Making the invisible visible … – II. Analysis

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Making the invisible visible … – II. Analysis

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This post will discuss findings from two scholarly papers and explore why making the invisible visible could cause volatility for Palestinians and others.

Shani Orgad asserted that making the “invisible visible” in the 24-hour transnational news arena could actually “increase instability and amplify the volatility” of the people and the act it exposes (Orgad, 2008, p. 319). Orgad goes on to list several cases where the media visibility caused a negative reaction for formerly invisible people. Orgad suggests that people start to doubt themselves and sees this as a negative. I argue that this awkward stage of doubting oneself or one’s country is part of a growth process. Orgad substantiated this with the ‘rest of the story’ about France and the negative worldwide exposure it gained from the 2005 riots; as a result, France now has their own 24-hour transnational channel. Maybe this is because of the self-examination after the riots, maybe not.

To use Orgad’s (2008) illustration, transnational news is a “multi-faceted” mirror and sometimes reflects an image or side of a country that the leaders do not want others to see (p. 320). For people practicing their media literacy skills, this environment of multiple versions is ripe for gaining perspective and analyzing elements of various stories. In contrast, as Orgad (2008) points out, citizens may become cynical, lose faith in the news, and alienate themselves which therefore, could jeopardize democracy (p. 321). Orgad may have a point here, but this is clearly why America needs to educate and encourage it’s citizens about the media literacy movement.

To that end, Aday, Livingston, and Hebert’s (2005) research substantiated that the networks in their project all framed the Iraq War. These networks included ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox New Channel (FNC), and Al-Jazeera. Each network framed the story according to what they saw as the salient issue, but the reality for people honing their media literacy skills is: “what is covered and what is not” (Aday, Livingston, & Herbert, 2005, p. 11). CNN and FNC showed significantly more stories about battles, tactics, and strategy with a steady stream of military experts offering their opinions. However, the networks barely showed the dissent in the U.S. (one-fifth of Americans) or the “widespread elite opposition” around the world (Aday, Livingston, & Hebert, 2005, p. 11). In contrast, and as mentioned in an earlier post, Al-Jazeera spent 6.7% of their stories on the dissent topic (Aday, Livingston, & Hebert, 2005).

Interestingly, Al-Jazeera made the invisible visible. It covered the humanitarian side of the war, the civilian casualties, the bloody perspective. In an interesting twist, the scholars pointed out that “Al Jazeera did not air many stories on civilian casualties, contrary to conventional wisdom” (Aday, Livingston, & Hebert, 2005). So, why did Americans hear over-and-over again that Al-Jazeera is so unbalanced? Were people in America really watching Al-Jazeera or just sound-bites over-and-over again on CNN or FNC?

According to American journalist and FNC anchor, Brit Hume, the civilian casualties were “merely part of war and not deserving of significant coverage” (as cited in Aday, Livingston, Hebert, 2005, p. 12). I argue that if one of my loved ones were a victim, I would feel differently. It would be significant to me and I would want people to know. Networks that sanction providing a sanitized version of war are doing a disservice to mankind. The fact that the networks continue to highlight or low-light certain issues should provide scholars and people who believe in the need to educate the populace about the media literacy movement the fuel they need to move forward.

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