Monthly Archives: August 2012

Distortion and Amplification of reports by the media can lead to moral panic

Racism when reinforced by the negative media can cause moral panic in people. Moral panic is being defined by Stanley Cohen (1987), as a sporadic episode that occurs and subjects the society to bouts of moral panic, or in other terms, worry about the values and principles that society upholds which may be in jeopardy. In simpler words, it occurs when a certain individual or groups of people emerge to be considered as a threat to society’s values and interests.

Moral panic is induced when media highlights the ethnic group or race of the individuals involved in the story and distorts the facts.When the public wants to know what really happened, one tend to look primarily at the local media and the articles that were written shortly after the incident. Due to lack of time, these articles often failed to provide an incomplete story for the audiences and oftenly leave out important facts. An example would be the  Trayvon Martin case. The media reported that George Zimmerman, a white man and member of the neighborhood-watch, called 911 and shot an unarmed black man shortly afterwards without any valid reason, and was released after he claimed it was in the name of self-defence. Racial dimension was created when the broadcasting media mistakenly identified the shooter as white when George Zimmerman is actually of mixed Hispanic descent. The circulated photos of Zimmerman online has also been edited extensively by the various media groups and on all of them he is supposed to look a little whiter, to give the create and reinforce the impression that the attacker is a white man. The public was further mislead when the later media chose to miss out the fact that there was a scuffle and wrote that “The teenager was walking home from a convenience store, where he bought iced tea and Skittles, when he was shot once in the chest.”  The false media again reinforced the image of black people as victims and the typical white man as the attacker. This is also linked back to the Agenda Setting Theory as the powerful media is used to filter information and distort truth, thus the public tend to perceived certain issues as more important than the other issues because media concentrate only on the few subjects they want you to see, in this case, a white man shooting a black man.

Compares the contrast and colours of photo that was being circulated online.

Compares the contrast and colours of photo that was being circulated online.

Justice for Trayvon placards are carried by protesters during a march

The above example has demonstrated how powerful the media can be in framing situations and suggesting them to be racially linked which will results in triggering a series of tragic events involving the community who are mislead by the distorted reports and in reality know nothing of the whole story.

Word Count: 462


Cohen, Stanley (1972): Folk Devils and Moral Panics London: MacGibbon and Kee

USA: The Story Behind a “Racist Murder”


Media’s normalization of racism

Racism is being exercised constantly by mass media which might influence the audience’s way of stereotyping groups and also give them the impression that racism is common and normalized. In this post, we look the examples of racism media that portrays a specific group in a negative light and how it can result in creating anxiety against a specific group of people.

Research in UK shows that leading stories and editorials of tabloids, such as The Sun and The Daily Mail in the UK, have contributed in generating resentment against those non-European immigrants with issues like unemployment, lack of housing, crime, drugs, and even terrorism (Teun A., 1995).

Movies and television programs which are more popular with the younger generation also contain racist context. Below are some extracts from television programs or movies that contain racist content.

A compilation of TV racist moment on american television.

“The Birth of a Nation”(1915) has been well known to be truly a product of its time of racial injustice, right down to the use of white actors donning black-face makeup to portraying black characters as buffoons whose only goals in life are to try and sleep with white ladies.

Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom” (1984) portray Hindus as evil, human-sacrificing psychos.

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Teun A. van Dijk, (1995) The Mass Media Today. Discourses of domination or diversity? Javnost/The Public (Ljubljana), 2(2), 1995, 27-45.

The 50 Most Racist Movies

Media effect on people – Stereotype

One of the most common causes of racism is stereotypes. Through all the sources of mass media such as television, radio, the internet, music, book and other like. The potential for stereotypes to build are of a definite possibility when a person, especially one that is very young, is exposed to stereotypes of a specific group for the first time, then that person will assume all are that way. Likewise, when a source is constantly displaying negative things about a particular race, then that will affect the overall opinions as well. This is also inline with the media representation theory which state that media tend to only project one version of reality, not reality itself and how a particular group of people or person identities are being presented to the audience.

An example of typical stereotypes in the America: Asian Americans Stereotypes

Very often, the media depicts Asians Americans college students as academic overachiever, nerdy individuals with poor social and communication skills. Studies suggest that this perception affect their interactions with peers as non-Asian college students are least likely to initiate friendship with Asian students during initial encounters(Zhang, Q., 2010). Therefore Asian Americans are more likely to be neglected by the majority. Asian Americans are also typically portrayed as hardworking, technologically savvy, diligent and law-abiding. Examples of this stereotype can be seen in the characters portrayed by George Huang in Law & Order: SVUCristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy, and Archie Kao in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The image of Asian Americans as a role model make other racial groups look inferior. As a result, Asian Americans might be more prone to  social problems such as discrimination, racial harassment and hate crime than other ethnic groups. This could also have psychological, emotional, and social impact on them, such as studying harder and longer, foregoing social life, bearing loneliness and isolation, and experiencing depression and stress.

Photograph showing a guy with an oriental mask(depicting Asians), alone in a dark room, doing double the work on the laptops.

The Asian American stereotypes example demonstrated the effect the media has  on influencing a person’s mind and their perceptions of the different groups of people.

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Stereotypical thinking causes racist results

Zhang, Q. (2010). Asian Americans beyond the model minority stereotype: The nerdy and the left out. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 3, 20-37.


A little racist humour to start the ball rolling.

Racism in the early 20th century was largely between the blacks and whites in America, but today it has evolved and expanded among many different cultures in countries throughout the world.

Racism is being defined as the prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief. It is a common phenomenal happening around the globe. The problems that arises from racism can be catastrophic. Take Rwanda Genocide for example, more that 800,000 were killed as a result of severe racial dispute.

In the 21st century, mass media plays a significant role in keeping people well informed. Through various mediums of media, be it newspaper, radio, television, magazines or internet, we are able to communicate with huge number of people. There is no doubt to the impact that mass media has on the society. It can change opinions because people are constantly exposed to numerous kind of mass media in their daily life and this gives it a lot of influence over the population. This influence can either be constructively used by educating the people positively or it can be used destructively by misleading the innocent people, causing negative impacts.

Racism is a daily occurrence. In the upcoming posts, we shall look deeper into of the media in racism; examine the examples of racism media, how audience are affected by the media they consumed, how the role of  negative media can contribute to creating stereotyping, which can contribute to social disharmony and generate moral panic in the society.

Word Count: 212


Rwanda: How the genocide happened