racial divide. I automatically feel defensive – like I am personally being attacked because of my race. But that feeling isn’t natural to me. It has been created by artificial media drama.

Irony: The Liberal (and Conservative) Media Magnifies Racism

I find it ironic that when media, especially liberal media, capitalizes on negative racial stereotypes to create drama. Isn’t this counter to the “values” they claim to uphold This is highlighted most recently in the Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman trials. This has been a political and media gold mine for all parties. It was immediately turned into a white versus black hate crime. (Even though it turns out Zimmerman is Hispanic) “Being black killed Trayvon Martin” or “They are trying to take your guns” the media tells us. All of this only serves to hurt race relations in America. To give us something to argue about. And probably most importantly – it sells.

Irony: Media claims to care about the black community, but they are exploiting them (all of us, in fact) for every viewer and ad dollar earned because of manufactured racial tension. Race relations haven’t been worse in decades. If you disagree, if you think the media is helping, think about this: Would it be on TV if they weren’t makig money on it? 

Party Politics: Divide and Conquer

Philip II, king of Macedon, knew it a thousand years ago. To defeat an enemy you must “divide and conquer.” I can’t help but see the similarity today in Partisan politics.

Republicans try to trick conservative white voters than minorities, illegal immigrants, liberals, and atheists want to take away their “family values”. Meanwhile, democrats convince minorities, the educated class, immigrants, and progressives that people with conservative values are racist, backwards, greedy, and ignorant. Both of these parties play upon popular caricatures to force the population to pick a side. It’s a power struggle built on lies and exaggeration.

More Same than Different

We all like good food. We want to be loved and to love. We hate to see someone hurt, we love to see people happy. We work hard, we try, we fail, we need help, we help. We are human – all of us. So why is there so much focus on differences? Who benefits from that. (Hint: I think you know who benefits and it’s not you or me.)

Trayvon Martin and Media Bias

I wrote an article about Trayvon Martin a while back. In the article I pointed out that the media was painting a innacurate picture of both Martin and Zimmerman. It was an obvious media bloodbath aimed at demonizing guns and subsequently Zimmerman.

New details have emerged confirming everything I said. Trayvon wasn’t a baby-faced kid. He was a man prone to disciplinary problems, drug use, and perhaps even violence. I’m not saying getting into a little trouble and smoking a little weed makes you evil, but it’s certainly a stark contrast to the innocent 12 year old news outlets showed us immediately following the shooting.

I think the interesting thing about this case is less about if Zimmerman is guilty, gun laws, or even civil rights. The interesting part is the glaring issue of media bias and the media’s ability to drastically affect public opinion. The media painted Zimmerman as a racist murderer, guns as the enemy, and Martin as an innocent boy – all before a shred of evidence had been gathered – most people bought every word without question.

Is Wal-Mart as evil as they say?

Yesterday I was on a long commute from Atlanta, GA to Jacksonville, FL. On the radio was conservative political personality Sean Hannity. At one point during the show Sean Hannity had about an hour long interview with Wal-Mart CEO, Bill Simon. During the entire interview Sean Hannity lobbed soft-ball questions Simon’s way (because they were so easy to knock out of the park). Frankly the entire interview was disgusting and at one point Sean Hannity even said, “You guys should be advertising with us, we are huge supporters… I mean, I’m a Wal-Mart guy.” At that point I decided pull over and vomit.

The majority of the interview focused on two key things:

1. the fact that Wal-Mart employed around 100,000 veterans and a slew of elderly people, and
2. a barrage of criticism of anyone who has bad things to say about Wal-Mart

Sean Hannity basically slobbered all over Bill Simon’s metaphorical nether-region then praised him for being a true patriot and job creator. That got me thinking: Is Wal-Mart as bad as they say?

How Bad/Good is Wal-Mart, Really?

Like almost anything Wal-Mart is a mixed bag. They do create millions of jobs for people across America and they offer affordable prices. Their business model is perfectly legal and frankly a pretty good example of free-market capitalism. They found a niche (cheap retail) and used good business sense and leverage their size and power to capitalize on opportunities. Can I really complain about that? No, not really.

But let’s be honest. Wal-Mart is not the most considerate company either and that’s where I think they deserve some critique. And if Hannity wasn’t too busy massaging Bill Simon’s….ahem…ego in hopes of a little ad revenue perhaps he would have made this point too.

While Wal-Mart does provide a lot of jobs their overall business model has led to a corporate culture that is less than savory. Their retail employees are generally low paid  and Wal-Mart corporate is notoriously difficult to deal with. I would even argue that this strategy will eventually lead to their own demise. Let’s examine.

For one thing I know of almost no one who thinks positively about Wal-Mart. Most people think of the less-than-pleasant atmosphere, their relatively rude and unpleasant staff, and the if you’ve dealt with them professionally – their corporate bully tactics. All of this culminates to a bucket full of ill will and general distaste. I, for one, would rather pay the Costco membership fee than go to Wal-Mart and I think more and more households are making that choice too.

Another issue I have with Wal-Mart is their overall lack of generosity. Sure their employees are relatively unskilled labor, but why not pay them a bit better to attract better talent? In fact, the head of Wal-Mart’s food chain sports a number of billionaire’s. Who needs a billion dollars and why not spread the wealth? I’m all for capitalism and reaping the rewards of hard work, but what does it say about the upper management of Wal-Mart that doesn’t spread the wealth voluntarily?

I look at Costco’s CEO, for example, who takes a salary of $500,000 a year. The rest is spread to employees of the company who all work full time jobs that pay a good wage with benefits. The result is great customer service, a nice shopping atmosphere, and even (in my opinion) better customers.

What I’m saying is…

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t knock Wal-Mart for being hard-core capitalist predators. I can’t say bad things about the number of jobs they provide, their low prices, or even their no-nonsense business practices. I guess that is what a business does. They are responsible to their shareholders for growth.

BUT what I can critique is their leader’s refusal to give up a little of their own wealth and success willingly to promote a little corporate consciousness. In the long run, I would argue, it would actually help their brand.

I also think this is a good example of why you can’t listen to anyone in the media. They are too concerned with ad dollars and not concerned enough with asking good questions.

Media Agenda: Boston Marathon Bombing – Female DNA found on bomb fragment

DNA has been found on one of the Boston Marathon Bombs. Sooo….am I the only sane individual alive? Why is this news?

CNN Not News

A few things

1. Why would DNA from a bomb, a bomb that exploded in a crowd of people, be important? Even if  the DNA turned out to be someone of interest how could the FBI prove to a jury (or undisclosed deciders of human fate) that the DNA in question is from a person somehow involved in the bombing and not just someone who coincidentally came into contact with it?

2. Even if the DNA points to the Tsarnaev Mother or wife (which I think there is no doubt that is the innuendo ) what would that even mean? Would it mean they once cooked with the pressure cooker? That they came into contact with it once? That they were involved? If so, is that enough to do anything?

More importantly, without any details, why is the media making this a big deal. Is this poor journalism? Is this real news or part of an agenda?

This is a Message, Not News

This is a message from authorities. A script carefully crafted by the FBI and discriminated to the public by the media. WHY?

BECAUSE the authorities want to accomplish two things:

1. The authorities want to send a message that there is no escape. A message that anyone who attempts such a thing will be caught. Anyone who knows about such a plot will be found. A message of their power and a perpetrator’s futility.

2. The authorities want to intimidate. More specifically the authorities want to intimidate Tsarnaev’s wife and mother (who may have known about the plot). The FBI is saying: “If we want you, we will get you. So play along or else!”

Why This is Important

I do not necessarily condemn what the FBI (or other authorities) are doing here. In many ways it is a brilliant tactic.

My problem is with the media. A media that presents canned story as news, when it isn’t. It isn’t unbiased. It isn’t journalistic. It isn’t any of the things news and journalism is supposed to be. It is a canned story that tells the reader absolutely nothing, but leads them down a path full of assumption and bias. That is criminal. That is worth pointing out.

Lessons Learned

I’m not into conspiracy theories or “government is out to get you” antics. What I want to do is promote message that teaches people how to take in the news. So here are a few lessons:

1. We cannot take everything we see on the news for face value. Examine the agenda.
2. The media is not unbiased. What are they saying, what words are they using, and where are they leading the viewer? Why?
3. The media is, at least sometimes, is bought and paid for.

Bombings, Shootings: What Radicalizes Young People?

The last few months have been marked by three events that stand out vividly in my mind.

1. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting.
2. The Sandy Hook elementary school mass shooting.
3. The Boston Marathon Bombing.

Each of these three incidents have been remarkably similar in nature. Each of them were:

1. Perpetrated by young middle-class men.
2. Each involved mental radicalization eventually driving young men to perform acts of violence.
3. The victims were random (suggesting the action was to prove a point, not to kill a target).

With these patterns identified we have to ask ourselves what’s going on and why are young men radicalizing. Why are they so dissatisfied with current affairs that they are driven to acts of violence and terrorism? What clicked in their mind that they felt justified in harming innocent people?

Insanity?

They cop-out is to say that these people are just insane. They are crazy and that’s why they did it. End of case. But I don’t think that’s a fair analysis.

Even the media paints a portrait of insanity. We constantly hear key words like: “insane”, “mental health problems”, and “history of mental health”, but by all accounts these young men were not insane at all.

I recall interviews with families and friends after each event. What did people have to say about each of these guys? They were normal!

1. Friends and family of Aurora, Colorado shooter (James Holmes) as a normal guy: here and here
2. Friends and family of Sandy Hook shooter (Adam Lanza) as a normal guy: here
3. Boston Marathon bomber (Jahar, suspect # 2) described as a normal and popular guy: here and here

The way these events took place imply almost anything but insanity. Each of these events were carefully crafted and planned. This wasn’t the work of a person who suddenly lost their mind. Each of these events were the work of a methodical planner. A planner who performed these acts based on facts and emotion which did not dissipate. These were the acts of men who had come to terms with their ideology which allowed each perpetrator in question to justified their behavior and actions.

This was radicalization, not insanity.

Radicalization

To understand and prevent future acts of violence like these perhaps we should stop sweeping the truth under the rug. Perhaps we should stop labeling these young men as “crazy” and try to understand their motive. Try to understand why others might do the same thing.

Are the dissatisfied with the current state of affairs? Why? Have they been radicalized by extremist books, literature, or other media? Why did they listen to it? Why did they find themselves agreeing with extremist viewpoints? Is this blow-back or something else?

Mental Health, Media, and Other Factors

There are many factors that come in to play when talking about a person willing to take the lives of a group of innocent people. They have to fit a certain mental profile. They must be dissatisfied with life to a point that calls them to action. They must have gotten these ideas from somewhere, it seems.

The Media

Something a lot of people aren’t talking about is the media’s role in all this. Is it possible that the media’s constant highlighting of radical actions inadvertently promote such behavior? By desensitizing young people to such events that it makes committing such an act seem more possible? Is the media making radicalization sexy? I think there is some truth to this idea.

Society and Mental Health

We also need to carefully monitor what societal and mental factors prompt a young person to take actions like this. How do they build the courage to take a life(s)? Is this some combination of desensitization of murder, unhappiness with life, and mental predisposition? I don’t know the answer.

The one think I do know is that everyone should be asking themselves a lot of questions. What are we doing wrong? Why are people doing this? What factors drives a young person to such measures?

I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to blame anyone. The perpetrators are the guilty. What I’m trying to say is that it is too easy to just call them crazy and forget about it. To truly fix the problem we need to find the root cause. We need to examine what makes ordinary and even upstanding young men (by accounts of friends and family) turn to violence and radicalization. If we can figure this out – we can solve the problem.

People are no longer Free Thinkers

It never fails to amaze me how easily people are fooled by propaganda. Especially if said propaganda aligns with the beliefs an individual already holds. I find case after case of this on Facebook. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t find Facebook terribly scientific nor do I care for it much; however, I do find it a useful tool to check the pulse of people’s thinking. Especially people whose views are being shaped by popular media sources.

A prime example was today when I logged in and found literally a dozen of my connections sharing an article supposedly written by Bill Cosby. (You can read the entire article here.) The article goes on to critisize social programs, “spread the wealth” ideaology, lazy people, and even Muslims. I immediately knew this couldn’t by something legitimately accredited to Bill Cosby – especially publicly.

I did a quick Google search and quickly found dozens of sites (including Bill Cosby’s personal website) saying the article was a fake. So why was everyone else so easily fooled, so apt to propagate the lie, and too lazy to fact check? Was it because it so easily confirmed their own beliefs?

This is a pattern. People immediately accept whatever falls in their lap as complete truth. People are no longer free thinkers – rather they are sheep-sponges who obediently fall in line, absorb, and spread any information provided to them in which they find convenient.

A respected pop-culture icon and black leader, like Bill Cosby, spouting popular conservative ideals was just too delicious to pass up – thus it spreads like wildfire on social networks. A few items of hate speech, sprinkled in with a few lines of truth, and suddenly the entire message is accepted at once. The lies and hate are absorbed in the blood stream as inconspicuously as they landed on everyone’s homepage.

My biggest fear is that my peers have forgotten how to think for themselves, how to distinguish a lie from the truth. They are now good slaves propagating whatever they hear or see on whatever screen is in front of them. That is dangerous.

Suicide Culture: Why the Media Feeds us Gun Control

The Gun Control debate is getting a lot of attention. There have been two mass shootings in recent history so everyone is focused on prevention – and rightfully so. No one wants to hear about another school shooting. No one.

With all this attention on Guns I can’t help but feel like we are missing something. Something important. There’s a bigger issue at hand – one that isn’t sexy and doesn’t generate the controversy needed to sell ads. It’s mental health.

Mental Health and Gun Control

What did both of the shooters from Aurora and Newtown have in common? They were both mentally unhealthy. In fact, over half of gun related homicides are suicides. Another giant chunk of gun related homicide is criminal on criminal shootings. So why are we so focused on Gun Control when the clear problem is a cultural and mental health problem.

What’s wrong with our culture? What is driving people to choose death over another day at work or with their family? Maybe it has something to do with the pressure we put on each other to meet these unobtainable expectations. Maybe it’s our haste to diagnose someone with ADD or ADHD and put them on medication instead of dealing with a hyper kid. Maybe it’s both.

What Japan taught me about America

About a year ago I took a trip to Japan – the former suicide capitol of the world. The work culture there is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. People were like zombies, consumers of production, on the train commuting to and from work. Some people look miserable – no life in their eyes. Production and dedication to work are their priorities.

In one of the most wealthy nations on earth – where money and all that shines is what matters – people are miserable. I suddenly saw in Japan all the things I could never see in myself as an American.

Media Spin and Real Questions

I wonder what else we as Americans are failing to see about ourselves. What is the root of our own self inflicted mental health disease. Why did two young men decide killing a handful of random strangers was a better option than their own lives. What’s going on here and why aren’t we asking these questions. Instead we turn toward the media to blame guns.

A fun way to debate is to draw heavily on stats. One popular stat is that England had only 39 gun related homicides compared to our 11,000 or so. However, when you look at our total homicide rate per person, our crime rates, and account for suicide – Great Britain is arguably worse off than we are. If the ultimate goal was to reduce violence and crime what did Gun Control ultimately solve? Nothing.

Don’t blame our lifestyle. Don’t blame the pop culture indoctrination. Take care not to look to closely at the way we perceive our own self image – the way the media told us we should look. Don’t examine the medications we are feeding our children because some of us are too lazy to parent. If we start asking too many questions, good questions, the media can’t sell Pfizer and Victoria Secret ads.

In the end it’s all about revenue – that’s why the media feeds us Gun Control.