Issues of Ethnicities and Nationalisms Thesis

Pages: 5 (1575 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism

Anthropology - Ethnicities / Nationalisms

In today's TV cable news programs the lives and activities of people and groups whose ethnicities are different from the mainstream Caucasian culture receive inconsistent and not always accurate coverage. This is an important issue to consider in an anthropology class because approximately 46% of the U.S. population receives news from television (Ostrow, 2008), and an ever-shrinking percentage of people read daily newspapers, the one media source offering in-depth background information on contemporary newsworthy topics.

African-Americans and Muslims are the ethnic groups least likely to receive unbiased coverage from Western news media outlets. In particular, television news coverage of Muslim issues is often tainted with cliched stereotypes and unfair generalizations - due in part to an apparent lack of cultural knowledge by reporters and in part by the built-in post-September 11 biases against Islam. For African-Americans the news media on too many occasions offers inappropriate and/or inaccurate reports that have hurt blacks' racial and cultural image and their desire to be respected as an upwardly mobile cultural group of successful individuals and families.

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Course Theory Embraced in this Paper: One of the subjects discussed in class that struck a chord in terms of race and community was Etienne Balibar's essay on "Fictive Ethnicity and Ideal Nation." On pages 167-168 the author discusses the "unity of race" in terms of "the origin or cause of the historical unity of a people." The creation of a generalized race of people can lead though to the dissolving of "social inequalities" (Balibar, 167). The author calls it "ethnicization" when all members of a given race are "transferred to the threshold of nationality"; moreover, when individuals are seen as "belonging to the same people" because they share the same racial and/or nationality the danger exists that there will be unjustified generalizations presented in the media.

Thesis on Issues of Ethnicities and Nationalisms Assignment

Body: That having been said, there is one cable news network that puts its best journalistic foot forward when it comes to presenting thorough and timely news and information relating to cultural and racial issues surrounding Muslims and African-Americans. That network is CNN. Though CNN is certainly not always correct in its presentation of racial and cultural matters vis-a-vis blacks and Muslims, but it gives the impression of trying to be fair. Indeed CNN is the obvious leader when it comes to reaching out to racial groups by digging deeper than the platitudinous "sound bites" and by presenting intelligent discussion with reasonably well informed "talking heads" on CNN's interview show the network shows its objectivity and professionalism.

As to blacks in particular, when it comes to honest and journalistically credible reports on the lives of African-Americans there is no network as thorough as CNN. To wit, CNN recently ran an "encore presentation" on "Black in America: The Black Woman & Family," that originally ran in July 2008. The presentation runs for several hours and also includes a section called "The Black Man." Watching CNN's special on blacks (or reading the copy on their Web site, ( aninterested person learns that in Washington D.C., "...more than 80% of HIV cases are among black people." Another aspect of the HIV problem juxtaposed numbers of infected blacks with Africans: to wit, if black Americans made up their own nation, CNN explains, that nation would rank "...above Ethiopia (420,000 to 1,300,000) and below Ivory Coast (750.000) in HIV population" (CNN, 2009).

Contrasting CNN's coverage of African-Americans with FOX News coverage is like comparing Mother Theresa with Hitler. On FOX's "My Word" the announcer said that "...half of the babies being born in American are minorities; White people are having fewer. To put it bluntly, we need more babies!" ( examples of FOX's biases could be shown but limited space in this piece prevents that.

Regarding CNN's coverage of Muslims, Christiane Amanpour is without doubt the most professional and most unbiased news reporter on cable news outlets. She is Iranian by ethnicity, and has covered wars, genocide, and terrorists' bombings and has won nine Emmy awards in the process. She recently completed a lengthy investigative television special called "God's Warriors," during which she examined - without bias or pretension - the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian perspectives vis-a-vis religion and politics. The special was brilliantly and thoroughly covered - and for those who saw the report clearly saw that just because Osama bin Laden and others in the extremist / terrorist community (like al Queda) follow Islam it doesn't mean that the great majority of Muslims support killing innocent people. The point made earlier in this paper using Balibar's "ethnicization" theory applies here; i.e., when all Arabs (including bin Laden) are seen as "belonging to the same people" because they are Muslim, that becomes the great media fallacy, the easy way out, a path never followed by CNN's Amanpour.

A stay away from commentary and I stay away from ideology..." she says (Goldenberg, 2009). Amanpour also told Goldenberg that she finds offensive "...the highly opinionated, highly ideological [demagoguery]" on cable news programming.

How have Muslims been portrayed by British media following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. In 2001? According to an article in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (Harb, et al., 2006) the British media in general has been, through its biased coverage, "...exacerbating stereotypes" and "reinforcing xenophobic attitudes towards Muslims (Harb, p. 1064). Moreover the media in England has contributed to a "sense of exclusion and marginalization" of the Muslim culture, and this unfair, unbalanced coverage has contributed to a "prevalent belief among British people" that Muslim communities are "essentially patriarchal and sexist."

Moreover, attempts by Muslims to "preserve their culture" in England have been seen as "a threat to traditional British values," Harb writes on page 1063. In England, "Media discourse is the main source of people's knowledge, attitudes and ideologies," Harb explains, using research by Van Dijk (2000: 36). And referencing Wilson and Gutierrez (1995: 14) Harb concludes that "In the absence of alternative portrayals and broadened news coverage, one-sided portrayals...could easily become the reality in the minds of the audience" (Harb. P. 1066). Media have the most profound influence on people's beliefs when they "reinforce rather than attempt to change...opinions" (Harb, p. 1066). So, given that many British citizens already have a negative view of Muslims, news that reinforces those negative views has more power than stories that reveal the real-life experiences of everyday peaceful members of the Islamic faith.

Harb's piece also pointed out that while Islamic people in England generally view Western politicians as "rational actors" they also view the Western mass media as portraying "a latent and more permanent readiness to generate or deepen their audience's fears" (Harb, p. 1067).

In Australia, another Western nation where Muslims believe they are getting a raw deal from the media, there is a tone in "certain media reports" implying that "all Muslims are the same" (Kabir, 2006). This goes back to Balibar's theory; presented in the context of the thesis of this paper, it is fair to say that when individual and innocent Muslims are portrayed by the media as "belonging to the same people" because they share a racial and/or national heritage, they are in fact potential victims of brutally unfair stereotypes. The Kabir article in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs reports that in Australia there is "...A stereotype of hysteria, inherent violence and barbaric practices" being presented against Muslims by the media (Kabir, p. 313). This stereotype is "...deliberately perpetrated, either to marginalize Muslim people as the uncivilized 'Other'...or for purely commercial reasons - sensational stories guarantee higher newspaper sales" (Kabir, p 313). It is easy to use media images to exploit the fear of terrorism within the majority white community, Kabir goes on; and this practice is used to suggest, "all Muslim people approve of terrorist activities" (Kabir, p. 314).… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Issues of Ethnicities and Nationalisms.  (2009, March 9).  Retrieved July 10, 2020, from

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"Issues of Ethnicities and Nationalisms."  March 9, 2009.  Accessed July 10, 2020.