Power, Spectacle and Memory
Why are there high levels of inaccuracies in social media about the Ferguson shooting?
My aim is to analyze and criticize the way social media affects youth culture and the whole world in terms of ideology, historical, social culture and how it creates meaning and control under the terms of memory, power and spectacle.
One could argue that the Internet is a place where every one has an opinion and can express them selves and share with the whole world.
Although memory can be created in different ways, technology has enabled us to store memory almost anywhere. For example. When parents take pictures of their kids, they create a memory of that particular moment, representing what you were doing and where you were. As you look at these pictures when you are grown up, they bring back those memories.
Technology has introduced different ways in which we save and store memory. For example through the use of calendars, not books, reminders, Music libraries, emails and Facebook. Etcetera. The interesting thing is when creating memory on our own, we choose or focus on people, dates, places and objects we keep or we remember because we are in control. Some things we choose to ignore and some we chose to save depending on what other people might think.
These days social media plays a major role in the lives of young people and affects the way we communicate with each other because we waste a lot of time on sites like, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. This has created different attitudes that structure the way we behave i.e. we are no longer connected and the way of communication has changed and that affects the relationships we have with our families and every one in our lives. The only positive thing about social network is that we can use it to reach a wide range of audiences around the world from a click of a button.
Back to the subject, I remember my friends and me watched the short video of what led to the shooting of Michael brown and our discussions became heated trying to figure out what each of us would have done if we were in the same position. We did have diametrically opposed opinions when it came to whether Michael Brown should have run a way to safety or if he should have stopped, which he did but still got shot in the head.
I would make my points and my friends would offer their counter points and the cycle continued. Even though we never came to a conclusion, we had a respectful debate but we felt energized and empowered to believe what each of us believed while empathizing with those who felt differently.
Even though the issues were spoken about thoughtfully, I learned from my friends and they learned from me as well. If this discussion had happened on social media, it would have been different. Although we all new each other between friends they would be still an open minded discussion but it wont stop other people from nose-diving into the conversation. This happens a lot on social media networks because often people post comments that distract others from the real issues at hand.
On social networks every viral phenomenon or human-interest story is quickly and harshly judged by the masses. Strangers will attack other strangers with drive by insults and not so clever memes to argue their points and after the vitriol is spilled and social networks have shared and retweeted, the angry mob forgets all about it and moves onto another shiny object trending in the newsfeed, for example the pictures of Kim Kardashian. Therefore no lessons are learned very little thoughtful dialogue occurs. This also applies to memory, as a theory, where those who control the discourse can dictate what memories survive and which ones don’t.
These days it’s easy to park in front of our laptops and gadgets to engage with strangers in real life, social media has created a “Now” environment. An environment ruled by hash tags, anonymous bullies and a shoot first ask questions later “mentality.” What happened to the powerful conversations when people discussed issues and ideas instead of posting comments on networks with no solutions?
When I analyze the Ferguson Missouri trial, where the grand Jury decided that there will be no indictment for police officer Darren Willson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, despite the pleas for peace from president Barack Obama and the victim’s family, looting and rioting ruled the night in Ferguson as people offered their thoughts about the case on social media. The fact that the police was well prepared even though they didn’t know the result from the grand jury indicates that they expected something to happen. Chief Dodson said they expected a reaction well before the decision was made, so they had to prepare the police for the rioting and this is because of social media, where people post things and the government uses it to predict up coming events such as this.
According to Foucault, it is through knowledge that we are formed as a subject. Discourse produces and exercises power, which delimits what we can think, say or do and what we cannot. Discourses are systems of thought or sets of knowledge that produce how we think about and understand subjects which form a system of thought that determines what could be said, who could speak, the position from which they could speak, the viewpoints that could be presented and interests. (Motion Leitch 2007:263-4)
Stuart Hall argues that, cultural studies show that racial slurs and insults trip easily from people’s lips. More and more it seems the dividing lines within our societies are being drawn on how we are physically different. Race is one of those major concepts that organize the great classificatory systems of differences, which operate in human societies. These days race is more like a language than it is like the way in which we are biologically constituted. Signifier’s referred to the systems and concepts of a classification of culture to its making meaning and its practices. Therefore skin color is a signifier, which has meaning in particular cultures.
The meaning of skin color is not always the same, it changes with the context because it is relational not essential and can never be finally fixed, but it is also subject to the constant process of redefinition and appropriation. This is why black people, Latin Americans and Asians have come together to revolutionize Statements the white man made such an issue.
All goes back to Foucault “memory is a site of struggle and a discursive tool.”
A system of ordered procedures for the production of regulations, distributions, circulations and operations of statements. As such memory is linked in a circular relation with systems of power, which produce and sustain it, and effects of power, which it induces and extends it.
(Foucault 1996. P.133 cited in Godfrey and Lilley, 2006. P.276)
Discourses produce specific types of knowledge and relations of power. Knowledge is a technique of power over others and to define them. Which brings me to Lynching. This occurred in the United States from the late 18th century to the 1960’s, where people were killed by extrajudicial mob action. Lynching took place most frequently against African Americans, Mexican men and Chinese minorities. The Ku Klux Klan commonly practiced this.
Allow me to relate and illustrate this point by offering my perspective on the Ferguson shooting as an African, it isn’t about rioting, looting or the grand jury verdict, it is about an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that affects many black people, hopelessness can bubble over and become rage. Why don’t we use the evidence of our eyes, if race was such a complicated thing, why would it be manifestly obvious to everywhere we look?
Stuart Hall says race is reality, you can see its effects, you can see it in the faces of people around you and you can see the operation racial discrimination in institutions like the police even the government.
Although that determines who could speak and what could be said, through discourse it creates a system where people tend to be disciplined through self-surveillance like some one is always watching them. It almost feels like a Panopticon or big brother.
I looked at some theories on the non-existence of human races where they discuss and criticize the term race. Race has had a long history of anthropological usage and it can generally be defined as referring to a group of local or breeding populations with in a species.
In contemporary societies we see an increase in diversity of subject positions, social experiences and cultural identities. Which are constantly evolving and changing. I will give an example of a newspaper such as The Sun or Daily mail even The Guardian. The newspaper Editors know exactly to whom they are trying to sell the news and to whom it may interest. When I read Coventry Telegraph compared to other newspapers, information or adverts are published differently from the Guardian, simply because the target audience might be different. For many years, newspapers choose where to put particular adverts or information depending on the target audience, genders, age, class and race. I can relate this to what Foucault says about power, governmentality is the system of techniques and procedures to govern the conduct of both individuals and populations at every level.
Which brings me back to Michael Browns’ case, the media coverage on CNN was different form other news Channels like NBC and BBC. CNN being the biggest corporation, they never mentioned the police officers’ name until days later. Some of the eyewitnesses who had recorded the incident had their phones confiscated by the police because the head of Police in Ferguson wanted to get all information at once under the freedom of information act. This is what’s wrong with the media. Instead of reality we see a false picture. This shows how spectacle can be used as a way of distracting the mass audience from the realities of power. Most of these publishing media companies are controlled by the government of which spectacle possesses all the means to falsify the whole image and perception by mastering the memories and projects that shape the most distant future.
According to Foucault, truth, morality and meaning are created through discourse. Every age has a dominant group of discursive element that people live in unconsciously. Some times we must make allowances for the complex and the unstable process where by discourse can both be an instrument or a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy.
Studies show that there are high levels of inaccuracies in media. Most Americans believe that news organizations don’t get facts right. The press and journalists dwell on stories that are sensational, for example murders, car crashes, kidnappings, sex scandals etcetera because they think these kinds of topics sell the newspapers. While the media is busy covering sensational stories, issues that affect our lives receive less attention. It is very interesting that nonprofit organizations are rated higher than those that are after profit and selling news to the public.
Discourse produces and exercises power. Frequently we value power because it enables us to do things we want to do or have more control in our own lives. This emphasis on power as affecting others has had serious repercussions, using this theory that ‘A has power over B’ was meant in a wide sense. To say that ‘B’ is the object of “A’s power, this explains a lot about the polices’ behavior in Ferguson. The police being ‘A’ and the black community being ‘B’, In this case the police have the ability to harm people and their interests or get them to do things they don’t want to do. What the police are doing here is abusing their power. This has scarcely changed the way every thing we understand as power in social context.
Martin Luther King said as long as black people find them selves living under major depression every city in America will sit on powder cake and can explode over the slightest incident.
He argues that killing is a very tragic way to deal with any social problem and riots are socially distracting and self-defeating. After all black people in the community always end up in jail or on the loosing side. They can’t win a violent revolution. Most of the people killed in riots by police are black people, the only people who end up not being able to provide or support their families. But why is this?
The government is seen in society as an institution of power, but things start to change when citizens start looting and protesting against the decisions made by government. At this point the government looses power because they run according to what the majority of citizens vote for. It is only when the citizen of a particular country stand together and vote for change, then the government gets their attention.
We must realize that the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice can’t be solved with out a radical redistribution of political and economic growth. I believe every man was created in the same way and equally, I don’t think there should be a superior man and a minor man judging from skin color, every one should have equal rights. Martin Luther King saw this way before it happened, which comes back today as we see it on TV. The people of Ferguson looting and rioting, is regrettable and liberal because some people who chose to consider power over others as the only sort of power, which may encourage such distortions. People want justice but Martin Luther King was against rioting and looting because he believed in peaceful protesting. He said ‘you couldn’t find peace in violence.’
All this creates memory, which connects us to a sense of history and continuity. Memory creates a chain of tradition that goes from generation to generation and it brings into existence our sense of identity.
Allow me to give an example of a representation of war movies produced in Hollywood. When I watch some of them, they are about American history on war, it’s almost like a reflection of what happened in most cases what caused the war and there is always a hero who comes and ends the war. This is where I argue that some times what’s worth remembering is controlled by the media and some times defined by social groups.
In most cases the media influences the discourse, they dictate what memories survive and which ones don’t. I guess memory is a process, it is always being constructed and revised based on the present context. This brings me back to what Martin Luther King said about power and control. Which relates to same issues currently going on in Ferguson and other states of America like New York.
This is one of the statements Baudrillard talks about postmodernism, he argues that ‘what we attempt through the process and practices of commemoration and remembrance is not just an investigation of the past, or history but also an effort to correct it.
I will conclude by saying that memory and spectacle are produced through discourse and memory is created by individuals yet dominated by media, but looking at this from an ecological perspective, the interesting thing is that the body, brain and social cultures work together in producing memory. This is made through an on going interaction between the brain, body and social media, which becomes a collective memory.
What happens on social media can be called postmodernism, when it brings an era of pastiche with people obsessed with problems from the past but providing no solutions for them. This is the same thing happening on social media with the Ferguson shooting.
You don’t have to look too far to find other critics of the impact of new technologies in diminishing the human capacity of memory. In the UK, for example, courses and exams for 16-18 year olds require entrance to most UK universities for creating a learn and forget culture.
Bailey, one of the group’s supporters, argues that sitting mathematics A-level exams now are more like using a sat navigator system than reading a map. If you read a map to get from A to B, you remember the route and learn about other things along the way. If you use a sat navigator you do neither of those things.
The sat navigator metaphor is a good example of the tensions rising through social technical practices between human memory and those activities seen as outsourced to digital networks and archives.
The media loves these kinds of topics because they want to see people heated up over the race issue. When I watch Television there is a lot of current issues the media could be focusing more on but they tend to by pass them easily and focus on what’s trending more on social networks. It’s been a minute now we forgot about the Malaysian planes disappearing. This makes me question what the media is not focusing on. Of course I can imagine those in control of these big media institutions like the government chose to distract the public with minor issues yet there are bigger issues that are not being given as much attention as the race topic. I will give an example of the war in Gaza.
In terms of who says what to whom and who has more power, this ideology came from white racist parties who believe some people should dictate and others should follow. The use of technology has made this even worse because people just post comments on internet but don’t have conversations with each other which affects how we create memory, measure our sense of existence in the world and increases the blur with our sense of presence in media culture.
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