Watching news coverage of the Watts Riots, specifically the endless hours of senseless commentary and images of looters, reminded me of Richard Serra’s commentary on television as a form of mass media propaganda. In his 1973 video, “Television Delivers People”, Serra repeatedly remarks that the viewer is the product of television. I found this claim reigned particularly true in the media coverage curated by men in power, the ones behind our politics and our businesses and, consequently, our blatantly biased news programming on the Watts Riots. In this case, news reporters play a vital part in what product (or viewer) is created through the propaganda sold. In this way, these reports exploit the human fear of “the other”, showing only distant images of the scene with no explanation of the protesters goals. In this way, the program is able to bar viewers from feeling any sort of sympathy for the people on the screen. Thus, the program successfully “otherizes” African Americans by villanizing them, manipulating the story to appear as if protestors are simply “thugs” and “hoodlums”, rather than activists. This “explanation” of the incident on hand, the product is now ready to go out into the world and reinforce the prejudice he or she mindlessly consumed on their day off.

Gabrielle Das

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