PsychologyUK politicsWriting

Up close and personal – media and manipulation

Being a fairly political person any social injustice pushes my buttons. It’s easy for me to get upset about any kind of discrimination and this week has been a shocker.

Starting with the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ debacle where Anton made a racist remark apparently as a joke, my immediate reactions was ‘when did laughing at the colour of someones skin become a joke and not a bullying insult?’. When did the use of a name that actually describes a race of people so there can be no mistake, a name that is steeped in a history of oppression by violence, by hate crime and by discrimination ever become OK? Unless you are a racist, of course. It smacked of bullying right from the start and I had many heated debates about this ranging from the guilt covering ‘context’ debate to the outright ignorance of the ‘lightening up’ argument. I tried to understand how this could be confusing, but I couldn’t for the life of me see how bullying another person by making fun of them, in private or in public, could be construed as a bit of fun. It’s like someone saying ‘I took her home and gave her a bit of a slap.’ No one saw it, it’s a taboo subject, so let’s ignore it, despite the damage it did to the victim. Except in this case it’s a psychological slap.

Then, yesterday, I witnessed a near riot situation in Manchester. A group of fascist racists marched, escorted by the police, through the city centre, followed by a group opposing them. The racists claimed to not be *actually* racist but to be demonstrating against extremism. If this is true, how is the photograph above explained?

The symbolism of the context of that photograph is clear enough. Yet, to most people the skinhead holding the paper and the people who run the newsagents in the background are anonymous strangers, just another piece of news to be discarded. I, however, have visited that shop every working day for the past fifteen years and have become friends with the people who run it. Even whist dealing with the rudeness of most customers they are always ready with a smile and a joke. Part of my everyday life.

Yesterday I found that this was threatened. I felt desperately sorry for the huge social injustice the newsagents staff had to endure. They are running successful business in a city, contributing to the economy and are a part of the business community. It highlighted the personal aspects of racism and how far-right groups ignore the humanity involved.

Later on I tried to relax and to calm down about what had been, in honesty, a challenging week. I watched X Factor and to cut to the chase, I was appalled by Danni Minogues attempt to publically ‘out’ Danyl. In itself it is insensitive and cringeworthy, but my thoughts went immediately to the children he teaches. Proudly watching ‘Sir’ sing his heart out on national television, they may have been allowed to stay up a little later, perhaps? Only to witness a cheap trick by someone who should know better, a piece of psychological bullying that fortunately stunned everyone into complete disbelief and therefore silence. Some people would argue that Danyl put himself in the firing line by entering the competition, but I wasn’t aware that making it to the final of the X Factor equalled relinquishing your rights as a human being?

Then it struck me. How had I been so blind? Caught up in the simmering volcano of opinions over whether it was right to call someone a racist name and the exposure of total lack of empathy and understanding from people who claim to care, along with the personal insults to my friends on Piccadilly, and by agreeing with Anton’s bullying, implied insults to some of my colleagues and neighbors, I had temporarily forgotten what had actually happened.

In an attempt to plunge deep into the nation’s hearts, grab them roughly, twist them about a little, then ping them back in a stomach-churning display of hurt and personal insults, the media had played it’s ace card. To use our sense of social justice, and that means pimping race and gender politics, to get ratings. Mediated politics is usually confined to ‘teaching us a lesson’ in soap operas on Sunday morning politics, but it seems that we are about to witness the invasion of politics-for ratings’ into light entertainment. To cut to the chase, it seems that ‘light entertainment’ programmes are now prepared allow discrimination against vulnerable minority groups to get viewers.

Of course, there are some examples of good use of politics in media, such as the recent advertisements for climate change. Nursery rhymes and stories have been a news item this week, with reports claiming that naughty parents don’t read their children ‘traditional’ nursery rhymes any more. Bypassing that nice little neatly packaged preparation piece for the main event, the advertisements emerged to cascade through our consciouness, emulating the generic moral stories we were taught as a child. Great, as this is a lesson we do actually need to heed, a clever piece of marketing that will inevitably work.

But the work of two prime time shows vying for viewers resorting to these tactics is unforgivable. Who cares if the people who engineer these things, mainly for their own financial gain, get a flogging in the press? After all, any publicity is good publicity and I would mind betting both camps have a person employed to get the programme name as much media coverage as possible, no matter what the method. My heart goes out to anyone who has ever suffered fear, sorrow or violence in conjunction with the racist term Anton used, for surely they didn’t sit laughing in their lounges or workplaces, telling their children, who are singled out and oppressed by this term in the playground, that it is ‘just a joke’, ‘taken out of context’ and that they should lighten up?’ I’m guessing this is mainly a white European opinion, a squirming, defensive gesturing to cover private conversations where the people doing the name calling would never actually dream of going face to face with the victims of their bullying in case they were called upon to give a coherent explanation, other than blatant racism, for their action?

My main point, though, is media manipulation aside, the picture above in a large way links to the the ‘Strictly’ debate. Whatever excuses anyone has made for the use of a racist term, this picture shows that racism is alive and well on the streets of the UK. The producers of prime time shows must be rubbing their hands with glee, as yesterday’s debacles only served to perpetuate the media argument. But I don’t think my my neighbours will be watching Anton again.

Picture credit to MEN news feed.