The news media presents its viewers with the latest in local, state, national, and world events. One of the driving forces behind it’s popularity are subjects that cover crime and violence. The old motto “If it bleeds, it leads” is a stigma many newsrooms uphold with the tendency to report the most brutal or “unusual” forms of violence. With is mixed with the notion to “spin” the story to make it appear more dramatic for ratings while heightening the public’s fears of chaos one day entering their residences.
We are told who the people are that is accused or charged with a violent crime. Sometimes we see their mugshots. Then, we are informed of the crime with some extra tidbits of information like the mentioning of their “extensive criminal histories”. We hear about who the victim was, sometimes hearing about their good deeds, especially if they were police officers. The incident becomes a soap opera with the players already cast as bad guys against the innocent. It runs it’s course on-and-off the news leading up to a less-than happy ending.
The news will spin the story in a way that the suspect is automatically guilty even before the trial starts. It’s rare that the public will see the accused as innocent firsthand. Our instant response, especially if we see the mugshot, is that he or she did the crime. We conclude that that person is the lowest form of life ever born, and that they deserve the harshest punishment imaginable.
But, there are those who are truly innocent of the crimes they supposedly have committed. Yet, the news media’s business of criminalizing and dehumanizing suspects prior to their trials will help shape the public’s opinion dramatically. They are the “villians” in a sad tale of the death of another or the abuse of a child. There are no explanations given or questions asked.
However, the truth is that this society is unforgiving whose overall belief in justice ostracizes innovation, mercy, and compassion. Instead brutality and revenge is the way to punish criminals. This nation’s basic ideal is that the accused and imprisoned deserve that they get whether they are innocent or not. Then again, in their view there are no innocent people, just guilty people who haven’t been caught.
When former Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Perry seemed proud during a Presidential debate that his state of Texas had 234 executions under his watch, his comment was met with a thunderous applause. It is a strong indicator of this society’s thirst for blood. When Troy Davis was executed despite overwhelming evidence that proves his innocence, the state of Georgia still saw fit to make an example out of him. When young, black and brown, unarmed males are shot to death like wild animals by police who’s usual excuse is that they were “protecting themselves”, it’s quite obvious that this nation has a funny way of what is considered innocent. The message sent in these examples is that this “justice” system is a business of death and destruction to control and eradicate humanity not unlike its sisters the corporate media and the military industrial complex.
If this society changes it’s view on how to properly administer justice, then many of the problems faced by the poor and disenfranchised would be on its way of improvement. It sees the people at the bottom as the problem while it sees the people on top as incapable of carnage even when there is evidence to the contrary.
The media must take part in the reformation by changing its policies on how to conduct and present news and information. It is powerful enough to shape and mold the consciousness of the public influencing their insight and opinions on the world. If it can influence people to believe that certain groups are responsible for most crime and violence, then it can just as well have an impact in how the public perceives justice. And that can determine freedom and imprisonment – life and death for anyone including the innocent.