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Media Hype Exposed

Anyone who watches TV or reads corporate media publications is well aware of the unrelenting propaganda barrage of hysterical stories attacking prisoners, criminal suspects, etc., as part of a "crime wave." With the collapse of the former USSR the ruling elite has been in desperate search of villains and enemies to distract US citizens from meaningful issues like poverty, unemployment, lack of health care, etc. Enter the Crime Wave. Anyone watching TV would think the US is in the midst of a massive upsurge of crime and criminality. Not so according to Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog group. Crime rates in the US have actually slightly declined over the past 20 years, what has changed is media coverage of crime related issues which increased 250% in recent months.

The effect this media onslaught has had is predictable. In June, 1993, 5% of those polled by the Washington Post named crime as the most important issue facing the country. By February, 1994, after months of shrill media bombardment 31% of those polled listed crime as the most important national issue, far outstripping any other issue. Asked where they got their information crime, 65% said they learned about it from the media

In its May/June, 1994, issue of Extra! FAIR has a special section analyzing media coverage of crime. The report does an excellent job exposing and debunking these media myths, mainly by pointing out the discrepancies within the media itself. For example, one article in US News and World Report states that crime levels fell in 1993, then follows with the assertion that numbers don't matter because it was "the scariest [year] in American history." The racist, classist prejudices of the media are analyzed and exposed. While this issue of Extra! is of particular interest to PLN readers due its analysis of crime coverage, it is an invaluable source of media analysis that gives an insight into the specific biases of the mainstream media.

This issue also had an article "How `Reality' Based Crime Shows Market Police Brutality." Debra Seagal, a former ABC editor for American Detective, said "police have a tacit agreement with the producers that they'll be shown in a positive light." "A detective commenting on a suspect, `That's the first white guy I ever felt like beating the fucking shit out of,' for example, is never going to make it on the air." Contrary to their marketing, Seagal reveals that these shows are in fact coached -- with police told how to talk, to repeat lines, etc., to "come across better." FAIR also analyzes the racist and classist bias of these shows which invariably focus on white cops beating down poor people of color. Those interested in a copy should request Volume 7, number 3 of Extra!, from: FAIR, 130 West 25th St. NY. NY. 10001 (212) 633-6700. Cost is $2.50.

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