Look at the featured photograph of this piece. Now dependent upon your state of being, the image can be considered uplifting or demeaning. Case in point… Many people of color (POC) will consider the image deplorable, and without context issue comments such as, “ignorant or despicable”. In fact, I’ll venture to guess that they’ll state that the adult figure is a poor example of a man and does not exemplify fatherhood. Edward L. Bernays, the father of modern advertising, stated in his book “Propaganda” written in 1928, “In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” You have to understand that manipulating the masses is reality, not a conspiracy. Thus, in a snapshot, I may have taken a photo of a father and son returning home from the gun range; the elder celebrating the fact that his seed is increasingly mastering weaponry to use for his personal defense, to an alleged “gang-banger” or “thug” administering poor ethical characteristics because of the discernment of Black men in society; though the image does make it hard to dispute. Conversely, the image of three young ladies welding firearms is thought of as being a “family rites of passage”; a family teaching their daughters the art of protecting themselves from the cruelties of this world. The funny thing is that in either scenario, based on their perception, the viewer will ultimately utter the phrase, “That’s what THEY do!” Who shapes public opinion? Who’s to blame for the distortion of perspective? Is it the media, the government; perhaps an unseen hand? Though all are integral to the mechanisms that barrage our psyche, we’re in fact to blame for all these transgressions.
The thought is we’re all human beings. So ideally, we should have an ability to coexist without race, creed or gender being an issue. During sporting events, we all root for the same teams; our camaraderie shaped by the colors and names shared on both the front and back of the uniform. During the Olympic Games, we cheer our fellow countrymen to victory in their designated sports as they begin their pursuit of metals ranging from bronze to gold; with pride reflective of the winning athlete’s determination to reach the pinnacle of their chosen activity; tears streaming as their country’s National Anthem blares from the speakers of our television sets. Yet those instances are mere microcosms as to what occurs on broader scale. Malcolm X explained it perfectly when he stated, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power; because they control the minds of the masses.” Additionally, he stated, “If you’re not careful, the newspaper will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” The media controls the rhetoric; the government has been found to have implemented strategies to sway and frighten the population with specific stories to curb public opinion. In 1975, Operation Mockingbird, was uncovered by a committee called, “The United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities” (the Church Committee), which was chaired by Senator Frank Church (Democrat – Idaho). Through their investigation, it was discovered that a program was developed in the 1950s for the purpose of “persuading American and foreign media, as well as to use the media as gatekeepers to prevent certain information from being published and reaching the masses.” In addition, there are entities that attempt to control the power of our thoughts; one of which is the Council on Foreign Relations. Though it fancies itself as an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher; there is evidence to the contrary that shows that the CFR is a more sinister association that organizes media manipulation. You must understand that the media in the United States is controlled by six (6) corporations (General Electric, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS) which include 1,500 newspapers, 1,100 magazines, 9,000 radio stations, 1,500 television stations and 2,400 publishers. This means most of the news and entertainment content shown on both the small and large screens are intendant on having an underlying agenda; one which alters the subconscious and manifests in our ideals. “The promotion of shallow, materialistic, ego-centric values and the obvious dumbing down of the American population is coming from these six (6) corporations. Think about that. These are the companies that glorify consumption, obedience, ignorance, the hyper-sexualization of youth, the glorification of war and government surveillance, and so on. The advertisers that support these media companies have tremendous sway over what makes it on the airwaves. They help to control public perception.” We fail to notice because who wants to work hard in deciphering what content is being fed to them each time they engage in relaxing activities. The adage is “you are what you eat”, so why wouldn’t those same principles apply to what you observe? Isn’t your brain consuming information and processing that data based on what’s being seen or heard? “When you’re watching television, you’re watching the news, and you’re being pumped full of fear. There’s floods; there’s AIDS; there’s murder. Cut to commercial. Buy the Acura. Buy Colgate. If you have bad breath, they’re not going to talk to you. If you have pimples that girl isn’t going to fuck you. It’s just a campaign of fear and consumption. That’s what I think it’s based on. This wild idea of ‘keep everyone afraid and they’ll consume.’” (Marilyn Manson) So help me understand the logic of this, watching two (2) hours of violence in a movie has no influence on the public’s behavior, but a thirty (30) second Super Bowl ad worth$2-4 million dollars will make the customer run out and buy a product?
So now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room. What is the relation between imagery and POC? Understand that our first interactions are made through visualization. The hieroglyphs of ancient civilizations and cave carvings indented on mountain walls tell stories in intricate detail which provide a connection to the past. We are naturally attracted by what we see and visual interpretations help formulate opinions and prove to shape our lives. Entertainment as we know it was created as a means of propaganda, with the intent to marginalize and demean. There’s a reason why there’s always been a negative, distorted perception of Blacks. From its advent, individuals such as T. D. Rice (back in the 1820’s) and others prior to the Civil War performed in blackface creating the image of the “Sambo” and “Zip Coon”. The movie “Birth of a Nation” directed by D. W. Griffith in 1915 lead to the rebirth and enormous rise in ranks of the Ku Klux Klan based on the subliminal messages relayed in the film. The screenplay was adapted from the novel and play The Clansman. It was released on February 8, 1915. The NAACP (founded in 1909) spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign to ban the film. The film suggested that the Ku Klux Klan restored order to the postwar South (Reconstruction). For decades after its release, the Klan used the movie as a recruitment tool. Let’s bounce from entertainment to the realm of sports. During October 2005, the NBA implemented a dress code policy which was instituted by former commissioner David Stern to distance the league from its then “thuggish” image in the mainstream. The rule was made mandatory for players to wear a jacket and tie before games, after games, during interviews, on the bench while injured, and in attendance at league charity events. The policy drew criticism with Allen Iverson stating the following, “I feel like they want us to dress a certain way. They’re targeting guys who dress like me; guys who dress hip-hop. Just because you put a guy in a tuxedo doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. You can put a murderer in a suit, but he’s still a murderer. It sends a bad message to kids.” Ten (10) years later, the NBA’s sense of style has evolved to the point where several stars routinely make their own unique fashion statements such as Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, and many others.
Perhaps you wish to continue deny the evidence presented before you in this piece. Yet, if I were to ask you to close your eyes and imagine the likeness of the deity you worship, many of you (admittedly or reluctantly) would see an image of the individual that Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint by Rodrigo Borgia/Borja (Pope Alexander VI), Cesare Borgia. And since that time, his portrait has graced the covers of religious magazines; actors have portrayed his resemblance in television and cinema; and there are monuments crafted in his honor with the largest appearing in both Brazil and Nigeria. Another glance behind those same eyelids will have you believe an entire continent is savage, primitive and desolate. A land ripe with riches and natural resources is thought to be ravaged with war and famine from ocean to ocean – boarder to boarder; infomercials urge viewers to run to their telephones, and in three (3) minute intervals, a 800/866 number flashes on the screen petitioning the onlooker that for a mere $.45 per day, your contribution “can” uplift those in a poverty stricken state, providing a semblance of normalcy, with the proceeds having the ability to feed an entire family. And as you witness their frail, downtrodden frames illuminate the pixels of your small screen; stomachs seemingly touching their backs, you can’t run fast enough to retrieve your ATM card. That of the fifty-four countries that occupy the landscape, your lasting image is that of barren huts, wild animals and sprawling deserts and fields, and not of cities, suburbs, shopping malls and highways? GTFOH! The same entities that sought to colonized Africa prior to 1914, seek to exploit the land and viewing public for their hard earned dollars and wealth, with a large portion of the funds never utilized by the people it was intended to assist.
Dr. Umar Johnson – Propaganda
So we condemn young boys and girls for being able to perform the latest dance craze and assume the participants do not have any intellectual capacity to recite the alphabet or solve simple math problems. That it’s threatening to see young Black men with their shirts off and pants hanging pass their buttock. The Rza, one of the founding members of the infamous Wu-Tang Clan, a rap group based out of Staten Island, New York, who helped usher in the widespread branding, marketing and collaborate sell of urban wear by wearing oversized clothing, Timberland boots, which later led to the creation of the profitable clothing company Wu-Wear stated the following, “If I’m a cop and every time I see a young black youth, whether I watch them on TV, movies, or just see them hanging out, and they’re not looking properly dressed, properly refined, you know, carrying himself, conducting himself proper hours of the day—things that a man does, you’re going to have a certain fear and stereotype of them.” We’re petitioned to believe that when WE were dressed dignified prior to and during the Civil Rights movement, we were somehow more respected and taken more seriously; not taking into account that leaders during that era, such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers were murdered in the same clothing that was thought to be the salvation to being treated justly. Look no further than the postcards and old photographs that grace the internet with individuals being lynched wearing white collared shirts/blouses, pleated dresses/skirts and tailored slacks; strange fruit dangling from tree branches or burned alive at make shift stakes for daring to fight or live for something that is a universal right of all people. “Women grow up constantly bombarded with images of what society says is beautiful. These unrealistic ideals feature models that have makeup to cover their blemishes and Photoshop to change their physical features. The result is young girls that grow up obsessed with their outward appearance and feel pressure by society to achieve a look that is often impossible. When the girls fall short they feel inadequate and a downward spiral ensues. They purchase make-up full of toxic chemicals to cover up their skin and closets full of clothes to feel better about whom they are.” (Truth Society) Consequently we sit back and watch the emasculation of our brothers via song or cinema then question how these trends (skinny jeans, skorts) began. “We’ve been robbed! We’ve been robbed!”, as DeAndre Jordan scurries down the stairs clad in a black dress and blonde wig in the latest State Farm insurance commercial; or all of your favorite actors being requested to dawn a female hairpiece at some point during their careers or risk banishment the likes of Dave Chappelle if they dare speak out. Supporting a multibillion dollar industry with the Global Skin Lightening Market which was predicted to reach $10 billion dollars at the close of last year; that an individual has such disdain for their complexion that they’re willing to alter their appearance for acceptance. This is all an end result of psychological conditioning. A picture of a spouse having dinner with the opposite sex discussing a business venture is seen as adulterous behavior; a young man (Jaden Smith) advertising woman’s clothing is seen as eclectic and groundbreaking – “The image support the idea that a person can appear traditionally masculine and feminine at the same time”; an All Points Bulletin (APB) is issued over police airwaves for a suspected criminal act with persons of the same hue all “fitting the description”. Ask Lionel Tate, then twelve (12) years of age, if his infatuation with the World Wrestling Federation didn’t ultimately lead to his thirty (30) year imprisonment for imitating the moves of a famous wrestler which led to death of six-year old Tiffany Eunick. The thousand (1000) words that can be used to determine a photo’s worth can be manipulated to be both beneficial or a detriment to the individual captured in the frame. It is our responsibility to distinguish between the two (2) and not pass judgment based upon the caption read atop the image. “No society wants you to become wise, it is against the investment of all societies. If people are wise they cannot be exploited. If they are intelligent they cannot be subjugated, they cannot be forced in a mechanical life, to live like robots… They will have the fragrance of rebellion around them. In fact, a wise man is afire, alive, aflame. He would like rather to die than to be enslaved.” (Osho) “We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)
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