CITY OF HATE: PARIS’ ETHNIC TENSIONS BOIL OVER

“Fariz Allili looked out at the decaying tower blocks he calls the “ghetto”. Grafitti cakes his entrance hall, there is no heating, the lift has been broken for months and unemployed youths loiter with nothing to do. Even the local mayor calls this place a “vertical shanty town” (Chrisafis, A 2010). Welcome to Paris. Where croissants, the Eiffel tower and fine art, a world away from what the travel brochures say.  Where hundreds of thousands of young North African immigrants struggle to find work in a country which is culturally, economically and politically divided.

 

 

As Salazar (2011) explains in his research into North African and other Diaspora in Western Sydney, “community media is better positioned to recognize changing attitudes towards migrants and refugees, and that these changes must also take place from the bottom up” (p1-2). This begs the question; is community media capable of bridging the so-called cultural divide between North African communities and the rest of France?

‘Beur FM’ formerly known as ‘Radio Beur’ was launched in 1992 (Echchaibi, N 2005, p14) which is a community radio station whose audience is largely made up of North African migrants. In a theoretical sense, there is certainly a legitimate case to argue that the radio network has the ability to reduce cultural divides. In general terms, the station is a voice for these communities “a forum where listeners are invited to react to all these events and comment on their significance based on their individual experiences as French of different cultural backgrounds” (Echchaibi, N 2005, p16-17). Moreover, national and international news is framed from a beur viewpoint; how political or economic issues directly impact them (Echchaibi, N 2005, p16), which is sorely lacking in France’s commercial news.

The real issue at the heart of Beur FM’s mobilisation powers, is how it negotiates its identity within the broader French populous. Beur FM has maintained its strong ethnic appeal which is at odds with France’s republican philosophy and emphasis on secularisation. However, its ‘mission statement’ downplays its ties to specific ethnic groups, while emphasising the fact that its broadcasts are largely in French (Echchaibi, N 2005, p17). Hence, Beur FM is careful in defining its identity because, if it appears too ‘radical’ it risks alienating non-migrant audiences. Worse still, the station must tone-down its political assessment of Sarkozy’s anti-immigrant policies as its funding pool may dry up given that community radio in France is largely dependent on local and state subsidies (Echchaibi, N 2005, p13). Hence, any attempt by Beur FM to promote the political and cultural interests of migrant communities is somewhat constrained by its dependence on government funding.

The Beur case raises broader issues about the business model of community radio and their ability to represent the interests of their audience. In the case of France, we can only hope that the cultural tensions subside.

 

 

Chrisafis, A 2010, ‘Immigration: France sees tensions rise five years on from Paris riots’, The Guardian, 17 November, viewed 23 May 2014,  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/nov/16/france-racism-immigration-sarkozy

Echchaibi, N 2005, ‘French Identity and the Articulation of Cultural Pluralism and Difference: The Case of Beur FM’, Communication: Questioning the Dialogue, International Communication Association: annual meeting,  p1-25.

Salazar, F. J 2011, ‘Digital stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’, Journal of Community, Citizen’s and Third Sector Media and Communication, Issue 7, p65-84.

 

 

 

 

 

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AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 SECONDS…WITH AL JAZEERA

“The business of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

– Finley Peter Dunne

In case you were wondering who Finely Peter Dunne is, he was a key figure of the ‘muckraker’ journalism movement during the 1890s in Chicago. His words still ring true in an age where corporate and government corruption is rife, where journalism is needed now, more than ever before. However, media convergence and the fragmentation of audiences has made us rethink what television is (Tay, J & Turner, G 2008, p71-72) and more specifically what it means for journalism. Despite, all this uncertainty around broadcast journalism, one theme remains constant – journalism as a so-called ‘fourth estate’, which I believe is the key ingredient to creating a global news entity.

There is one television broadcaster which has appeared as a potential blue print for a global news entity – Al Jazeera English. It is “neither dominated by geopolitical or commercial interests”, (Nawawy-el, M & Powers, S 2010, p61) trumping its rivals BBC world news and CNN as a truly global media network. A signature of Al Jazeera is not only covering events that go unnoticed, but producing a balanced representation of that event while at the same time “serving as a ‘voice to the ‘voiceless’” (Nawawy-el, M & Powers S 2010, p72). Hence, Al Jazeera fulfils this watch dog role making those powerful individuals or groups that exploit others, to account reinforced by the YouTube clip below where AJE caught both major parties in Argentina rigging the election.

The television programme; ‘People and Power’ on the Al Jazeera network featured the following piece titled ‘Libya: the Migrant Trap’ which presented a balanced view of the situation giving air time to both sides – the militia running these detention camps and the refugees themselves. In essence, the journalists didn’t brand the militia as the culprits but rather the disorganisation of state as a whole. At the same time, the piece provided a platform to tell the struggles of the refugees whose plight have been ignored, largely by the Western world. Al Jazeera’s efforts are noble. No other media network which claims to be ‘global’ have carried out this kind of in-depth analysis of Libya.

Libya: The Migrant Trap

El-Nawawy and Powers (2010) states that Al Jazeera is a global news network which “can bring culturally and politically diverse audiences together and encourage dialogue, empathy, responsibility and reconciliation” (p62). There is hope. That effective global media networks can be developed within new democracies. It is this idea of the media as a watch-dog which can drive these nations into the 21st century and beyond.

 

Nawawy-el, M & Powers, S 2009, ‘Al-Jazeera English and global news networks: clash of civilizations or cross-cultural dialogue?’, Media, War and Conflict, volume 2, issue 3, pp263-284.

Nawawy-el, M & Powers S 2010, ‘A conciliatory medium in a conflict-driven environment?’, Global Media and Communication, volume 6, issue 1, pp61-84.

 

 

 

 

I HAVE A DREAM…THAT ONE DAY RACIAL STEREOTYPES END

“I have a dream that my children and my children’s children will live in a world where race is no longer a barrier but a bridge. I have a dream that one day, the media will stop stereotyping racial minorities. And a dream it will remain”.

If you are little confused, I decided to take some inspiration from one of the most influential men in history – Martin Luther King Jr. It seemed most appropriate to appropriate such a powerful speech, given that African Americans are still grappling with stereotyped images of themselves in the media. When we discuss this issue, we need to examine it within the context of ‘cultural memory’. Eyerman (cited in Catchings 2013, p37) explains cultural memory as “a cognitive map, helping orient who they are, why they are here and where they are going”.

Throughout the 1980s to early 2000s, African American families were a reoccurring theme in commercial television. Think the Crosby Show, ‘My Wife and Kids’, ‘the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Everybody Hates Chris’.  It was clean, family fun designed to promote the black population as law abiding, church-going citizens of American suburbia. The Crosby show, in particular was part of a larger ploy to promote the Reagan anti ‘welfare queen’ policy during the 1970s – America’s poverty entrenched black communities were ‘inspired’ to dig themselves out of their quandary “and be like the Huxtables” (Catchings, A 2013, p37-38). Overtime, I believe that family-centred shows during the 2000s became an attempt at subverting the dominant image in American media – African Americans identified as pimp-drug-dealing gangsters, “in order to project the United States as an enlightened country that has entered a postrace era” (Alsultany, E 2013, p162). Such imagery created the illusion for the American population that, “not much more needed to be fixed, in their sense of cultural memory”, (Catchings, A 2013, p38).

 

My Wife and Kids

My Wife and Kids

The Crosby Show

The Crosby Show

 

In the late 2000s, the image of the black family underwent change, yet again. This time it was reality television driving this shift. The ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ is one such example and there are ‘stereotypes’ galore. The participants are portrayed as being loud and aggressive, in an attempt to ‘blanket’ every African American woman into this personality type. However, even more pointedly is that the family wealth is the result of the husband who is a current or former athlete, as 3 out of the 5 female contestants “can attribute their wealth to sports” (Vargas Velazquez Y 2009, p16). Not only does the show appear to infer that black women can’t stand on their own two feet (Vargas Velazquez Y 2009, p16), but African Americans are primarily good at sports which is their only method of becoming rich. Hence, the Real Housewives of Atlanta is the new Crosby show used by governments and certain media groups to promote a collective identity and ‘inspire’ the African American community to improve their economic prospects through sports. Such a collective identity perpetuates the stereotype that African Americans are good at sport, and are not intellectually gifted.

 

 

It appears that any end to the media’s obsession of stereotyping African Americans is a dream and a distant one at that.

 

Alsultany, E 2013, ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, American Quarterly, volume 65, issue 1, pp161-169.

Catchings, A 2013, ‘”Do Good Things with It, Do Bad Things with It”: The Love of Money, the Loss of Memory, and the Lust for More in Black Art’, ‘The McNair Scholars Journal, volume 13, pp35-45.

Vargas Velazquez Y 2009, ‘Discourses of Gender and Race in the Real Housewife’s of Atlanta’, NCA 95TH  Annual Convention: ‘Stability and Change’, National Communication Association, p1-21.

 

 

 

 

GAME OF FEAR-MONGERING: THE MYTHOS OF RAPE CULTURE

Do you have any notion of what happens when a city is sacked? No you wouldn’t would you? If the city falls, these fine women should be in for a bit of a rape. Half of them will have bastards in their bellies come the morning” (Cercei Lannister season 2 episode 9).

You guessed correctly, this is a scene from Game of Thrones, where Sansa Stark asks Cercei Lannister what would happen if the city is breached by wannabe King Stannis Baratheon. However, it is this broader theme of rape that Cersai openly discusses, which has become a talking point in recent times and more specifically our so-called ‘rape culture’.

‘Rape culture’ has all the hallmarks of a moral panic – a culmination of twists and turns added by each news report to the narrative of anxiety (Garland, D 2008, p13). Part of this moral panic is that rape is escalating each year. Yet, the statistics say otherwise. In 2008, there were 19,992 sexual assaults and by 2011 dropped to 17,238 (The Australian Institute of Criminology 2012, p2). The press create a ‘stereotypical’ representation of women; vulnerable to sexual predators wandering the streets, looking for their next prey as evidenced by the Jill Meagher case. Such images are a far cry from how sexual assault actually happens to women. In fact, 60% of reported sexual assaults in 2011 occurred in a ‘private dwelling’, while only a small amount of cases took place in public such as a street/footpath – 7% (The Australian Institute of Criminology 2012, p22). In 2011, 31% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a family member, 49% a ‘known other’ (someone the victim knew), as opposed to 15% where the culprit was a stranger (The Australian Institute of Criminology 2012, p24). The overall representation that women are defenceless against deranged men roaming the streets under the cover of darkness, who need the protection of law enforcement agencies reinforces archaic stereotypes and dangerously distorts the issue of rape.

 

Capture 14

The Australian Institute of Criminology 2012, p2

 

Capture 15

The Australian Institute of Criminology 2012, p22

 

Capture 16

The Australian Institute of Criminology 2012, p24

 

The press also enjoy blaming other media for creating this ‘culture’, pointing the finger at television shows, films, advertising and social media as the culprits of normalising rape. However, the idea of a ‘rape culture’ is a myth, a fallacy perpetuated by the news in recent times as their way of rationalising or understanding why rape happens. There is no evidence to suggest that there is a cause and effect relationship between the broadcasting of rape scenes and sex crime rates. There is no evidence to suggest that there is a correlation between ‘sexualised’ images – the so-called objectification of women’s bodies and societal disregard for women’s rights. And there is no evidence to suggest that the media i.e. ‘entertainment’ media is the master mind behind this. Given that media effects is a largely discredited form of media analysis, we should take this so-called rape culture with a grain of salt.

Rape culture is about as real as the seven Kingdoms of Westeros. If the press want to make a difference when it comes to sexual assault, perhaps they should start with facts not fiction.

 

The Australian Institute of Criminology 2012, ‘Australian crime: Facts & figures 2012’, Canberra, viewed 25 April 2014, http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/publications/facts/2012/facts12.pdf

GameofThronesScenes 2014, ‘I should have been born a man’, video, taken from the episode ‘Blackwater’, (Season two episode nine) of Game of Thrones, YouTube, January 26, viewed 23 April 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozvHklLLoDI

Garland D 2008, ‘On the concept of moral panic’, Crime, Media, Culture, volume 4, issue 1, p9-30.

#LONG-FORM JOURNALISM IS HERE TO STAY

“Back in the day, we used typewriters to write up our stories. They were printed on this material called paper – a marvellous invention it was. The good thing was, no one could complain about what you had written. Most of them [the readers] just accepted the stuff you fed them.  And don’t get me started on this twittering business. It’s just shameful that us, journos are made more accountable for what we write”.

In case you are confused that was… well we will call him bob. Bobs are of course 50ish plus male, old-timer journalists who complain that social media is allowing audiences to dictate the stories they cover. They also whine about how younger generations’ have limited attention spans which is forcing media organisations to compress the news into short grabs.


(the portrayal of social media in the press which is fueling public anxieties around these new media platforms)

The link between younger demographics and the extinction of long-form journalism is…tenuous at best. In fact, readership of long form journalism is on the rise. This is, in part thanks to companies like Apple with their tablet technology (Rosenstiel, T 2013). In the context of the internet – a wonderful place full of stuff, the demand for long form journalism is even greater because of the ‘cess pool’ of poor quality information swimming around (Carr, D 2013).

 

Let’s take Salon.com (I mentioned this site briefly in a previous post). During the 2000 presidential election, this small online news entity, took on the media establishment criticising their coverage and accused the Republican party of rigging the election to get their man into the Oval Office (Goss, M. B. 2003, p164). How they covered the legal issues surrounding the election was remarkably different in comparison to traditional media. Rather than interspersing quotes from legal experts, Salon devoted much of its politics feature section with “panels of legal experts to give reasonably extensive arguments on the legal dimensions of the disputed election” (Goss, M. B. 2003, p170). Readers were then able to better understand the legal complexities around the election debacle, thus making up their own minds as to whether or not it was rigged.

Salon has also developed a bit of a reputation for its investigative practices. The site has paid particular attention to the suspicious activities of the US armed forces, from racism in the military to off the grid training bases in the Canary Islands.  Like their traditional media rivals, Salon adopts the same investigative practices; such as following up on leaked information, talking to people inside an organisation or government and using ‘under cover’ style techniques to expose corruption. Since its establishment in November 1995, Salon.com has carved out its own brand as an independent, watch dog for digital journalism.

Rosenstiel’s statement; “I believe that what has disrupted us will now begin to save us, the audience will determine the future of news” (2013) rings true. Americans wanted an online, interactive news source and that is what they got – Salon.com. Perhaps there is hope for journalism after all.

BU 2014, NYT’s David Carr on ‘the Future of Journalism’, online video, 6 March, Boston University, viewed 15 April,

Rosenstiel, T 2013, ‘The Future of Journalism: Tom Rosenstiel at TEDxAtlanta’, online video, 28 May, viewed 15 April,

Goss, M. B. 2003, ‘the 2000 US Presidential Election in Salon.com and the Washington Post’, Journalism Studies, volume 4, issue 2, pp163-182.

“IF YOU HAD BEHAVED NICELY THE COMMUNISTS WOULDN’T EXIST”

As a passionate supporter of art, I always have to bite my tongue when some ignorant fool makes an equally ignorant statement about how stupid art is. Usually their uninformed comments are along the lines of, ‘that is so pretentious’ or ‘how is that art?’ I am an eternal optimist and so I would like to think that these perceptions are changing. For the better.

“The contemporary art scene is able to facilitate socially related investigation, indirectly claiming its un-attachedness with commercial interests or ideological agendas, and presenting a concept of documentary and reportage where the evidence of facts is matched by its imaginative re-writing”, (Cramerotti, A 2009, p64).

Cramerotti sums it up quite eloquently. Artists are in many ways, visual journalists. Unlike journalists, artists are not restrained by editors who order them to ‘tone down’ their political commentary. Artists are free to do and say whatever they like without fear of losing their job.

Take Jenny Holzer. One of the most influential American artists of our time. Her ‘ongoing’ 2005 series called ‘redaction paintings’ feature declassified US documents on the so-called ‘War on Terror’ which are silk screened onto canvases (Bailey, R 2012, p145). The series tells a visual story of how a US soldier killed an Iraqi farmer by presenting the documents in sequential order (Bailey, R 2012, p147-149). Holzer’s series was driven by her desire to obtain ‘sensitive’ information about the Iraq war which the public knew little about (Bailey, R 2012, p152). She sourced this information from archives which are designed to preserve historical material which remains hidden in plain sight away from the public’s curious eyes.  This is precisely what journalists do. Or should do. In fact, during this period, journalists were not doing what Holzer was doing. They simply regurgitated the political spin they were being fed by the Bush administration.

 

 

Redaction paintings 2005

JHO_Install_Endgame_SMB_2012_01-800x569

 

Artists are also political commentators, forcing viewers to confront weighty issues. Barbara Kruger’s works are designed to expose the inadequacies of democracy and “the violence of stereotypes in our Western societies” (Oliveira de Balona, A 2009, p753). Kruger’s 2004 series; ‘Prolife for the unborn/Pro-death for the born’ as seen in the picture below is a blatant criticism of the Bush administration’s anti-abortion stance and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The effect is imposing, even overwhelming. Kruger’s fearless criticism of the Bush administration did more for women’s rights than journalism ever could. It is political commentary at its best.

 

‘Prolife for the unborn/Pro-death for the born 2004

tumblr_lbsiniwc761qej7uao1_400

 

Exhibition piece
arts-kruger-boone-392

37faf232100cf5e2d970b6590dd4c13d056af755

 

It is essential, we recognise that contemporary art has an important role in the social fabric of our world. Artists are in many ways, journalists and therefore we need to be taking what they are doing, seriously.

Bailey, R 2012, ‘Unknown Knowns: Jenny Holzer’s redaction paintings and the history of the war on terror’, October Magazine, pp144-161.

Cramerotti, A 2009, ‘When did Aesthetic journalism develop?’, in Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing, Intellect Ltd, Bristol, pp-53-65.

Oliveira de Balona, A 2009, ‘Jam Life into Death the ‘Cold War’ of the Stereotype and the ‘Ethics of Failure’ in the Art of Barbara Kruger’, Third Text, volume 26, issue 6, pp751-761.