Category Archives: Media Literacy

Switching to new blog

So I’ve spent most of my Thanksgiving holiday moving my wordpress.com blog over to a new server (well, in addition to having dinner with the parents) in the meantime my more ambitious new website is finished some time in the future.  I’ve got the basics all up but it’s been a learning process.  I’m SO not a techie person; I’d rather spend my time producing copy and content rather than spending hours figuring out how to set up the HTML code, installing widgets, unzipping files,  … BORING! LOL.  Anyway, hopefully all my work will pay off in the end.  My new blog site is not finished for sure: I’m not happy with the template and layout of it and I’ve still got to install a bunch of things on it.  Anyway, if you’d like to take a peak, please click here.

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Filed under Media Literacy

Lou Dobbs leaves CNN

Media Matters for America has the transcript of his announcement here.  For reference, Dropdobbs.com also has a “history of hate” list here.

Congratulations to all who participated and supported the bastadobbs.com and the dropdobbs.com campaigns and put pressure on CNN to fire this guy for viciously attacking immigrants and Latinos in particular (and as of late for joining in the vile racist attacks against President Obama coming from the extreme right-wing) on a day-by-day basis, going as far as making up stuff out of thin air and having guests and using them as ‘authorities’ on the subject of immigration and that were well-known to have ties to racist white supremacists (and without even disclosing them as a true journalist would).

He can now go off freely to where his conservative racist and ultra-corporatist views belong: Fox News.

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration, Media Literacy, Political

2012

On minutes 1:48 and 2:03 of this 2012 five-minute promo video, you see billboards of the Southern California nonprofit organization Heal the Bay crumbling down … sorry guys, I guess environmentalists don’t survive the Apocalypse (or is the Apocalypse being brought on human kind as punishment from God because we haven’t been caring for our environment as we should have been?!)

I’ve started to see the signs of the Apocalypse … no, not on the skies, not on earthquakes, and certainly not on tarot cards, but rather plastered on billboards all over L.A. and on YouTube videos.  As a fan of Mesoamerican history and a holder of a  B.A. degree in Anthropology, I have been keenly aware about the Mayan calendar that supposedly “ends” on the year 2012.  I must say that I was actually suprised that it took this long for Hollywood to make a movie about it.  Conveniently, they did not make a film about the calendar leading up to Y2K but I guess that would’ve defeated the whole purpose somewhat: how could the world end in 2000 if the Mayan calendar went all the way up to the year 2012?  But I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on Hollywood: after all, the film is only the latest incarnation of an ongoing furor of Apocalypse theories (I’m being overly kind: I’m using the word “theory” loosely here) based on the calendar that have been peddled for many years now.  However, the film has blown up the profile of such theories way out of proportion; so much so, that even the descendants of the Mayans are getting fed up with it.  Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan Mayan elder, was recently quoted by the AP as saying that “the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan, ideas.”        

Hollywood has a nack for re-inventing and sensationalizing history but I guess that is nothing new.  A perfect example of this was the movie Apocalypto, which told the story of the Mayan conquests just before their civilization runs into the Spanish “conquistadores”.  There was just one small problem with that story line: it never happened.  It was the Aztecs that had a brush with the Spaniards, not the Mayans (the Mayan Mesoamerican civilization and the Aztec civilization existed centuries apart).  In our modern world saturated by myths that are spurred by a modern popular disdain and mocking of academia and rationality, facts are sometimes irrelevant.  Point-in-case is the term “Aztec” (which comes from the Nahuatl word “Aztecatl”, which means “someone that comes from Aztlán“).  Yet, the indigenous people that came to make up what we now call “the Aztec empire” did not even call themselves that.  The Aztec empire was in fact not a homogenous group of people, but rather made up by three main ethnic groups (also known as “The Triple Alliance“) that were dominant over the others at one point or another: the Mexicas, the Acolhuas, and the Tepanecs.  The homogenizing category “Aztec” was actually first used by English-speaking westerners and was widely used by American historian William H. Prescott.  In modern times in the U.S., it was later further popularized via the Aztlán mythology that was adopted by many “Chicano nationalists“.  The problem with such reductionist approach, (as with any type of reductionism), is that it glosses over the rich diversity that actually exists and presents a reality that is overly skewed just so it can fit into a particular theory.  Don’t get me wrong, I happen to like that the word “Aztec”.  Besides, humans, after all, have an inherent need for categories that help us make sense of this world.  That is the way we are wired and for a good reason: it helps us identify important patterns in nature.  I only wished our western modern “patterns” or “categories” or for that matter our industries were more inclusive and respectful of the rich cultural variety of the indigenous ethnic groups that flourished and still exist not just in Mexico but in all of Latin America.

PS So am I going to go see this 2012 film? Depends.  I’m gonna wait for the reviews.  I hate watching movies that are all flashy special effects and terrible acting/dialogue.

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Filed under History, Media Literacy

Jesus WAS a LIBERAL

Was Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative?  Some people answer “neither” because he is supposed to transcend human labels … but this view is a little contradictory because Jesus was the incarnation of God into human flesh, and if that was the case, then shouldn’t we assume that he also adopted human qualities as well?  The question of Jesus’ orientation is nevertheless explored more in depth in the new book: “Jesus Was a Liberal.”  The media, nevertheless, would have you believe that Jesus was a staunch right-wing conservative even though there are many Christians that see through the current so-called conservative “culture of life” because it often contradicts itself when it refuses to promote a true all-encompassing culture of life, that is, one that celebrates and protects the human condition in all of its facets: through social programs that follow the teachings of Jesus to combat poverty,  promote compassion and empathy, and protect God’s creation (to agressively combat such threats to our environment-like global warming and offer everyone Universal Healthcare).

Perception in the media most of the time trumps reality … in fact so much so that perception at some point becomes so pervasive that it starts to influence and define reality.  In the United States, religion has become a topic of division, mainly because it has been hijacked by its portrayal in the hands of who dominates our corporate media: the conservative right-wing. 

The conservative right-wing media has been extremely successful at dominating the dialogue in mass communication.  One perfect example is how they have been incredibly successful at perpuating the myth that the media has a “liberal bias”, when in fact the opposite is true: for the most part, mass media has a CONSERVATIVE bias, which continues to persist to this day

Point in case is the way that religion is portrayed in the corporate media. “Religious values” to the media talking heads has come to mean a very narrow set of issues: “anti-abortion” and “anti-gay” (by the way, the Bible never even talks about abortion and Jesus himself never even mentioned anything about gays-the only mention of it is some vague mention in the Old Testament, which according to Christianity, was rendered invalid by the advent of the New Testament).  This has come to be because of a concerted behind-the-scenes strategy through political manipulation from the right-wing think-tanks.  Yet, there is hardly any mention that for many Americans who identify themselves as “religious”, those issues are not really that important to them-in fact, issues such as social and economic justice are far closer to their hearts.  However, right-wing think-tanks, their corporatist sponsors, and their media talking head enablers are not all to blame. 

The left-wing of this country also bears some responsibility: for many secular liberals, religion has often been viewed as an obstacle to progress and enlightment or as a sign of weakness (never mind that some of the biggest leaps foward in our society have been rooted in religious themes: Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and organizing tactics were a perfect example of that).  Meanwhile, politicans on the so-called “Left” are left with the difficult task of trying to fill in the gaps and get across the message (most of the time in a very awkward manner) that not all religious people are authoritarian conservative but that in fact many are actually liberal and yes, even supportive of the sanctity of love inherent in the concept of Gay Marriage.  

Overall, conservative religious personalities such as James Dobson and Pat Robertson and their campaigns get all the attention from the media, and the progressive religious personalities like Michael Lerner or  Jim Wallis and their campaigns get almost no attention.  Point in case is the recent supposed (if not manufactured) uproar that the media is currently focusing on 24/7: President Obama speaking at Notre Dame.  According to right-wing outlets, “Catholics” are supposedly “outraged” that President Obama was scheduled to speak at Notre Dame (because of his defense of pro-choice policies), a Catholic University:

As a Catholic, I really don’t know what’s more offensive: the fact that right-wing religious outlets claim to speak for ALL Catholics (including myself and an overwhelming majority of Catholics that don’t share their views), or the fact that their hypocrisy is just so offensively transparent: the Pope himself gave an Honorary recognition to President Sarkozy, who is a supporter of pro-choice polices … so do you think they will boycott the Pope? Yeah, don’t hold your breath … and if you want to talk about contradictions between the Catholic Church’s teachings and peoples’ practices: how about the support of the American Catholic Conservatives for capital punishment, which is a direct violation of the Catholic Church’s official position … oh and let’s not get into the whole Occupation of Iraq: both John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict have been very critical of America’s military campaigns in the Middle East.  But do you think these contradictions are getting media coverage?  Nope, not a peep.  Instead, we hear carefully-crafted messages about how Nancy Pelosi is not worthy of communion because she supports “abortion rights.” 

This is not the first time that a blackout of the progressive religious view has taken place in the media.  Back in 2007, a group of progressive Evangelical Christians were arrested for protesting former President Bush’s Occupation of Iraq.  This got covered in a few print & online outlets, but it really did not make it to the corporate cable news cycle nor did it get the under-the-microscope intensity that Obama’s speech at Notre Dame got.  More recently, the online advocacy community “Faithful America” launched a drive to support Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to speak, but do you think that got any major attention from the media?  Nope. 

Frankly, I wouldn’t be the least surprised to learn that all this media frenzy was manufactured by the conservative right as a strategic piece in their quest to torpedo Obama’s upcoming nomination of a new Justice to the Supreme Court.  Regardless, I am pretty sick and tired of the way the media is portraying religion as a battle between “secularism” and “religiosity”.  It is a frame that is manipulative at best and morally bankrupt at worst because it is devoid of meaningful debate.  The topic of abortion is the perfect example of how the messaging wars play out, to the detriment of the American public.  All we hear in the media is how the “pro-choicers” are in a battle with the “pro-lifers” … but these lables just block us from moving forward on views that recognize that this is more than just a black-and-white issue.  It deprives us of views such the one espoused by the Network of Spiritual Progressives on this topic:

“Make [abortion] safe, legal, and rare … And make childbearing safe, economically supported, and surrounded by a loving community that celebrates the mystery and miracle of life and that honors and rewards the parent or parents who have undertaken the difficult and beautiful task of raising children.” -Rabbi Michael Lerner.

So what can you do about all this? Well, for starters, check out the action alert that “Faithful America” has up on their site to support a new way in how we deal and talk about abortion.  Click here to visit their site.

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Filed under Abortion, Gay Marriage, Media Literacy, Political, Progressive Movement, Religion, Spirituality

Hate Speech

…”the only reason [Luis] is dead is because he was Mexican,” law experts recently argued on CNN.  Recently, there was a disturbing verdict on a racially-charged case where an all-white jury found a group of teens as not guilty of a hate crime for beating up a Latino kid to death.  CNN reported on this:

Equally troubling, is the fact that there is little attention being paid to the effects of verbal violence from certain right-wing media outlets and personalities that, under the cover of being “anti-illegal immigration“, get away with vicious statements that are sometimes full of misinformation at best and morally criminal at worst.  During the recent swine flu media frenzy, for example, right-wing pudits seized on the opportunity to push their racist rhetoric.  As is often the case, sometimes the most dangerous kind of rhetoric is the kind that is subtle and pretends or claims not to be racist, precisely because it lurks in the shadows.  One perfect example of this is media-talking-head Lou Dobbs.  He is married to a Latina, by the way, and that tidbit has often been brought up as an argument to claim that Lou Dobbs coudln’t possibly be racist.  Yet at closer examination, this seems to defy logic.  First off, the fact that he is married to a Latina does not give him license to spread lie after lie (after all, Hernan Cortes had the Malinche as a lover, and that didn’t make Cortes any less of a pillager of Mexico’s land and of its people).  In addition, a little-known fact is that Lou Dobbs often quotes “reports” as “facts” from or has people on his show that are members of right-wing extremist groups that either have deep ties with or are themselves groups classified as hate groups.  By all accounts, one cannot help but ask this: “if Lou Dobbs pushes defamatory falsehoods day after day based on racist sources (he does not disclose this fact, by the way) then what is his motiviation for doing so?  Is it racism?”   

Beyond Lou Dobbs, there is the larger issue of the potential effects that the violence (whether verbal or visual) in the media has on stoking the fires that eventually lead to violent murders against particular groups of people.  While it is difficult to prove a direct relationship between violent hate speech or even subtle but vicious anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric  and actual violent hate crimes, one would have to be a fool to not see a correlation that is just too evident to dismiss it as a coincence.   People influence media and media influence people-it is a self-reinforcing cycle.  To claim that media should not be held accountable for the impact that it has on people is just as naive as saying that individuals do not impact and influence media itself.  Somewhere along the lines, there needs to be accountability-otherwise, grotesque acts of hate go unchecked. 

Sometimes, some action is taken against the hate rhetoric on the media: recently, a radio talk show host was suspended because of his plainly racist comments against Mexicans:

As the video above discusses, Jay Severin should be fired (by the way, you can contact the station that puts him on the air and ask them to fire him; click here).  Now, will Lou Dobbs ever take responsibility for his role in the rising violence against Latinos?  Think again, he actually slammed and criticized the civil rights organizations that have denounced or warned the media of the hate speech that is on the air.  Yet, the number of extremist groups continue to grow and the tide of hate acts continues to rise.  For a list of high-profile cases exemplifying the rising incidence of hate crimes against Latinos, click here.

Perhaps what is most tragic and maddening is that amid all the violent rhetoric on the media and the grotesque acts it accompanies, it comes as no surprise that an all-white jury recently decided to let the murderers of Luis Ramirez walk free.  There is something you can do about it, though.  Read this message (below) from the organization America’s Voice:   

Dear Friends,

Last year a group of teenagers brutally murdered Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

As Luis lay unconscious at their feet, the teens yelled to a young woman by his side: “Tell your effin Mexican friends to get the eff out of Shenandoah or you’re going to be laying next to him!”

Just last week an all-white jury found the teens “not guilty” of the serious charges of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation. The ruling was greeted with cheers in the courtroom, and gasps of disbelief from Luis’s grieving fiancee and children.

Today we’re asking you to join with us and our friends at the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF) to demand justice for Luis, his children, and his fiancee.

Sign the petition to the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Demand that they prosecute Luis’s murder as a federal Hate Crime:

http://www.AmericasVoiceOnline.org/ProsecutetheHate

Afterward, the head of the jury said publicly “I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury were racist.” He said that some “had their minds made up maybe before the first day.”

Hate crimes against immigrants are on the rise across the country.

Law experts on CNN have argued that “the only reason [Luis] is dead is because he was Mexican.” It’s becoming clear that in that courtroom an undocumented Mexican immigrant was seen as less than a man.

Make sure justice is served for Luis Ramirez and the loved ones he left behind — sign the petition and forward it widely:

http://www.AmericasVoiceOnline.org/ProsecutetheHate

Together we can stand up to forces of extremism that threaten our country’s best values by playing upon our worst instincts.

Please send this email to 10 of your friends and loved ones now.

Thanks for everything you’re doing,

Adam Luna

America’s Voice

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration, Media Literacy

Swine Flu

So apparently we’re under swine flu watch.  Yes, it’s all over the news, like the bird flu and the mad cow desease were.  They way the media is talking about it, you’d think our civilization is coming to an end a-la Twelve Monkeys movie. 

The Center for Desease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the following up on their website:

“Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza among pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, human infections with swine flu do occur, and cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu viruses has been documented. […]

From December 2005 through February 2009, a total of 12 human infections with swine influenza were reported from 10 states in the United States. Since March 2009, a number of confirmed human cases of a new strain of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in the U.S. and internationally have been identified. An investigation into these cases is ongoing. […]”

People are taking advantage of this opportunity of the flu being on the news 24/7 and so we get videos trying to sell you vitamins and others to promote crazy right-wing tinfoil hat libertarian conspiracy theories:

I’m still unclear as to how exactly this “new” flu is more serious than other kinds of flu (other than being related to pigs).  According to the CDC, these are the symptoms:

“What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human
seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”

…uhm, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t those more or less the symptoms of regular flu? (if there is such a thing-because the flu can come in many strains).

I realize this “swine” flu is a serious matter because people have died from it … but again, correct me if I’m wrong: don’t people die of “regular” flu too when it’s accompanied by complications and not treated with the right medical approaches?  Also, how come no one is asking “who is cashing in on the flu paranoia?”  The manufacturers of desinfectant products and people like Donald Rumsfeld are sure making money on the deal, among others.  Meanwhile, the racist right-wing pig media talking heads are having a field day with this story even though there are now reports emerging that the “swine” flu might have actually originated in the United States.  To top things off, some political extremists have used this opportunity to display their own idiocy, just watch what Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann said here

Perhaps what is most annoying about this whole thing is the hypocrisy inherent in all this media circus.  IF there were such a sincere concern for pandemics, you’d think conservatives (like Michelle Bachmann) and its media talking heads would agree that it is now more urgent than ever to approve a public healthcare option that would care for all as quickly as possible … well, guess again-they’re trying to kill off any attempts to fix our healthcare system that would cover us all.  By the way, you can fight back the politicians that are trying to choke healthcare reform in its crib; to fight them, visit: http://www.standwithdrdean.com/FAQ

Update: Luckily, there are some personalities emerging in the cable news that are being more realist about this whole thing. Watch Keith Olbermann talking about this strain of influenza in a more serious in-depth manner; click here.

Also, Media Matters for America did a great week-in-review wrap up of how the right-wing media personalities hyped it up to blame immigrants and even Obama for the “outbreak”.  Click here to read it.

I leave you with this “Swine Flu Overload” infoMania Editorial. Enough said.

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Health, Immigration, Media Literacy

The “Raising Awareness” Passive Cliché

 

One of the few "how-to-manuals" in existence that goes beyond the "raise awareness" academic approach.

One of the few "how-to-manuals" in existence that goes beyond the "raise awareness" academic approach.

 How can we protect ourselves from the illusion that we are being informed about the important events of the day when we faithfully expose ourselves to news messages in the media?  The key is to develop higher media literacy with more elaborated knowledge structures and stronger higher oder skills. 

W. James Potter

“Media Literacy”, 4th Edition (page 187).

Such are the words of a textbook that seeks to inform you of the state of the media in the United States.  While I find Mr. Potter’s book incredibly informative and essential in the process of educating yourself about how the media influences our worldviews, I cannot help but feel that the approach the book takes is a bit on the conformist side.  But perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on the author; after all, my frustrations have more to do with a larger trend I see in academic pursuits of the subject rather than with this particular author’s approach with how the book was drafted.

What I mean by all this is that oftentimes you’ll hear about how “raising awareness” about a particular issue is of most pressing concern.  I agree that it is extremely important to “raise awareness” on the influence of media and on any other issue for that matter.  Yet, the following question remains: once we raise “awareness” what do we then with it?  I can’t help but feel that raising awareness within myself for my own personal intellectual pursuit and/or benefit is a bit of a rather selfish and narrow-minded view.  It almost seems that within the parameters of the topic of “raising media literacy”, there is almost no room for dicussing in a serious, meaningful, and in-depth manner that ways that we (together-not just on my own and for myself), average citizens, can band together to bring about change for the better in the way the media functions and serves our society.  This textbook, Media Literacy, to its credit, dedicates a chapter to the topic of “helping others to increase media literacy” but it does so without even talking about collective grassroot action options.  In fact, it barely sort of alludes to it on a one-pager with vague descriptions of how “Often, people start PAC’s” (page 355) and then it just sort of puts off any elaboration on it and just dismissively points to an “Appendix C”-and when you go to that you realize that that is is just a list of various organizations that have something to do with media but never really explains in detail what they do, how they function, or how they could be influenced by the average citizen. 

Again, I am not faulting the author for coming up short and my apologies to him if I seem a little too demanding.  Rather, I think that his approach is merely a reflection of how sometimes academia approaches various subjects: devoid of any sort of collective and/or activist call to action via a concrete how-to manual.  I understand that there is a need to give the appearance of neutrality within academic circles but yet I find it very ironic (and even sometimes elitist) that such an approach only helps to reinforce the status quo because collective conformity, silence, or inaction often just breeds the preservation of that very same status quo.  

I guess I’m just tired of reading about how the world sucks and hardly ever encountering material that goes beyond that initial proclamation.  I wish there were more academic materials that instructed me how to change such a world that sucks; the lack thereof is what really frustrates me.  For example, in this Media Literacy textbook, there is no mention of how one forms a “PAC” (political action committee),  no mention of how one can form a nonprofit watchdog group or of the alreay pre-existing ones that might have had some successes, or case studies/reports of how average people were able to change the status quo. 

I am aware of a few places where one can “join the fight” and actually contribute towards the change for the better, which I’ve only found out about randomnly here and there.  Here are a few places to start with:

Free Press Campaigns:

http://www.freepress.net/media_issues/campaigns

Media Matters for America Action Center:

http://mediamatters.org/action_center/ 

Maybe one day we’ll have a “Rules for Media Literacy Activists” manual like the one that Saul Alinsky wrote for community organizing almost 40 years ago.  Until then, I can only hope that at least some people will continue to step up and make the jump from the raising awareness stage to the grassroots activist stage in the ongoing battle against the negative forces of media on our society. 

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