The idea and reality of losing previously-held political power and privileged authority based on racial domination could (some would say apparently does) encourage violence against those perceived of as a threat. Certainly the ongoing violence inflicted upon unarmed African-Americans by armed White-American policemen ––the latest most visible cases being that of Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas, and Sam Dubose in Cincinnati, Ohio, does very little to suggest otherwise.
From the opposite end of the undulating spectrum, populations growing increasingly more powerful and reacting with abbreviated minds may, conceivably, develop a penchant for vindictive behavior. It is in fact wholly possible that the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City, later followed by shootings of policemen described as “retaliatory,” are precise examples of the dynamics in question. Such scenarios, however, represent only a fraction of the kind of personal, local community, national, and global chaos that an abbreviated mind, especially when linked to intentional guerrilla decontextualization, can cause.
Periods of shifting demographics, along with the often overwhelming giant crashing waves of sudden historical events themselves, often create odd partnerships and dangerously extreme polarization. Fear of getting lost in the shuffle prompts many to abandon personal ethics for some semblance of security motivated by a heightened sense of raging and yet repressed anxiety.
A Bizarre Mash-up of Contradictions
The complexity of the issues at hand often requires in-depth examination for any kind of useful comprehension of them. Is the effort worth it? In previous times, when the saying “Ignorance is bliss” was a popular one, many might have said such a cognitive effort was not worth it. In this century where the substance of general knowledge and references changes almost as rapidly as the cells of a developing human fetus, self-imposed ignorance can be one of the most lethal forms of self-annihilation around.
Kings of Music and Biased Reporting
- Generational disagreements
- Environmental stewardship
- To consume or not to consume genetically-altered foods
- Economic disparity gap
- To have or not to have children via test tubes or cloning
- Supporting same-sex marriage versus repealing same-sex marriage
- Corporate dataveillance compared to government surveillance
- To embrace diversity or cling to intolerance
- Voting Elvis Presley the King of Music or Michael Jackson the King of Music
- To accommodate or not to accommodate immigrants classified as illegal aliens
- Military intervention versus nonviolent conflict resolution
- To demonstrate compassion in a traumatized world or add to the trauma
The thing is this: whether you are passionate about a few of these issues or dispassionate about all of them, chances are each one has some impact on your life and directs the course of it to one degree or another. If you find yourself gagging over the idea that whoever is voted the “King of Music” somehow matters to your life, it might be interesting to put the idea to a simple test.
Mainstream Media Ethics and Objectivity
Presley’s contributions to 20th-century American music are as much a part of the overall evolution of musical culture as anyone of the period. Where Presley surpassed most of his peers, however, was in his dual role as an actor starring in more than 30 full-length feature films.
First, try mustering enough courage and stamina to watch mainstream television evening news for a month or so. During that period, keep a record of how many times reporters find a reason to mention Elvis Presley, the Beatles, or Michael Jackson. If the results reflect patterns observed over the past few years, you might notice that among these equally iconic celebrated talents, Presley and the Beatles are generally cited about 2 or 3 times a month compared to 0 times for Michael Jackson.
When he died on May 21, 2015, network news anchors honored Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson by identifying him as “Michael Jackson’s bassist” (on Off The Wall in 1979, Thriller in 1982, and Dangerous in 1991). The tie-in allowed them to give the great guitarist’s passing national headline status. It was an exceptional kind of recognition because references to how Jackson’s trailblazing labors made the careers of certain superstars possible tend to be rare.
The Difference It Makes
Well, possibly a lot.
The difference it makes is that such biased “reporting” (whether subtle or not so subtle) contributes to the maintenance of cultural environments made toxic by racism. These in turn often do the same when it comes to xenophobic fear, hatred, violence, and other forms of close-minded intolerance invoked in the name of any given ism or phobia.
Guerrilla Decontextualization by Omission
It is the type of thing that prompts more lip-biting scowls than smile-lit selfies. As a practice, it falls into the same category as legacies of erasure and historical exclusion. Each generates an unchecked warped version of reality that is left to promote misinformation and to encourage destructive dispositions. What novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says of rejecting attempts to define places with a single story also applies to people:
“…When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”
Whether one is an admirer of Michael Jackson’s phenomenal music and philanthropic achievements is not the central point. Guerrilla decontextualization by omission is. Despite the ungainly cluster of syllables, it may be understood simply enough as follows: the distortion or diminishment of an individual’s professional status and legacy by excluding them from appropriate acknowledgements.
The instinct to employ such a tactic emerges as a characteristic of an abbreviated mind. The practice may be just as damaging as guerrilla decontextualization in its most basic forms, which overemphasizes fragments of a greater truth for the purpose of defaming one human being or group to the advantage of another.
Guerrilla decontextualization by omission, however, may also be described as a form of shunning which, in the end, may cause greater harm to the shunner than the shunned. The reason is because the one doing the shunning would be the person unknowingly cultivating an abbreviated mind due to his or her unwillingness to look at the larger picture. If they were willing to adopt a more expanded perspective, they might see that part of what it reveals is the possibility of becoming themselves targets of the ignominious practice and not appreciating it very much at all.
(© Aug 2015)
NEXT: Abbreviated Mind Syndrome (Article 4)