Indoctrination at Marquette: Communications 167 -- Race and Gender Issues in Mass Media
Following is a short critique from a student in the course.
Given how much Marquette students already pay for tuition, it is a true shame many are forced to take ridiculous cultural sensitivity courses like Comm 167 -- Race and Gender Issues in Mass Media. Communication students are required to either take this course or one of similar content—both which aim to indoctrinate students on the evils of racial stereotyping and white “privilege” in the media. No one denies that racial stereotyping has occurred in the media, but this course takes aim at people typically ridiculed by the academic left – white, free market, capitalists.A careful examination of the course syllabus, and the books and videos used in the course shows this analysis to be exactly on target.
The course is designed to deconstruct modern media in light of corporate interests that are often demonized as selfish and insensitive to “minority” interests. The class is structured into mainly in three parts: videos, lectures, and discussion. Special-interest propaganda videos are shown every 90 minutes class period and take most of class time. Any time that is left is typically lecture by the instructor, who essentially reinforces the ideals propagated in the video. Little room is left for discussion. The biggest problem with the course is a lack of independent thought and actual learning.
Most students sit in class, lapping up what the videos offer and then listen and agree with the instructor. Independent thought is not encouraged. Discussion in class occurs, but only politically correct ideas and comments are welcomed. Most importantly, this course does not teach communication students anything. It is a required seminar that does not edify or improve the skill set of any student. I understand the need for well-rounded and ethically trained professionals. But this course is more politically motivated, and does not offer solutions to the problems it poses. Students would be better served to be required to take a course that might actually be useful and pertinent to their field of study, without the politically-correct propaganda.
The course is dominated by biased videos in every class session, and nothing but politically correct leftist readings are assigned.
We asked the student where any consideration was given to the stereotyping of politically-incorrect groups – groups presumed to have evil attitudes. Specifically, we asked:
Did the course ever deal with:
- Stereotyping of devout and conservative Catholics?
- Stereotyping of fundamentalist Christians?
- Black racism toward whites?
- Feminist stereotyping of men as sexist?
- Stereotyping of Southerners?
- Stereotyping of working class people? (As in “All in the Family” or the movie “Joe”)
- Stereotyping business executives?
There is really the only one exception to your list. To note, big business and corporations were extensively criticized for controlling all media that has such a (in the views of our texts) detrimental affect on society. We often discussed how old, white, men controlled the corporations that owned the media and what is why the media is so inconsiderate of other racial and ethnic groups.In other words, “old white men” who are business executives were constantly stereotyped!
Of course, these old white business executives are the media elite that overwhelming supported Obama. Not only are the mainstream news media composed almost entirely of liberals (by at least a 9 to 1 ratio) but the entertainment elite in Hollywood is a huge cash cow for every liberal candidate and cause.
But in “Communications 167, Race, Gender in Media,” they aren’t sufficiently politically correct.
The readings for the course followed precisely the politically correct template.
Politically Correct Principle 1: Claims of Grievance Are Not to Be Questioned
Politically correct people are rigidly opposed to critically examining any claim of grievance.
One is never allowed to ask “is this really a bad thing, or are activists going bonkers over something trivial?” Nothing in the reading assignments or the videos shown in the class encourages any student to ask this question.
Consider, for example, the Frito Bandito, used to advertise the corn chips in the late 60s and early 70s. In the course text Racism, Sexism, and the Media (Third Edition), it is noted that the ads used “visual and language stereotypes” and that “Latino activists” protested the ads (p. 147).
Was this really a demeaning stereotype? Does presenting Robin Hood with an English accent demean the English? Given the tendency, in many cultures, to romanticize bandits and robbers like Robin Hood, Jesse James and Bonny and Clyde, it’s hard to see how this was something to get upset about.
But such critical analysis is not encouraged in Communications 167. Indeed, the instructor, Prof. Ana Garner, admits it is “rare.”
Likewise, on the following page of the text (148), it is claimed that “advertisers have also used images of Asian Pacific Americans that cater to the fears and stereotypes of White America.” The example given is a “Got Milk” ad showing Asian American actress Zhang Ziyi slicing a milk bottle in two with a karate chop. Is this really offensive?
From a feminist standpoint, one could claim that showing a strong female martial arts persona is a good thing. And of course, these stereotyped Asian martial arts characters are the heros of a vast number of movies. Is this stereotyping? Yes. Is it oppressive? Only if one believes that anything related to cultural differences has to be sanitized out of media portrayals.
Racism, Sexism, and the Media vigorously opposes the notion that minorities need to assimilate to prevailing U.S. cultural patterns. But then it seems to insist that any portrayal of cultural differences is evil “stereotyping.”
The attempt to find grievances goes on and on in this tendentious and rigidly politically correct textbook.
On page 199, for example, it shows a Sports Illustrated cover with a gorgeous Latina, and claims “Sixy, Sizzling, Bikini-clad Latinas perpetuate the ‘fiery’ stereotype. . . .” But just how does Sports Illustrated treat gorgeous Anglo women? And is “fiery” (essentially: “passionate”) actually a bad thing? Feminists, of course, slam Sports Illustrated for treating women as “sex objects.” This is doubtless true, but it isn’t a legitimate ethnic grievance, since the magazine is an equal opportunity objectifier.
In this context, the text mentions a 2001 New York Times article (that’s right, the liberal New York Times) written by one Ruth La Ferla (that’s right, an Hispanic writer) titled “Latino Style Is Cool. Oh, All Right: It’s Hot.” This was supposed to be offensive. Latinos are not, apparently, supposed to be presented as distinguishable from Anglos. But then, assimilation is bad in the wacky world of these politically correct ideologues.
Politically Correct Principle 2: Even the Most Benign Things Can Be Made Into a Grievance
The authors point out that “. . . advertisers have actually helped bring recognition to important dates, events, and people in the live of people of color. But advertisers also make culture a commercial commodity by piggybacking their advertising on the recognition of such events, leaders, and heroes. People or actions that in their time represented protests against slavery, oppression, and discrimination are now used to sell products.” (p. 166)
And why not? Advertisers are happy to latch onto any holiday to try to sell products. Given the orgy of commercialism that Christmas is, should one get upset if some advertiser uses a Martin Luther King theme in an ad?
Politically Correct Principle 3: Never Question the Activists
There is never any shortage of claims of grievance from activists who claim to represent this or that victim group. But of course, quite frequently the activists don’t represent whom they claim to represent.
The clearest example of this is the use of American Indian nicknames for athletic teams. The authors of Racism, Sexism, and the Media lament that “Native Americans and others have long protested the marketing of these racial team names and images. . . .” (p. 148)
But in this case, polling of actual American Indians (not the grievance mongering activists) has been done, and it seems that rank-and-file American Indians see nothing wrong with Indian team names. A national survey commissioned by Sports Illustrated found that 81% of Indians opposed high schools and colleges dropping Indian team names (S. L. Price, “The Indian Wars,” Sports Illustrated, March 2, 2002). And 90% of American Indians in a University of Pennsylvania poll had no objection to the team name “Redskins.”
Of course, nothing in the textbook nor other course material raises questions like this. If ethnic activists have a grievance, you are supposed to accept it at face value. Don’t ask whether rank-and-file Hispanics really minded the Frito Bandito or whether Latina women object to being portrayed as “hot.”
Politically Correct Principle 4: Distort Facts if Necessary
Distorting media content to fit the standard grievance template is standard in courses like this, since getting the facts straight might water down the politically correct message. When the text takes out after “Gone With the Wind” it claims that “Blacks played the happy, faithful, and sometimes lazy slaves.” Further, under a photo from the movie, it claims that “Hollywood usually depicted Black slaves as being delighted with their servile roles.” (pp. 80-82).
But in fact, when Scarlet returns to Tara from Atlanta, she finds all the slaves besides the house servants gone. She asks “Where are the other servants, Mammie?” The reply: “Miss Scarlet, there’s only me and Paul left. The others moved off during the war and ran away.”
And Mammie, rather than being some sort of inferior person, is described by Rhett Butler as “one of the few people whose respect I’d like to have.”
It’s most certainly true that Mammie is faithful (this is supposed to be bad?). It’s also the case that she is perhaps the most formidable character in the film. Especially when most of the whites in the film (and some of the blacks) are airheads.
Politically Correct Principle 5: You Can Interpret Everything Two Different Ways
While we are discussing “Gone With the Wind,” we might note that racial political correctness is not the only way to approach it. A volume titled Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies (Henry Holt, 1995), analyzes the movie from the standpoint of gender political correctness (rather than racial political correctness) and lauds it, since Scarlet O’Hara is portrayed as a “strong woman!” But in a text whose theme is that minorities are always the victims of the media, this interpretation doesn’t fit.
Politically Correct Principle 6: It’s Fine to Stereotype Politically Incorrect Groups
As we have discussed above, no objection is raised in the course to stereotyping politically incorrect groups – groups presumed to have bad political opinions. The text Racism, Sexism, and the Media explicitly discusses “All In the Family,” and offers a lengthy treatment of whether it “reduced prejudice,” but says nothing about what should be the most obvious thing about the show: it was a vicious stereotype of a working class man.
Politically Correct Principle 7: The Victim Groups Keep Changing
Sometimes groups can be politically correct victims, but lose that status when they become stereotyped as having the wrong political views. There is absolutely no mention in Racism, Sexism, and the Media of Catholics as victims of stereotyping, nor of Jews. But both groups have been victims of discrimination, sometimes severe. (In the case of the Holocaust, as severe as one can imagine.)
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Catholics have lost their victim status because they are stereotyped as opposing abortion and gay marriage, and Jews because they are stereotyped as supporting Israel. One could claim, of course, that both groups have done well in American society, and thus no longer qualify for victim status. But Racism, Sexism, and the Media treats Asians as victims, in spite of their success and prosperity.
Politically Correct Principle 8: It’s Alright to Stereotype, if it Serves Our Political Agenda
The authors complain that “The media coverage of people of color has often focused on the bizarre or unusual elements of minority communities, such as youth gangs, illegal immigration, or interracial violence . . . . resulted in a new stereotype of racial minorities as problem people.” (p. 29)
Another book assigned for the course (Gender, Race, and Class in Media, Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. 2nd ed) claims “every word and image of such programmes are impregnated with unconscious racism because they are all predicated on the unstated and unrecognized assumption that the blacks are the source of the problem.”
But politically correct people are fine with discussing pathologies in the black inner city, so long as they can use such rhetoric to promote their agenda. They are happy to recite a dire litany of problems so long as the “solution” is more spending on government programs, more affirmative action and (absurdly) more lenient treatment of criminals.
But when this intense coverage leads to politically incorrect ideas – questioning whether social programs have done much good, or whether blacks themselves ought to act more responsibly – all of a sudden we have racist stereotyping going on.
It Gets Really Bizarre
The last book we mentioned, (Gender, Race, and Class in Media, Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. 2nd ed) is even further out than other course material. For example, one of the authors is a hard-left Marxist named Stuart Hall.
And then there is Kristal Brent Zook, whose claim to fame is writing three sympathetic articles about the “victim” in the Duke Lacrosse rape case. In fact, of course, the “victim” was a slut who was mentally disturbed and lied to police and prosecutors.
The rhetoric here is the dense and arcane babble of the academic hard-left, such as:
“As the negative of the denigrating [minority] images sketched above, there emerges a top-dog position, whose profile is approximately as follows: white, western, civilized, male, adult, urban, middle-class, heterosexual, and so on. It is this profile that has monopolized the definition of humanity in mainstream western imagery. It is a programme of fear for the rest of the world population” (Jan Nederveen Pieterse – “White Negroes” p. 114).And of course, an author who blames black sexism on whites:
“The assertion of black male subjectivity achieves its most problematic manifestation over the bodies of women. In order to understand this phenomenon, we first must think about black masculinity in relation to white masculinity. It is, in fact, a sense of powerlessness in the face of white masculinity, and the fear of being pimped at the hands of the wealthy white recording moguls, that guides the hyper-masculinist moment, and the heterosexist moment as racial anxiety is articulated through a patriarchal lens when fear of being ‘bitched’ finds artistic expression.” (Imani Perry – “Who(se) Am I? The Identity and Image of Women in Hip-Hop”)
Barbie a Lesbian?
An almost comedic essay in the Dines and Humez text deals with Barbie. Oddly, it had both good and bad things to say.
It notes the “heterosexualization” of young females, who from junior high on are taught to place “a boy or young man at the center of their lives.” But on the other hand many features of Barbie render her sexuality ambiguous and allow her to bridge the world of “lesbigay sexualities” with the world in which “heterocentrism and heterosexism prevail in no uncertain terms.” Further, this ambiguous sexuality allows “room for ‘queer’ interpretations” a further step in “mass culture’s power to define, commodify, and mutate sexual identity.” (Mary F. Rogers – “Hetero Barbie?”)
We bet you never thought of that!
We haven’t even gotten around to describing the videos that students are required to watch – videos that occupy the majority of class time. They are, without exception, on the same wavelength as the readings.
Ana Gartner Responds
Prof. Ana Gartner kindly returned our phone call, and was willing to discuss the points we have raised.
She insisted that in class she does talk about stereotyping of working class whites. She did not remember talking about bias against Southerners, and when asked whether she talks about bias against conservative Catholics, she insisted course activities “don’t talk about religion.”
She insisted she talks about “stereotyping of both genders,” but also admitted that she talks about the white male ownership of the media, because it’s “relevant.” We asked her about the liberal politics of the media elite, and she insisted that’s often not relevant, since the media are “market driven.”
Of course, if this is true, the race and gender of the owners is irrelevant.
We asked her whether black prejudice against whites is ever discussed. She said it is “some semesters.” She said she “can’t say” whether there is more prejudice against blacks than against whites in the media. She insisted that students “do argue that” when we asked whether a student might ever question the offensiveness of the Frito Bandito or the stereotype of a “hot Latina.”
Gartner explained for us her ideas about how various groups might be complicit in their own “subordination.” She gave the example of the “Dating Game” with “one guy and all these women making fools of themselves.” She would not commit herself on whether men “make fools of themselves” in the media more often than women. But if she really believes that the media “subordinate” women, her answer should have been “yes.”
She pointed out that students do their own projects, analyzing media, based on the readings they have been assigned. She insisted that “readings are designed to promote discussion.” I asked how often they come back with conclusions contrary to the “minorities as victims” thrust of their readings. Her answer: “Frankly, not very often.”
She claimed “I don’t go into this class purporting one view over the other.” This, unfortunately, is hard to square with the content of the textbooks and videos used in the course.
Garner is doubtless sincere when she claims to want to “promote discussion” and that various views are welcome in her class.
The problem is that the content of the course is so badly stacked that students apparently do what students are prone to do: play the game the way the professor wants it played, and not make waves. The net result is stifling orthodoxy, whatever Garner’s intentions.