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Media Matters

Media Matters: Race and Gender in U.S. Politics

John Fiske
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition, Revised
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Media Matters
    Book Description:

    Illustrates how people engaged in struggles over race, class and gender have influenced the way the nation made sense of key media events such as the O. J. Simpson murder trial, the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, the L.A. riots, and the family values debate between Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown. Fiske explores how women, African Americans, Korean Americans, and Latinos used the low-tech media of telephones, home video, fax machines, rebel radio, and private conversations to counter the voices that dominated the mainstream. “This is one of the most valuable resources on contemporary American culture I have read. Urgently argued and compellingly insightful, it reminds the reader of the necessity for balance as a democratic practice and of a commitment to the scholarly unlayering of those voices least likely to be given forum in the raging information wars. What emerges is nuanced, revelatory, and compassionately visionary.” --Patricia Williams author of The Alchemy of Race and Rights

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8598-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In its review of 1992,Lifecalled it ″a year dominated by a presidential race, a firestorm in L.A. and a single mom named Murphy.″¹ The election of the president of the United States and the costliest urban uprisings in this nation′s stormy history would conventionally be considered historic events, but the birth of a baby to the unmarried heroine of a sitcom hardly appears, at first sight, to be of the same order of significance. Yet, four months earlier,Timehad made the same editorial judgment.² In May 1992, Murphy Brown′s single motherhood was thrust into political prominence when...

  2. Chapter 1 Murphy Brown, Dan Quayle, and the Family Row of the Year
    (pp. 21-74)

    On May 19, 1992, shortly after the Los Angeles uprisings, Dan Quayle, the vice president of the United States, delivered a speech to the Common-wealth Club of California in San Francisco. In it he argued that the root cause of the uprisings was the collapse of traditional family values, particularly among African Americans. Toward the end of the speech he turned to a prime-time sitcom,Murphy Brown, and suggested that the situation had been made worse by the decision of its eponymous heroine to become a single mother (seeSidebar: Dan Quayle, p. 68).

    Next day, the press went ballistic:...

  3. Chapter 2 Hearing Anita Hill (and Viewing Bill Cosby)
    (pp. 75-124)

    The Senate Judiciary Committee′s hearings into Anita Hill′s allegations that Clarence Thomas, Bush′s nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Thurgood Marshall, had sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission caused some of the greatest cultural and political turbulence of the early 1990s. They stirred up all the murkiest currents of race, gender, class, and party politics into a maelstrom that involved a multiaxial complex of struggles in which defeats could be turned into victories, ground gained could be lost and regained, and the only certainties were instability, fluidity, and contestation....

  4. Chapter 3 Los Angeles: A Tale of Three Videos
    (pp. 125-190)

    Blurred video images of a Black man, Rodney King, being beaten by white officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (the LAPD) still resonate powerfully in the national imagination. They figure, all too vividly, what the mainstream United States likes to know it is not. For those pushed out of the mainstream, however, their figuring was as accurate as it was painful. They ignited an explosive mix of racial disempowerment and pauperization among African Americans and Latinos in South-Central Los Angeles; they shaped the actions and the words of police, politicians, and the militia; and they served the mainstream media...

  5. Chapter 4 Blackstream Knowledge: Genocide
    (pp. 191-216)

    Genocide is a difficult concept for whites to come to terms with, and consequently the word rarely appears in mainstream media. But out of the mainstream, particularly in Black media, it is used with disturbing frequency. There is, for instance, among some African Americans, a ″counterknowledge″ that AIDS was intentionally engineered within the government biowarfare research program, and that it has been deliberately introduced into Africa and Black America as a covert form of population control, or genocide.

    AIDS is not one of the media events around which this book is organized, but it has been one of the hottest...

  6. Chapter 5 Technostruggles
    (pp. 217-254)

    In a country as diverse as the contemporary United States and as well equipped with multiple forms of media, counterknowledges can never be repressed entirely. They may be marginalized, submerged, and diverted, but there are always traces that the motivated can find and recover. The problem lies in the motivation, or lack of it. It is comfortable and effortless to live in a homogenized social formation from which all contradictions and abrasive edges have been smoothed out. There are many reasons, none of them admirable, for not enlarging our world of experience to include knowledges, possibly discomforting and disrupting, that...

  7. Epilogue O.J. Simpson: ʺThe Juice Is Looseʺ
    (pp. 255-276)

    On a sultry June night in the eastern states and late afternoon in California, once again, American eyes were held, fascinated, by their TV screens. The media event of 1994 was beginning to unfold. Seven news helicopters swarmed around those of the LAPD and transmitted live the police chase and eventual arrest of O.J. (the Juice) Simpson, a football hero, sportscaster, and media celebrity, who was accused of the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her male friend, Ron Goldman. O.J. Simpson is Black, the dead bodies were white. At least twelve police cruisers followed the white Ford Bronco...