Whether we believe it or not, we’re all conditioned by the information we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Today we trust technology more than ever, relying on our GPS, smartphone calendars, and virtual check deposits to keep ourselves on track. Then there are institutions such as school and work that we also receive information from, that can shape us as individuals. But there is one institution that we never graduate or move on from other than life, and that is the media. I call the media an institution because by definition, it is a society organized for educational and social purposes, and to a lot of people in today’s age, is their primary source. Over time people have equated the popularity or success of a company with reliability, and though this can be true, this kind of thinking can, most times, be misleading. Familiar companies such as New York Times, Daily Mail, Tribune Media, and news companies such as Fox, are known as reliable sources, but why? There is a likelihood that the message I am about to convey will blow over your head because I am not widely known, creating an illusion that I am not credible–which is just a psychological result of capitalism. But if you can just open your mind to this, I promise the message I am about to share could make sense regardless if I, Joe Biden, or Rihanna, were to say it.
Let’s talk about Winston Smith. All media corporations have an agenda, whether bad or good. No matter the amount of fans or good reviews, media corporations can and will, produce stories that fulfill their agenda. Even if the information is false. June 3rd, 2021, another Black man, Winston “Boogie” Smith, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by the a U.S. Marshal. The local newspaper, Startribune, released coverage on the event with false statements that created a narrative that Winston was a murder suspect to justify his killing. This led a great number of people in the community to deny that Winston deserved to live. You have to understand how much power one must have to even influence us to believe, as the people, that criminal charges are a valid reason to kill someone. Though it isn’t. And this led me to question, is mainstream media a form of oppression?
Most of us know about the slave ship and The Middle Passage that wiped the ancestors of Black America of its humanity, but no teacher in school told me about Thomas Jefferson’s Anti-Slavery passage being removed from the Declarance of Indepence prior to finalization. To a reader, you’d never know that your leader was actually against the continuation of slavery. And though this was way back in the late 1700’s before the media was even merely like what it is today, the media still works this way today. And I’m not here to blame the people that push publish on articles misinforming the public. Though it is sad, most of them are simply employees, just like us. And to continue, most don’t even know the difference between the truth and a lie themselves. The problem is the agenda. The people at the top of these media corporations have an agenda for society. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have the level of trust they do from its consumers that’ve been consuming loyally for ages. And interestingly enough, the same few people run the majority of these major media companies.
The purpose of media is to control, or if it feels better to hear, we can use the word influence instead. Influence by the manipulation of our emotions to evoke a response or action out of us, such as a TV or radio ad influencing us to spend money when we hear about a product that is said to eliminate a problem we have. Another example is the news, when we hear about violence in a particular area, we may apt to avoid that area. Or when the performatory of Black visibility, such as creating a whole Black Lives Matter column on Netflix in response to injustice, despite having allowed racist content on the platform for years, succeeds in making us feel seen. Or in other words, keeps us consuming as opposed to boycotting. It is all an agenda. I can say confidently that if Black people expressed desire for reparations, no changes would have been made. We are given just enough to silence our cries until the next tragedy happens, where we’re given a little more again.
The day Winston had died things came to light for me. Things no one would want to believe. Things that are hurtful, things that are, frustratingly, above my control. Performativity. Performative acts help no one. Actually, more than just being unhelpful, performative acts in the context of social justice, does great harm. A local, shortly after finding out Winston was dead, went to nearby businesses to seek help. Businesses that had George Floyd art plastered on their walls and portrayed stances in solidarity and allyship, gave that hurting woman the cold shoulder. They called the cops on her and her husband, a Black couple, for asking for help in response to the killing of Black man–by a cop. It is not just ironic. Could you imagine fighting for your last breath, and someone who is more than capable to help you live chooses not to? Worse, could you imagine fighting for your last breath, and someone pretends to call for help when all you need is a hand? How would you feel in that situation? Angry? Resentful? Maybe even worthless? This is Black America. People pretend the necessities needed to sustain Black life are a game. Black life, meaning Black joy, Black freedom, Black success, Black unity, Black empowerment; not Black life as simply a body that breathes, but one that lives. Black stories deserve to be heard and valued, and not just when they go global or make an impact, but because Black lives truly matter.
Black coverage in mainstream media is constantly altered, filtered, and erased for the betterment of these companies’ influence over society. It is a primary factor in why racism still stands today. Mainstream media isn’t headlining the underground work being done to rewrite the narrative that Black hair is unprofessional in the workspace. Or that Black slang isn’t synonymous with uneducated. Or that traditional schools should be held accountable for miseducating the Black communities. Or that Black homeownership is important and redlining is still an issue needing to be solved. These mainstream media platforms aren’t talking about this. The people doing the work in these communities are. These mainstream media platforms glamourize Black trauma and death, black violence and crime. They capitalize off our oppression and clap when it serves them.
Any force that divides a mass group of people is powerful, and will continue to do so with the intention of fulfilling an agenda. I mean really, what reasoning do we truly have in being divided by circumstances we have no control over, such as skin color, our age, gender, the list goes on. There has to be a push of this concept to continue the cycle of this thinking. When the people at the top of the hierarchy and patriarchal systems enforce narratives such as, for example, women should make less than men, we have division. Division isn’t natural, hence why we see and experience so much suffering in response to it. Everything is in the narrative. If you want to believe that mainstream media has no desire in controlling us, abstain from all media for a period of time and feel the difference in your body and within your thoughts, because I am certain they will be different. If the people at the top of the social pyramid wanted unity we would be united. But that would strip them of their influence.
The narrative that Winston “Boogie” Smith was a murder suspect is inaccurate. Winston is said to have been a felon for firearm violation and to have been armed at the time of the event, though they fail to mention the unmarked police vehicles that blocked him in and that none of the police officers had body cameras on. This is what I mean by misinforming the public, it’s not false in the sense that the story came from nowhere and can be easily detected as a lie. But it’s altered in a way that changes the narrative of what really happened. Without full coverage of what happened, you get a distorted image of the situation. Which I assume is the reason there’s no footage of the event. There’s also no footage of the recent event of the white supremacist that drove through a peaceful protest held for Winston, that killed victim, Deona Marie. They use these same tactics time after time again, removing vital components of a story to create a different narrative. The media said he was a murder suspect. The media says he had a gun and fired it from his car, but has no body cam footage, yet the only eye witness said that she saw no gun. It’s the same lack of transparency that George Floyd faced in the media.
Mainstream media looks to “answer” the wrong questions. The questions should be, why did multiple unmarked police vehicles surround one individual? Why were their body cameras not on? Why did someone feel the need to lie about Winston to justify his killing? Why are criminal charges a reason to kill Black men, but de-escalate white men? Why wouldn’t a system supposedly centered around de-escalation know that anyone blocked in by random cars would feel threatened enough to, if they were armed, shoot from their vehicle like they say Winston did? These are questions that are centered around the value of Black life.
If we truly want to win the battle of injustice, if we want to seek the truth, we have to be able to take in the information from the media with a grain of salt. We have to check sourcing, research, and have conversations with people for ourselves. The longer we operate in the mindset that mainstream means credible, the longer we will move in line with the agenda at hand, which ultimately is destruction.
If we can’t look into information circling mainstream media for ourselves now, CGI, or Computer Generated Imagery, which we are exposed to unknowingly now more than ever, can be a dangerous weapon of technology. To keep it simple, it’s a technology that can make something ‘not real’ appear real through graphics, editing, and coding. Here’s a video of Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey seemingly talking in the same room, though they aren’t. It’s CGI. Here is also an example of what I expect to be used as a weapon against Black people in the near future. Fox News published digitally altered photos in the release of coverage regarding the Seattle protest, at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. They even inserted photos from the fires that broke out in the Twin Cities after the George Floyd tragedy in a story of Seattle’s protests headlined “Crazy Town.”
We just have to be intentional. We have to be on our toes. We have to be skeptical. And we have to be curious. As I say all the time, those that know the ways of the human mind are powerful. Reclaim your power.