The End is Here!

My feelings on writing the last of our sextology of posts (no giggling you there in the back) are mixed. When first given this assignment, I have to admit I was ridiculously excited. I’d always wanted to write a blog, and I knew this would be the push I needed to at least try my hand at the thing. It wasn’t a complete surprise when I loved it, and just further confirmed that I’ve found myself just the right degree.

Many issues we broached, I had already thought about; the effect of the media, media ownership, the truths and deceptions behind and image… but even those I found myself exploring in far greater detail. Those I hadn’t considered, like the effect of the public sphere, were an adventure into the unknown, a chance to consider something new and different.

Today, I find myself humbled. Unbeknownst to me (for who ever realises they’re a bigot, really?) I had a rather dismal view of my generation and our self awareness. I find myself surprised,very pleasantly so, by the depth of thought, debate and understanding I’ve found reading the blogs of my fellow BCMers. Instead of the ignorant, beer-swilling, shit talking juveniles I secretly expected, I found thoughtful, beer-swilling, shit talking adults who know what they’re talking about, have a series interest in our society and the world, and could certainly teach me a thing or two.

To close, though I hope I may post here in the future, I’m indebted to both our lecturer, the lovely Sue, and my Tutor, the ineffable Marion, for widening my horizons, and to you, my fellow classmates, for showing me what an arrogant, ignorant sod I was.

Thank you.

polite-bow

It’s Hard Out Here for a Bitch

If you’re not a size six, then you’re not good looking
Well, you better be rich, or be real good at cooking
You should probably lose some weight ’cause we can’t see your bones
You should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own

Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?”

It’s hard out here for a bitch.

Lilly Allen posted this music video up on the very public sphere of Youtube on the 12th of November ’13. Since then, it’s had 25,265,800 views and 23,922 comments. People are most certainly talking about it.

Pop music, specifically rap, is notorious for objectifying women. It’s also notorious for throwing controversial crap in our faces for the hits. Now, I’m not saying this isn’t the latter, but it certainly isn’t the former. ‘It’s Hard Out Here’ is a comment on the social pressures women face to be slim, to look good, to be that 1950s meek housewife… and to shake your ass while you’re at it. By parodying misogynistic music videos *cough*Blurred Lines*cough* Allens quite literally shoves the sexism that’s rampant in the industry in your face, all the while denouncing it vehemently in her lyrics. The juxtaposition is poignant I find, and the English Telegraph agrees:

“Then there’s the controversy over another song from the album, Hard Out Here, a witty jibe at the objectification of women, not least in the music business had commentators agonising over definitions of feminism, and whether by employing the devices she was purporting to attack Allen was actually having her cake and twerking it.” — Mick Brown, The Telegraph

If nothing else, Allen is prompting debate about a very serious issue, and one that is close to my heart. Feminism is almost a dirty word in our western society, associated with misandronist, bra-burning harpies, and that’s something that has to change. Shaming women for standing up for themselves and refusing to be second-rate citizens is just another cruel facet of a patriarchal society that cannot continue in a democratic society. Allen is a brave — and loud — voice in the public sphere, who refuses to silenced by ‘haters’ and sexist bigots who try to silence her.

Personally, I applaud Ms Allen’s comment on the state of women’s rights in the music industry, and wish her all the best with her two kids and loving husband.

We Own You

Media Moguls and Their Villainous Plans for Us
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When looking at ownership of media in Australia, it’s easy to see the trends. A select few hold the reigns of almost all main-stream media outlets; Fairfax and Newscorp between them own 11 out of 12 capital city newspapers in our nation. But why is this a problem?

The Australian situation has much to do with the historic domination of the Australian media by the three media dynasties of Packer, Fairfax and Murdoch. All three asserted their private commercial and political interests strongly, and used proprietorial influence in ways that flouted journalistic and editorial independence.” – From Media Moguls to Money Men Pusey, Michael, McCutcheon, Marion

So it’s official; the news is being influenced by a couple of very rich people with very large agendas. But what does that mean for the everyday Australian?

In my previous post, I spoke about the Media Effects Model and the flaws inherent in the study. I was vehement in my protestations that people can think for themselves; that we are not mindless lemmings but thinking, feeling, debating human beings. It would be hypocritical to refute that now, so I won’t; The media does not control us.

It is, however, a very large part of how we obtain information. Would any of us have known that a plane flying from Malaysia had gone missing under mysterious circumstances if we hadn’t seen it on the news, or read it on Twitter, or read it in the newspaper? No.

Regrettably, our species is neither omniscient nor do we operate under some kind of global hive-mind. We need the media, or more specifically, the men and women behind the media who go out and discover news, to inform us of what is going on in our world. The problem, then, is not with the media itself, but with the options granted to us for discovering news. If your only options are to read The Australian or be ignorant, reading The Australian is most certainly the lesser evil…  but if that one newspaper is all you’ve got, you have no choice but to take what it publishes as kosher. This is where the problem originates.

Dictionary.com describes Truth as: a verified or indisputable fact, proposition or principle.

Unfortunately, this is not always represented in mainstream media articles. The News has become a chimera of opinion, agenda, fact, and wishful thinking. No one channel, newspaper or website can be taken as completely true and indisputably right. We need many sources, a wide variety of origins, to gather information and discern the truth.

When huge media organisations like Fairfax or Newscorp dominate the industry, they remove our ability to fact check, and instead attempt to spoon-feed us a pre-conceived view of the world that suits them. They take away our ability to discover the truth for ourselves, crush smaller competition that attempts to give us that opportunity, and shape the future of news and journalism in our country to their image.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

 

Secrets of an Image

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9/11 2001, New York City Thomas Hoepker.

First, the Denotations: Five young people lounge, apparently relaxed, chilling out by the harbour… as their city burns behind them.

Thomas Hoepker took this photo on the day the twin towers were struck.This scene is what he saw as he drove toward the Towers, taken in a moment that Hoepker speaks about with no little confusion in an article he wrote for Slate.com:

“How could this group of cool-looking young people sit there so relaxed and seemingly untouched by the mother of all catastrophes which unfolded in the background? Was this the callousness of a generation, which had seen too much CNN and too many horror movies? Or was it just the devious lie of a snapshot, which ignored the seconds before and after I had clicked the shutter? How would I have looked on that day to a distanced observer? Probably like a coldhearted reporter, geared to shoot the pictures of his life. I just remember that I was in shock, confused, scared, disoriented, and emotional, but trying hard to stay focused on getting my snaps.”

He did not publish this image for another four and a half years. When he did, the public outcry was enormous and immediate. The response, however, was varied.

Frank Rich of the New York Times said this;

“What he caught was this: Traumatic as the attack on America was, 9/11 would recede quickly for many. The young people in Mr. Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous. They’re just American.”

But are these the true feelings, the true meaning behind this image? Are these people, the audience, reading the signified meaning behind this image right?

“The subjects are obviously engaged with each other, and they’re almost certainly discussing the horrific event unfolding behind them. They have looked away from the towers for a moment not because they’re bored with 9/11, but because they’re citizens participating in the most important act in a democracy—civic debate.” – Says David Plotts on another article for Slate

One of the subjects themselves, Walter Sipser has given his own voice to this controversy in an email to the editors of Slate:

“We were in a profound state of shock and disbelief. Had Hoepker walked fifty feet over to introduce himself he would have discovered a bunch of New Yorkers in the middle of an animated discussion about what had just happened. He instead chose to publish the photograph that allowed him to draw the conclusions he wished to draw. “

An image does not lie… but it can be misinterpreted. Just as one person can look at a piece of art and see a mess of paint, while another will see a masterpiece, perception, and connotation, is everything. These people were not the callous, uncaring youths the photo made them out to be, but normal people, heartbroken, in shock, trying to understand by engaging in  the most defining of human abilities — discussion. Not even the photographer, who took this image, truly understood the connotations of what he had captured.

 

Social Issues; Is the Media or Society to blame?

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The Media is blamed for a lot these days. Crime rates, teen pregnancy, adultery, eating disorders, obesity, failing political campaigns, violence in children… the list goes on. But while the media makes an easy target, is it just being used as a scapegoat for more serious underlying issues?

All of the listed above are real issues, there’s no question of that. The debate then, is not about the validity of voiced concerns, but of the effect of the media on these problems.

There is no doubt that the media influences us in our day to day lives. The question then, is to what degree?

Decades of research has gone into this very question. From the dawn of mass media, intellectuals and your average layman alike have been biting their fingernails wondering exactly how much control the media has over our thoughts and decisions. This research seems to have been in vain, however, for we still have very little concrete evidence about the exact effects of subscribing to mass media.

As David Gauntlett expounds on in his article “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’”, most of said research has looked at the relationship between content and viewer in a very linear, over-simplistic way that completely ignores the fact that humans can, and indeed do, think for themselves. We are not computers, accepting all input as fact and spewing forth a ream of actions and reactions like lines of code in response to the presses of a few keys.

In oversimplifying our thought process to a ludicrous ‘input-output’ construct, we completely remove the human element, the very variable said research is attempting to understand.

The truth is, each person will react differently to a news article or story. Our own experiences and values shade and shape what we see and hear. No doubt, there are those out there who will take a favoured news channel’s reports as gospel, but just as certainly, there will be those who disregard exactly the same report with just as little perceived basis in independent fact.

The media cannot be held wholly responsible for the reactions to its content; though it does have a responsibility to report information as close to the truth as possible. Each person’s truth is different, and we are each morally obliged to consider information from as unbiased a platform as we can manage.

My conclusion, then, is this;

Yes, the media holds some responsibility for what it chooses to portray on our screens and in our newspapers. It is the conduit of information in our time, and without it we would be very ignorant indeed. Some social problems can be laid at its proverbial door, but at the same time, even the most money-grubbing gossip rag will report that which sells the most; what people will buy.

Society too, then, holds some responsibility. The media would not be what it is today without social perceptions and trends to shape it. There is no news without someone to read and respond to it.

We are left with a vicious cycle of representation and consumption, with neither side wholly responsible nor blameless, in which the only solution is to tackle both halves of the problem with equal determination.

The problem is not society or the mass media; it is both.

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That obligatory introduction Post

So here we are, me and my blog, starting out all on our own… with two hundred odd eyes scrutinizing our every move. No pressure.

I’ve decided not to prattle on and on. Nay, that would be boring, and there are 199 other blogs to go explore, so why on earth do I want to be sitting here typing to myself. Instead, I’ll explain the name of my blog.

The First Ripple.

I operate under the optimistic and perhaps naive assumption and belief that one person can change the world. Sounds a bit ludicrous no? I tend to disagree. You see, people in general are like a pond — bear with me here — in that they effect each other, especially over social media, in ripples. A drop in the pond causes ripples that spread in ever expanding waves until the whole bloody surface is rocking and shuddering and generally out of sorts.

Now, I did promise not to prattle, so i’ll keep it brief. The glazing over your eyes is beginning to hurt my feelings. Still, think about this.

All it takes is one person, one idea, to change the world as we know it. One person, who tells two, who tell four, who tell eight, who tell sixteen, who tell thirty two, who tell sixty four, who tell one hundred and twenty eight. I know maths is boring, but it’s adding up pretty fast isn’t it?

All it takes is One.

And that One… could be You.