20 Feb It’s All About How It’s Framed
I imagine that I am starting to drive my friends crazy by constantly talking about how profoundly frames shape our thinking. This morning my friend Kevin shared an Onion article that hilariously illustrates ways in which unexamined racism shaped our cultural viewpoint 50 years ago. However, at the same time if one steps around the corner and looks at that frame from another point of view it becomes clear that this brilliant send-up of our formerly racist culture unintentionally obscures the present day structural and institutionalized racism in America that sees over 30% of African American men spending time in jail during their lifetimes. I’m no stick in the mud though and I guffawed at the article. However, it also made me sad to think the “we’ve come so far” narrative of this piece allows most people to laugh at this past racist behavior while ignoring the present day racism that should be blindingly clear when they walk out the door, turn on the TV, or simply open their eyes. Peek-a-boo, we are all racist. When we look at the past and pretend that our minds don’t work the same now as they did then; constantly grouping and stereotyping as a means of functioning in a complex world, then we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes ad infinitum.
The next thing I read this morning was a New York Times article that argues that the “naysayers” were wrong about the potential negative impacts of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (the headline reads “Neighbors Predicted Chaos. Now They’re Just Irked”). While this is true to some degree, the framing of this article willfully obscures the fact that the potential negative impacts of the arena was only a small part of the fight against the arena and tower complex in Brooklyn. In fact the fight, as detailed in our film “Battle For Brooklyn”, was really about the government and their business partners Forest City Ratner completely ignoring the rights of the people who lived in the community to have any say in what might happen in that community. Further, the fight was about a huge government giveaway of valuable land (which was seized from the owners via eminent domain, and given at below market value to the developer in the case of the MTA railyards). The fight was about the same kind of kleptocracy that gave birth to the occupy movement. Viewed through the frame of this article, the “naysayers” were a bunch of nimby fools who misguidedly didn’t trust the government or business people to do things correctly. Surprisingly, NPR ran a similar 8-minute piece last night on the radio. It is certainly an odd coincidence that two of the most powerful mainstream liberal media organizations in the country reported strikingly similar pieces that supported the PR mantra of the developer within hours of each other. These pieces obscured the blindingly corrupt process that led to the structures existence. Who wants to guess that the Mike Pesca (npr) and Joseph Berger (NYT) had dealings with the good folks at Dan Klores Communications as they prepared their pieces? This is not to argue that these journalists are lackeys reporting what they are told to report by their corporate overlords. However, both of these articles report what the PR team wants reported, and ignore the more profoundly corrupt realities of the situation. I would argue that a press system that gives great weight and importance to the information that comes through the complex web of pr representatives are influenced by that information. They report what they are assigned to report, and these assignments are often led by “news events”. In this case I imagine that the fact that the Mayor gave his state of the city address at Barclays Center to highlight it as a success, paved the way for these articles. That’s not news. The news stands behind the frame and around the frame and it is consistently reported by Norman Oder but ignored by “the media”.