Stereotypes in the media

Does Walter Lipmann’s thinking that “the attempt to see all things freshly and in detail, rather than as types and generalities, is exhausting, and … practically out of the question” have relevance today?

The media in the 21st century, although unquestionably more sensitive towards stereotypes and overall less concerned with them than say in the mid-20th century, has in doing so begun to use an oversimplified way of identifying certain groups of people, without portraying them, as Lipmann would say “freshly and in detail.”

‘Black man shot and killed by policeman as he waited by broken down car’ (referring to the death of Corey Jones, 18/10/2015) is an all too familiar theme in recent news headlines out of the U.S. In many ways this is the most obvious way to report on a tragedy at current given the attention #blacklivesmatter has rightly instigated; an out-dated and yet consistent reason to believe we live in an immoral society… The defence put on by the four white Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney King in 1991 is telling. They claimed that they were scared and felt they might have been attacked or harmed, a legitimate excuse in the white American society. Their “fear” is a manifestation of a deep-rooted media bias that anything black is bad. This media stereotype of bad guys wearing black or that anything that is black is evil has been fostered for decades.

Although it does not seem like it is right around the corner, there will be a day when a person of unspecified ethnicity is killed and the colour of the victims skin doesn’t dominate the aftermath, and instead the media and people in general focus on the individual in a way that Lipmann declared impossible in 1922, the question is when?

Read more on the Corey Jones story here:


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