The Role of Mainstream Media in the Removal of America’s Cognitive Dissonance
I remember where I was the very moment I heard rumblings of the news. I was restless so I did what a techie does when sleep is elusive and the mind stands center stage in a mental 3-ring circus of restless thought. I grabbed my phone and checked my Twitter feed. Someone had been shot in a town called Ferguson, Missouri. He was black. He was male. He died August 9, 2014. It was over a day later so I was sure the mainstream media was covering this travesty. I turned to key cable news channels expecting breaking news. No dice. Surely, the mainstream print media was headlining this story. No dice. It would be social media networks that would break the developments of the case of Michael Brown and surface the horrors of the aftermath.
After months of closely following the fight for justice for the unarmed Michael Brown, I watched in utter disbelief as mainstream media continued to get it wrong. Did he rob a store? What was his temperament as a child? Was he the product of a broken home? The stripping of Brown’s humanity in an onslaught of post-mortem demonization was a theme across most mainstream media outlets. As independent journalists captured livestream actions of weapons of war used against unarmed citizens, the mainstream media continued pressing forward with the dehumanization of an entire community. I decided that the mainstream media was no longer credible and had abandoned all journalist integrity.
What I had not decided was if the abandonment of fair and balanced reporting, as it relates to black and brown lives, was intentional. If I were to believe that the unabashed demonization of black and brown bodies in the mainstream media was intentional, I needed to understand why. I happened upon a video by Dr. Joy DeGruy (an author, lecturer, and consultant in the areas of diversity training, adaptive behavior, and the effects of slavery and institutionalized) titled “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” In the video, Dr. DeGruy eloquently details the psychology of cognitive dissonance as it relates to race relations in America. Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. “The first thing you must do to remove cognitive dissonance is you must justify your behavior.” Dr. DeGruy goes on to say, “The second thing you must do after you have justified your behavior is you have to re-label the people you are oppressing.”
As those droplets of knowledge redefined everything that I had believed about mainstream media, I was resolved to believing that the media was complicit in delivering intentional propaganda to the minds of Americans. The steady and predictable onslaught of subliminal messaging and outright vilifying of black and brown bodies hypnotized Americans into believing that the boogie man was black. Big, black, scary and male. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Subconsciously, fear had been injected into the very fabric of America. This fear, delivered cunningly by trusted sources of news, governs how strangers interact with one another. The erasure of the collective cognitive dissonance of the American public allows for justified brute force when a cop confronts a teenager for jaywalking and the teenager is, as a result, murdered with impunity. Michael Brown was a teenager, a son and beautiful human worthy of life. The re-labeling of Michael Brown as a thug worthy of death for merely existing while black is not by happenstance. It is the successful result of institutional racism delivered by a thinly veiled propaganda campaign courtesy of mainstream media.