The media in the United States, especially television, re-discovers the severity of violence against women when a highly visible image or story occurs. The latest incident, involving singers Chris Brown and Rihanna, has been extensively covered on local, national, and cable news, and talk shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil. However, as academic writers on the subject have noted, the media continually “rediscover” this problem in response to a specific incident that is either particularly horrific (such as the case of Laci Peterson) or involves a celebrity.
A Public Service Announcement by the group dosomething.org reenacting the alleged incident between the musicians is the latest facet of the story to gain media attention. Is it too graphic? Does it violate the legal rights of the accused, who is innocent until proven guilty? Will it help young people realize the severity of the problem? While these questions are important, larger questions go unasked. The media, which tends to focus on specifics, often encourages victim-blaming by over-examining the culpability of the victim. What did she do to provoke this?, they ask. Since the media is where issues are routinely debated in the public sphere, a greater focus on structural causes of domestic violence is necessary to truly solve the problem.
Chris Brown-Rihanna Incident Inspires Teen PSA
A Companion to Gender Studies: Domestic Violence by Madelaine Adelman
There is perhaps no more frightening an image to today’s parents of pre-teen and teenage children in the U.S. than that of the internet predator. A lone adult man siting behind a computer screen in a darkened room lures the innocent child into an unsafe situation. But is this just an image – a bogeyman created by the media? Shows like NBC’s To Catch A Predator certainly increase concerns. Although old shows still continue to be aired, this program is no longer being produced, mainly due to controversy over a lawsuit filed by a family of a man who shot and killed himself in the course of an episode taping. Yet local evening news coverage of this issue continues, and is definitely out of proportion to how often it actually occurs.
The “Priming Effect” – which seems to show that the more people see a particular social problem covered in the media, the more serious and prevalent they believe it to be – could be one possible explanation for parent’s fears. In fact, a recent study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University showed that, while threats to children from adults do exist on the internet, kids are vastly more likely to be harassed by their peers – just like in real life. South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and others say the study underestimates the threat, and fault it for using unreliable data. They say that technology is changing faster then law enforcement can protect children from it. The undercurrent of the fear of technology is embodied by society as the fear of the stranger with bad intent.
The Priming Effect
With the United States’ presidential election season (finally) at an end, media researchers have begun the process of conducting what will likely be years’ worth of analyses on the various news outlets’ coverage of the historic campaign. A relatively new wrinkle in the landscape of television news has been the emergence of overtly left-leaning political commentators, specifically on cable channel MSNBC, ostensibly as a response to Fox’s overtly right-wing cable news personalities. The question many have asked is whether or not the cable channel’s perspective has crept into what is supposed to be “mainstream” news reporting on the network version of NBC. Because Fox does not have the equivalent of NBC’s long-running nightly national news broadcast, it has not been possible to make across-the-board comparisons. However, a new study by the non-partisan Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has found that neither NBC Nightly News, nor its morning news program Today, have been altered by their cable partner’s left lean. The most interesting finding – NBC’s network news coverage was number one in positive coverage of the much-media-maligned Sarah Palin, even more so than Fox News Channel itself.
Bias in the News by Tien-Tsung Lee
by Nickie Wild
Russia’s parliament recently moved to ban the American television shows “South Park,” “Family Guy,” and “The Simpsons,” alleging that they sent negative messages to the country’s children. Russian cartoon network 2×2, which airs the programs, had its license up for renewal, and the Kremlin was not intending to grant it. Besides general accusations of moral depravity, the government particularly objected to the “South Park” episode Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, in which a piece of human waste comes alive and sings holiday songs. Officials said that this promoted religious hate speech, which is illegal under Russian law. The government proposed a new channel, which would instead have shows that promoted patriotism and morality to the country’s youth. However, the public reacted strongly against this move with collective action – protests, rallies, and flash mobs sprung up over several weeks of unrest. Some participants merely supported the particular programs, but many others acted out of concern that the government was returning to its authoritarian past. Petitions were signed by tens of thousands.
The government has since decided to renew 2×2’s license, provided that they do not show the offending episode again. Analyzing this incident with an eye towards Gramsci’s concept of hegemony leads the observer to question if the Kremlin was attempting to fight against the encroaching cultural doctrines of the West, or impose its ideology on the country’s children. Many Russian citizens seem to have firmly believed the latter.
Hegemony and the Media