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Image Distortion Disorder

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If your camera is out of focus, you click it to change the image of the picture. The same for your TV. One student said, '"Putting aside your biases and tuning into the speaker are like tuning in a radio station to receive a clear signal with no distortion" (author's emphasis) (Rebecca Z. Shafir, M.A. CCC. (2000). The Zen of Listening. Wheaton: Quest Books, p. 60).

Media Image Distortion has created or perpetuated many stereotypical perspectives regarding people or groups' perspectives of those different from the dominant European American Monolith.

Several years ago Joy Leary, social worker and therapist wrote a book entitled: Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder. In her book she contends that the symptoms of trauma that African Americans received through the entire pre- slavery and slavery period has had far-reaching psycho-social effects for African Americans. From my personal experience, I have observed the same phenomenon. This disorder is not some made-up fantasy, but it's the projection of a reality that should be significantly noted, understood, and used as a lens through which we can have more empathy and compassion for the descendants of African American slaves.

Of all the sub-groups within the superordinate system, that may be defined as the White Power Structural System, the Media has perhaps the most need of reform (mainly by those who work as journalists or in some way with the Media). Media practices around the subject of race have often incited other problems, and continue to put the spotlight on the need for the Media, in terms of balanced reporting, to do its own soul-searching, and start cleaning up their side of the street.

Image Distortion by Media sources is one of the driving forces in keeping alive the illusion that we, as European Americans, should fear and be intimidated by persons of color. So, for all practical purposes, the Media is the persona non grata of Image Distortion Disorder. Unfortunately, the Media, who are supposed to be the watch dogs of the entire system within the U.S., have not floated to the top like cream, but have been one of the major players doling out misinformation, inaccurate information, and stereotypical images of persons of color. Another way of saying this is that the field of journalism has used racial profiling as a template for what is considered effective journalism.

Two examples may clarify Image Distortion Distortion. This example is chosen from a localized newspaper story about the drowning of an African American in Galveston, Texas. The journalist interviewed some eye witnesses, but the main quotes were taken from a man diseased with the social conditioning-learning of Racism. I'm paraphrasing the words of the eye witness, but the core meaning was in his own words: 'he was probably drunk. The N-----s are all the time going into the water drunk.' The Image Distortion was that the reporter focused primarily on this eye witness and his racist statements. There was no attempt on the part of the journalist to add anything else, thus the man's white biases were left to stand by themselves. Doesn't the journalist have some ethical responsibility to show up stereotypes where they are found, and add more accurate information so that the piece of writing is more balanced? I definitely think so; for me, Journalism is not just a description of an incident, but if the journalist finds that people are communicating in biased ways, there's an accountability to show the misinformation, lies, or ignorant reasoning processes.

When I use the term ignorant or ignorance there is no connotation in my mind of stupidity, lack of intelligence, being feeble-minded, or even bad. Consider the worldview of ignorance: living in a world that is constantly communicating more and more information, we can choose to say 'there are many more things in the world that I don't really understand than I do understand.' Quite different from a fixed-rigid stance of 'there are many more things about the world that I understand than what I don't.' The former is more open and flexible, and the latter is exclusive, unbending, and unwilling to take the step of learning something that we are presently closed off from comprehending--this takes courage to do! The former Ignorance Worldview views life as an awesome adventure of learning, growing, and generally having fun in this process.

After Katrina devastated New Orleans, journalists and media people came from all over the world to be able to inform the world of Katrina's savage hit on New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast region. One media team from the Netherlands captured four people in two separate photos. One picture depicted a European American couple carrying plastic bags while wading hip deep in water. The caption read: 'Victims of Katrina find ways to survive' (my paraphrase). Another photo showed an African American man and woman, also wading through the water with plastic bags carried above their heads. Here, the caption read, 'Widespread looting in Katrina's aftermath' (again my paraphrase).

These two photos show the kinds of stereotypes and inaccurate information often used by the Media. What's of concern is the immense swath of countries that Media sources impact, along with the repetitive images and the immediacy of information delivered through print, internet, radio, TV, word of mouth, etc. The unconscious meanings of image are found in many layers, and the Media has played a role where it has made race the central issue in the culture's psycho-social matrix. Not only this fact, but the inaccurate information perpetuates fear, separation, and social regression in the culture.

If you are concerned about the need for Media accountability, be an active observer and critical thinker about the Media stories you see or hear, then use your voice to protest the maladaptive media stories to the owners and corporations of Media companies; you can also look at your community, and if several groups or organizations have similar concerns about the Media's inaccuracies, why not try to collaborate with them; there may be enough interest that a local movement may start, and then you can link up with a nation-wide or international movement.

We do possess the empowerment to consciously and intentionally change one of the most powerful sub-sets of our nation's superordinate system composed of psycho-economic-social-healthcare-educational-religious elements. We need to relentlessly immunize the power of false-to-facts Media stories, and we can make incremental changes; those incremental changes then effect and trigger other changes. Image Distortion Disorder, if applied to individuals, need never be a social disease that can never be transformed, reformed or corrected. What is needed is congruency between what is reported, how it's reported, the images used, and factual analysis.

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