Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Gilded Frame of The Upper Class

Upon watching CNN today at the gym while doing my cardio I remembered why I don't watch or read mainstream media anymore.

The media has evolved in a manner such that they frame all white upper middle class peoples as victims of terrible circumstance if anything unsavory happens to them. Its like watching a film noir movie where you're on the side of the main character in spite of their blatant shortcomings and defects that got them into trouble in the first place.

For example, Natalee Holloway. This girl has been missing for I don't know how long now but CNN is obsessed with her story. I wrote a blog post on the obscene amount of coverage on her disappearance some time ago, specifically the indulgent discussion of it on the insipid Nancy Grace show. What is so special about this girl really? She went to Aruba and she got involved with some unsavory people due to her own naivete. As a result she's probably at the bottom of he caribbean right now and I'm sure her skeleton is making a very nice scaffold for new coral development. All tasteless humor aside, why, given all the Americans that go missing every year while on holiday, is she so important? The only reason why anyone cares about her story is because she's white, blonde, christian, and upper middle class. She could be be the daughter of any one of the people in this country that really matter; you know, the white, upper middle class, christian people.

The bottom line is that when terrible things happen to anybody who doesn't fit into those categories its just not the same, somehow the media feels like its not so important. Why? Racism and classism.

Now on CNN they have new young victims of circumstance, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann the two Duke University students accused of kidnapping and raping a 27 year old black woman. Now I don't normally add qualifiers such as "black" when describing people because usually its not relevant but in this case is an exception and the race of the alleged victim is relevant.

While at the gym I noticed some things about CNN's coverage of this story and after reading several articles from the mainstream media I see these issues echoed. Number one, the accused are not referred to as Duke University students, except here in this blog, but as Duke lacrosse players. Now why would you do that? Is it really important to the issue that we be reminded that these two are lacrosse players over and over again? This a way of humanizing the accused, making them seem just like everybody else; you know all those other white, upper middle class, young men who can never do wrong and play lacrosse.

The other thing that I noticed, specifically on CNN, is that the accused high school coaches were attesting the moral character of these young men but in terms of sports metaphor. One coach went on record saying something to the affect that one of the boys was a reliable team member and you could always count on him in a clutch. Okay thanks for letting me know that the next time I'm on the lacrosse field I can count on this young man to make the goal for me. I guess I can overlook that he's been accused of rape now. Case closed!

Furthermore CNN continuously showed establishing footage of the neighborhoods where these boys were from. Neighborhoods with large homes and green lawns. Neighborhoods of the white and privileged where rapists couldn't possibly be bred. I mean how could a young white man who has gotten everything he's ever wanted or asked for since he was born ever be capable of rape? Its just not possible, the suburbs are safe and pure and good. White collar crime is one thing but white suburbanites couldn't possibly commit rape, let alone the rape of a black woman. Obviously there has been a mix up.

I know that our legal system is such that you are innocent until proven guilty in this country and I know that what happened to Natalee Holloway was indeed a tragedy for her family and friends. What I seek to underline here is the gilded framing that the mainstream media puts on situations that involve white, upper middle class individuals. Ask yourself the last time you saw a black man convicted of rape ever painted as a victim of circumstance. Think of a time when you've ever seen a news report that even entertained the idea that a black man accused of raping a white woman was a victim of circumstance. Consider how many black women probably go missing every day and we don't hear about it. Consider how many gay people are harassed, beat up, killed every day and we don't hear about it. Well to be fair and balanced these stories are mentioned, on local news stations, briefly, before the sports cast comes on.


Blogger gayborhood gringo said...

The sad truth is that it is all for money and ratings.

Actually, the real question about this alleged rape is why the woman that was raped isn't getting all this attention that the boys are. Well, your post answered that, but what I mean is that all I know about her is that she is black and was raped. As for the guys who allegedly raped her, I not only know that they are white and what they are accused of, but I know irrelevant things such as what college they attend and which sport they play.

12:47 AM  
Blogger tornwordo said...

Thank you Adam. The only reason I sometimes watch CNN is to remind myself how incredibly biased the stories they present are.

Your examples are brilliant. I see the same thing on the headlines. Keep it up!

6:20 AM  
Blogger tim said...

Uh, didn't you know that bad things should never happen to white people? I love how the fact that they play sports is a supposed to be a testament to their "good character". Have you ever played a sport, team or otherwise? All those boys, of all races and creeds, are misogynistic, emotionally-stunted, morons. Hence, they are much better with their bodies. Trust me, I've been around them. And worst of all, their coaches are exactly the same way... EXCEPT older.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Doesn't CNN stand for Christian News Network? That is what I was told once before, it could be wrong though. But it might explain a few things.

9:09 AM  
Blogger vuboq said...

Interesting that one of the accused rapists' prior history of gay-bashing is being buried in the news ... this is from a Washington Post article:

"Finnerty, a reserve attackman with a baby face atop a 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, graduated from Chaminade High School ... Finnerty was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault Nov. 5, along with two friends, for an altercation in front of Washington's Georgetown Inn with a man who told police he had been punched and called "gay and derogatory names" by his assailants. Finnerty negotiated to have the charge dropped in exchange for doing 25 hours of community service by September."

You would think something like that would be featured more prominently.

10:18 AM  
Blogger GayProf said...


This is a great post. I can’t help but compare all the attention given to Holloway verses the zero (o) coverage given to the serial murders of women in Juárez. You know Juárez? El Paso, Texas is its suburb. Since 1993, almost 400 young Mexican women have been abducted and murdered and 70 are currently missing. To date, little has been done to end the violence. Most of the women happened to also work in U.S. owned maquiladoras.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Kalvin said...

I think you are correct here Adam. As to what Gringo said, I think that there might be some issues of decorum regarding the rape victim. Many rape victims don't want their face plastered all over the place. The legal system isn't as bad as it used to be. Juries used to be instructed that the testimony of the rape victim was suspect. And there used to be even worse racial discriminations regarding evidence. However, there have been some strides that have been made.

I guess another thing is that I feel kind of lucky. It seems like in SF we do often hear about the stories that don't involve the white. There was quite a bit of publicity about the murder of a transgendered teenager a while back, and the local media seemed (at least to me) quite respectful.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Hypoxic said...

I don't know who's guilty or innocent in this whole Duke rape affair - but your comments on the state of the media are right on target.

I watch Fox news a lot (I know, I'll go to hell for that LOL) and it is exactly the same.

As gringo said --- it's all for money and ratings. True news reporting - the facts, just the facts - doesn't exist any more in this country.

7:39 PM  
Blogger The Persian said...

Very young upper-middle class girl, exotic island, no concrete leads, more than one suspect. This story naturally unfolds like a bad novel. Enough people are still fascinated (yea I know, hard to fathom)to sustain this kind of coverage. I think it has perhaps less to do with the media and more to do with the fact that the toothless yokel housewife in Ashtabula,Arkansas can't get enough. Supply & Demand.

2:57 PM  

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