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Media Contribution to Majority-Minority Conflict Essay


Introduction

Media plays a significant role in moulding relationships between the majority and the minority communities. It acts as major sources of information that greatly contributes to the integration between the two communities. On the other hand, the manner in which the media portrays the minority groups influences the way in which the majority communities perceive them (Cohen & Jock 2004). Media acts as a major source of information to the minority communities for they do not have another channel through which they can know what is happening in their country. Besides educating and informing the minority groups, media also contributes to the establishment of the majorities’ perceptions towards the minorities. Therefore, the order in which the mainstream media addresses the issues affecting the minority communities is very critical to the relationship between the majority and the minority communities (Cohen & Jock 2004). For instance, if journalists lack professionalism in covering issues affecting the minority communities, they might spur the majority to hate the minority groups.

In the United States, the minorities have made significant strides towards liberating themselves from the oppression by the majority communities. Currently, the minority groups own property, they have overcome segregation, and they exercise their democracy through voting. Despite managing to liberate themselves to some level, the minority groups are yet to overcome the supremacist and racist ideologies that prevail in the contemporary society currently (Devroe 2004). The entertainment, film, and media industries are the main channels that have continued to propagate such ideologies throughout the country. Since the epoch of racism, media has continued to under-represent the minority communities, which has led to the majority communities perceiving the minority as inferior thus the numerous oppositions between the groups. This paper looks at how the media contributes and reproduces the opposition between the minority and the majority communities across the globe.

The role of the media in the public presentation

According to Donohue, Tichenor, and Olien (2005), “the media occupies a key site and performs a crucial role in the public representation of unequal social relations and the play of cultural power” (p.119). Through media representation, the represented audience has an opportunity to develop its identity by understanding how the public perceives it and what the public does not know about it. Downing and Husband (2005) posit, “Through media, social interests mobilised across society are marked out from each other, differentiated, and often rendered vulnerable to discrimination” (p. 127). Nevertheless, the media may also lead to the affirmation of cultural and social diversities, and additionally offer a critical room through which people may alter, challenge, and resist the forced identities or interests of other groups.

Currently, the media scenery is changing at a high rate. Local and global improvements in media markets, technologies, and corporations are revolutionising the media environment, leading to novel potentials and new forms of restraint with respect to the consumption, circulation, and production of media portrayals of the ethnic minorities (Donohue, Tichenor & Olien 2005). Forces of global competition, political deregulation, and the union of technologies, mainly the telecommunication, broadcasting, computers, cable delivery systems, and satellite have all introduced significant changes in the international operations, strategic goals, market capacities, and institutional structures of major media players (Erb et al. 2002). The same forces are contributing to the propagation of media systems, audience fragmentation, and tactical significance of niche marketing cross the countries.

In the background of these significant changes are the daily encounters and increased use of both the old and new technologies by the Diaspora communities as well as the minority groups. Currently, these groups use the communication technologies like the Internet, mobile phones, televisions, and digital cameras among others (Erb et al. 2002). The main reason why the minority groups struggle to use media in communicating their ideologies is to dispel the notion that they are inferior or own all sorts of negative aspects in the society as insinuated by the majority of the mainstream media. Guibernau and Rex (2010) claim, “The mainstream media, though differentiated by medium, outlet, genre, and subject interests, all too often produce shocking examples of xenophobic reporting and racist portrayal while often publicly committing to the ideals of an inclusive multi-ethnic and multicultural society” (pp. 177-183). Currently, minority groups are in the race to reverse this media portrayal and change the perception that the public has towards them.

The media contribution to conflict

Since the inception of the United States, media has depicted the Blacks as individuals belonging to the second-class. Since the blacks came to the United Sates as slaves, the media has never treated them as equal to the Whites. It normally depicts them as submissive, foolish, stupid, lazy, irresponsible, and violent (Kellstedt 2007). The media has been in the forefront in propagating these negative stereotypes of the minority groups, especially the Blacks in the United States. Since 1888, American films have featured Black characters. Regrettably, the Whites did not want to include the Blacks in their films (McConohay 2000), and thus the Whites wore black masks to play the role of the Blacks. The move to exclude the Blacks from films led to the development of the demeaning stereotype that portrayed the Blacks in an inauspicious light. Moreover, films advertently represented the Blacks in a negative way leading to the emergence of the Whites’ supremacy (Kellstedt 2007), which has allowed the Whites to look down upon the Blacks. Ever since, the Whites always perceive the Blacks as inferior and they always try to dominate them. With time, the Blacks have tried to liberate themselves and the liberation process involves attempts to show the Whites that Blacks are actually equal to them and this move leads to conflicts between the two communities.

The media plays a significant role in setting the tone for images, values, and morals of the society (Nelson, Clawson & Oxley 2003). People that have never come across a particular society understand it based on how the media portrays it. The same happens in the United States. Most people that have never had the opportunity to interact with the Blacks perceive them based on how the media depicts them. Most of them believe that Blacks are inferior and most of what they believe about the Blacks comes from what they watch see and hear over the media. In spite of the great progress in the film industry, the industry continues to stereotype the Blacks (Nelson, Clawson & Oxley 2003). It continues with the initial portrayal of the Blacks in a negative manner, which continues to create tension between the Blacks and the Whites. It is hard for the Whites to trust the Blacks no matter the prevailing circumstances since they associate them with all sorts of negative issues.

In Europe, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has occasionally blamed the Danish media for creating hatred between the minority and the majority groups in the country. The media has portrayed the Muslims in Denmark in a negative manner thus allowing the majority groups to become intolerant and discriminatory against the Muslims on several occasions (Jensen 2010). The Danish media stands out as the most divisive element towards Muslim and Islam (World Economic Forum 2008). For many occasions, the Danish media has portrayed cartoons depicting Muhammad negatively. The crisis emerged after the Danish media published 12 editorial cartoons illustrating Prophet Muhammad. The publication was legalised not only based on “freedom of expression” as a necessity of autonomous societal value, but also by portraying the Muslim claim on particular religious rights as divergent to such values. The cartoon issue has triggered strong opposition between the Muslims (the minority group) and other groups in Denmark.

In 2008, Muslim youths took to the streets protesting the publication of the cartoons and termed it an act of racial discrimination. The hullabaloo over the cartoons issue reflects one of the numerous conflicts that arise in Denmark because of media’s representation of Islam and Muslims as traditional, oppressive, and irrational, which creates divisions between the Danish and Muslims’ values and identities (Jensen 2010). Most publications touching on Muslims in Denmark address issues like extremism, oppression of women, and terror. Hence, the majority of the publications portray Islam as a major threat to Christianity, democracy, Danish values, and/or freedom of expression. On the other hand, the media in Denmark conspicuously fails to touch on issues pertaining to discrimination against the Muslims or issues that affect the daily life of the Muslims (Hussain 2000). In general, media like newspapers and television programs in the country focus on negative aspects of the Muslims, which compel the public to perceiving Islam as a “bad faith”. This aspect leads to the development of an antagonistic environment where the Danes perceive Muslims as oppressive, and thus feel that they do not associate with the Danish values and “Danishness” in any way.

In cases where the media reports on matters affecting the minorities, the reports tend to be one-sided by not involving the voice of the minorities who are directly affected. For instance, in cases where the media gives the Muslims a chance to air their issues, only a few representatives tend to appear. The media only gives few individuals, who stand out from the Muslim population in the country, an opportunity to air the grievances (Jensen 2010). On the other hand, individuals that are not associated to any religious institution are not given a chance to explain themselves. In this way, the media sends mixed opinions regarding the minority groups, especially the Muslims in Denmark. Moreover, when addressing the issue of racism, the media makes sure that it uses terminologies that would have less severe impacts. For instance, rather than using the term “inequality”, the media uses the term “lacking equality”. Through this approach, the media makes it hard for people to accept that racial discrimination actually exists in Denmark (Jensen 2010). The international community perceives the minority groups as overambitious and a threat to the Denmark’s peace whenever they rise to claim their rights. It becomes hard for the minority groups to convince the international community that the Danes discriminate against them since the media does not report on the same.

In most cases, the Media is biased in different ways in terms of covering news that affect the minority groups. If the news involves positive issues regarding the minority groups, the media tends to allocate the news a short period, and thus it only carries a summary of the news (Koopmans 2003). On the other hand, if the news involves negative aspects of the minority groups, the media gives the news great coverage, and this aspect propagates the perception that the minority groups are indecent. A study carried on the British press coverage indicated that the media gave disproportionate coverage to news involving crimes committed by the Black people (Koopmans 2003). This aspect planted a negative attitude towards the Blacks by the majority groups in the country. Indeed, it is hard for the Blacks to change the perception that the majorities have towards them in Britain, which contributes to the poor economic status that most Blacks enjoy today. People do not trust the Blacks and this aspect makes it hard for the victims to get jobs in the country, especially in firms owned by the Whites (Koopmans 2003). The media allocates limited time and space to the minorities’ opinions. Therefore, it becomes hard for the minorities to defend themselves whenever the media portrays them negatively. In most cases, the media depicts the minorities as wordless actors involved in all sorts of negative activities (Koopmans 2003). Hence, the majority communities develop negative attitudes towards them leading to the numerous conflicts witnessed between the minority and the majority communities.

Restricted from the public communication and consequently from the influential counter-prevailing influence, the minorities end up turning to types of struggle that might draw public mind through media accounts like disruption, disobedience, or destruction (Statham 2002). These elements capture the interests of most journalists simply because they are in line with news’ values like violence, negativity, and deviance. Besides, the struggle is consistent with ethnic prejudice that holds that minorities are violent and deviant. Therefore, this wide spread association of the minorities with riots, crimes, and violence creates hatred between the minority and the majority communities in most countries. The majority communities view the minorities as the major hindrance to their success for they fear losing their property in the hands of the minorities through destruction and theft (Statham 2002). Hence, the majority groups use all means possible to disassociate with the minorities including not employing them and discriminating against them as a way of deterring the minorities.

According to Schary (1999), the news making process holds that the identification and staging of news topics, events, and actors have to meet certain conditions. The conditions include news values and news themes coupled with political affiliation and ownership among others. A study on racism and mass media in the United Kingdom proved that deviancy, tragedy, and conflict are the main news values that influence the media’s selection and staging of themes. Crime reporting covers the major part of ethnic reporting in Britain (Schary, 1999). In the quest to meet the news’ value of lucidity, the media distorts images of the minority members involved in crime without investigating the circumstantial cause of the crime and thus it readily blames the crime on the minorities. This aspect legitimises and reinforces ethnic prejudice, hence the enmity between the minority and the majority communities.

Recent studies have identified how media representations might help in transforming the political-cultural atmosphere of “race” (Verkuyten & Thijs 2000). Now, this terrain progressively houses thoughts of “multiculturalism”. For instance, after analysing television programs in the United Kingdom, the researchers identified that the programs occasionally depict the minority groups in “multiculturalists” ways by focusing on individual accomplishment stories, cultural festivals, and the artistic exotica of the cultural minority groups. Even though the news producer might have the best intentions in mind when coming up with such programs, the “multiculturalists” presentations lead to culturally fragmented perceptions of the ethnic minorities (Verkuyten & Thijs 2000). The majority groups consider the minorities as “others”, a move that gives a wrong image to the notions of structural weakness and abiding inequality.

Interestingly, research on the United States’ media has identified novel and restrained types of “contemporary racism”. This element is regarded as the accidental result of news producers who request to go ahead of the “old fashioned racism” by depicting African Americans in constructive ways, but in the process develop the intuition of Black social progress and thus challenge the Blacks allegiance to the White sympathies and resources (Viswanath & Arora 2007). Such portrayals persuade the Whites to exonerate themselves from the claims by the Blacks that they contribute to their predicaments. Some television programs like The Cosby Show do not bring out the issues of failure or success, which gives the White audience an opportunity to blame the Blacks for their failure to achieve the standards of their White television counterparts. Hence, while the Blacks blame the Whites for their poor representation in the media, the media on the other hand depicts the Blacks in a manner that implies that the Blacks should blame themselves for not advancing in the media industry (Viswanath & Arora 2007). Consequently, this finger pointing leads to a tag of war between the two communities, with each blaming the other.

Reversing the situation

The existing level of conflict between the minority and the majority communities emanates from the prejudice that the two groups hold towards one another. There is no trust between the communities with every community seeing the other as a major hindrance to its growth and success (Levy 2009). The Media is to blame for the occasional conflicts between the minority and the majority groups across the world. For a long time, the media has criminalised the minority groups and thus allowing the majority groups to view the former in a negative dimension. Rather than giving much publicity to positive issues propagated by the minority groups, the media gives much publicity to the negative activities that involve the minority groups. In a bid to reverse the current level of opposition between the minority and the majority groups, the media has the duty to make sure that it desists from criminalising the minority groups and instead work towards decriminalising them (Levy 2009). The media could achieve this goal by focusing on constructive activities that involve the minority groups for such a move would compel the majority groups and the entire public to change their perceptions towards the minority groups. Moreover, the media should give the minority groups ample time to explain themselves whenever the public criticises them for particular actions (Shinar 2003). The Minority groups turn to disobedience, destruction, and other negative activities since they act as the only avenues of expressing their dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, if the media gives them a platform to air their grievances, they would hardly engage in such negative activities.

Conclusion

The media contributes significantly to the relationship between the majority and the minority groups. The occasional conflicts between the groups exist due to the negative image the media creates about one group, especially the minority group. The media acts as the conduit through which the different groups establish their identities. Hence, if the media depicts one group negatively, it creates a rift between the groups. For instance, in Denmark, the media has contributed to the occasional conflicts between the Muslims and other communities in the country. Besides displaying negative cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, the media has also depicted Muslims as oppressive. This aspect has created enmity between the minority Muslims and the majority groups in the country. In the United States, the Whites associate the Blacks with crimes and other unethical activities due to the publicity that the media gives to criminal activities involving the Blacks.

It is hard to convince the Whites that the Blacks uphold virtues since they know them as criminals. In most cases, when the media is reporting positive incidences involving the minority groups, it allocates limited time to such incidences and thus most people go without noticing the good deeds by the minority groups. The media denies the minorities an opportunity to explain themselves or defend their actions. Rather, it portrays them as wordless actors who are involved in all manners of negative activities. This denial of a chance to explain themselves leads to the minorities opting to use orthodox methods to express their opinions. They engage in disobedience and destructive activities to draw the attention of government and at this point, the media grabs the opportunity to portray them negatively. In a bid to ease the existing tension between the minorities and the majorities, the media ought to change its position towards the minorities and start giving equal representations to all groups.

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Reference List

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