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Dominant Media’s Selective Morality


Some of this blog’s readers may know that I published a piece in Black Commentator last week under the title “Savage Morality: Selective Concern and Dominant Media in an Age of Empire and Inequality (see www.blackcommentator.org/131/131_think_savage_morality.html).

The point of this essay was that United States media authorities make revealing class-, race-, and empire-selective choices in determining what should be on the table of Americans’ moral concern. By the perverse moral calculus of dominant American media, I argued:

* The potential development of a few nuclear weapons by an Arab state trumps Israel’s already massive thermonuclear arsenal as a matter of public concern.

* The death of 1500 U.S. soldier-occupiers in Iraq morally outweighs the demise of 100,000 occupied civilians in the same nation.

* Bill Clinton’s amorous misadventure with Monica Lewinsky was a terrible crime but his murderous missile and bomb attacks on the Sudan and Serbia were reasonable and appropriate.

* Affirmative action in college admissions for historically oppressed people of color is a big concern but Legacy admissions for super-privileged whites (including the former drug offender who currently occupies the oval office) is a minor matter.

* The occasional public racial bigotry of some white personalities is a source of considerable outrage (e.g., the Trent Lott fiasco of late 2002) but deeply entrenched racist social structures, institutions, and values are generally ignored.

* The cost of suburban highway tolls to white commuters is a bigger issue than the enormous public expense and terrible social consequences of the nation’s massive, racially disparate prison-industrial complex.

* The murder of a powerful white federal judge’s mother and husband is a huge public drama but the murders of thousands of poor blacks and Latinos are of slight concern.

* The adulterous behavior of The Boeing Corporation’s CEO is a hot topic but the murderous technology and heavily taxpayer-subsidized super-profits of that CEO’s imperialist “defense” corporation is outside the spectrum of serious ethical inquiry.

I just did a follow up piece titled “Terry Schiavo, 84,000 Black Men, and Dominant Media’s Selective Morality” for the excellent radical newsletter Dissident Voice. This (too-) short essay ads another instructive contrast to the above short catalogue of dominant media’s savagely selective morality: the death of Terry Schiavo versus recent reports showing that unequal health care contributes to more than 100,000 black Americans dying earlier than whites each year (read it at http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Apr05/Street0401.htm). This article also ads some comments on Lawerence Summers (his recent women in science comments versus his 1991 World Bank memo on the under-pollution of the Third World) and the Red Lake high school massacre versus Columbine. It contains some interesting research suggestions for any of you who might have access to Lexus-Nexus.

By the way the first place I saw the phrase “dominant media” was somewhere in the prolific work of left educational writer cultural theorist Henry Giroux. It’s such a better phrase than “mainstream media.” After all, were Soviet state television and press “mainstream”?

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