Final Part of Case Study – BCM 332 Global Media Intervention
In the past, social media sites were used for simple reasons such as connecting with friends and family through the media, through photos and videos of yourself posted online. The use of it may have shifted to sharing of video footage and articles from the latest news or events now.
It is easy for someone to openly or secretly record a video with their smartphones and upload it on social media sites, especially Facebook. Whether it is a child being bullied or a conflict between someone in public, the footage goes viral since the public can repost it infinitely. This usually gets two kinds of responses from the viewers, those who voice out to strictly oppose the injustice in the video and those who are too bored to care.
A teacher used alcohol sanitisers to spray the face and eyes of some 6-year olds, who would drool in class because of their conditions. In her defence, she said “she sprayed the liquid on the pupils’ hands and their surroundings for sanitisation.” (Lau C., 2015) The kids showed otherwise, when they tried to push her off. The school released the footage to parents as well as reported that teacher to the police. It’s a matter of unequal treatment for these special needs children (SNC) and the media intervention has allowed for the public to be informed of it.
In another case, a video was pulled out from Facebook for a crime that involved an SNC. The clip showed the 18-year old teen being teased by a bunch of youngsters. It shows him as vulnerable and helpless as he is tortured and assaulted. The post may cause further emotional and physical threat to the victim because of online comments or worse, in real life.
As we see, these media interventions can be for better or for worse. What does help is media-monitoring activities, such as Facebook has a team to interrupt or take down videos that cause real life threat or as required by the law. Facebook adds it allows videos as long as the purpose is “to condemn violence or raise awareness about it.” (Grinberg G.,2017)
On the other hand, the online posting is a positive result of media advocacy. 1 (see appendix) People feel more accepted because their situations are shared online and the public’s awareness has improved since then. A mother told The Mighty,
“because of social media, we’re reminded daily about others around us…
that feeling of connection is empowering,
and the feeling of empowerment turns into acceptance.” (Steiger H., 2015)
However, not many people would know about this if the existence of Facebook wasn’t there to share such news, which is too trivial to make it to bigger news outlets.
“While…community media interventions have contributed to empowerment for participants and improved reporting in mainstream media” (Dreher T. pg.186), it has also stereotyped children in many ways, such as ‘kids as victims’, ‘cute kids’ or ‘little devils’… the list can go on. (Higgins D., pg.4) Nevertheless, for SNC, the right kind of media exposure and ‘citizen journalism’ is needed more than anyone else. This is why I would like to study further the positive and negative impacts of the social media presence of SNCs.
After looking at how social media represented some disabilities, we look further into the disabled people’s portrayal by other media outlets and learn about the hashtag #DisbilityTooWhite. In an article on Campaign UK, a fact has come to light that advertisements treat the issue of disabled people indifferently. There is an inequality seen on the exposure of disability, compared to normal people in advertisements.
(Figure 1: Models and Actors posing for Vogue’s Instagram ad for the 2016 Paralympic Games /img src: Campaign UK)
In this case, the article discusses how media doesn’t engage with the issue of disability often. When it does, it doesn’t justify the cause. For example, in Figure 1 a Vogue Instagram ad for Paralympic Games 2016, you can see people in wheelchairs who are “able-bodied models and actors”, but they were photoshopped to seem disabled. This can seem insulting to the disabled community because of the indication that their lives are less desirable and flawed so that they are actually invisible from the screen. (Magee, 2016)
A journalist comments, “what I see most often is that disability is rarely covered, and when it is, the coverage tends to be very patronizing, simplistic, and infantilizing.” – (Smith, 2017) The media’s misrepresentation is often more disturbing when the majority is white dominant. Vilissa Thompson started the movement #DisabilityTooWhite on Twitter to raise awareness on the idea that there is a lack of disability representation of people of colour. After the hashtag went viral, there were both encouragement and criticism being tweeted. (Figure 2)
(Figure 2: a search result on Twitter for hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite/img src: screenshot from my search on Twitter)
Image Description: Tweet by Aleksei!!! On Wheels (@ai_valentin) on 19 May 2016: “I could finally get disability accommodations at my university when white coordinator was replaced by a Filipino man. #disabilitytoowhite” (img scr: screenshot from my search results on Twitter)
Some people felt a surge of confidence to share their stories. A user shared: “I could finally get disability accommodations at my university when white coordinator was replaced by a Filipino man.”
Image Description: Tweet by [heart emoji] Dr C.J. Subko Listro [crescent and heart emoji] (@sarcasmlemons) on 19 May 2016: “White privilege doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard. It means there are some types of hard that you’ll never experience. #DisabilityTooWhite
Others felt compelled to defend themselves. This user tried to argue that their life isn’t any easier than PoC (persons of colour) by posting a comment that argues “white privilege doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard.”
Image Description: Tweet by Vilissa Thompson (@VilissaThompson) on 18 May 2016: “#DisabilityTooWhite when you search for Black disabled women images & end up finding your own pictures [frowning face emoji] – we need diverse stock images.” (img src: Huffington Post)
Disability activist Thompson further argues that, “if they’re not white, then showing the disabled person not having a lot, despair looking.”(Thompson, 2016) We see that even if there is a representation of disabled people in the media, there is little evidence to say that all races across the world have been covered. People immediately have a bizarre reaction to certain races like the one shared here with us. A disabled Paralympian TV presenter, Ade Adepitan comments:
“I’m black and disabled, so when people meet me you can see them thinking: “Flipping heck, you’re not allowed to be black and disabled.”
(Adeptian A., 2016)
There can be so many things done to inform the public to be more aware of people as more than just in a wheelchair or deaf. Media advocacy is needed now more than ever. Marshall McLuhan quotes, “the medium is the message.” The media has the power to promote the right campaigns and send out a positive message, so to reform the social stigmas or “the ugly duckling” image of the disabled in the public’s eyes.
It yells in the campaign article that “the media plays a crucial role to help challenge people’s perceptions about disabled people and the industry is in a unique position to be at the vanguard of change.”
So, we will be looking at how the media and other stakeholders can do better to represent and value the disabled.
It’s not enough. Every one of us has a role to play in making a difference in the representation of disabled people. (Unerman S., 2016)
As a lingering thought on this study, I wondered why the advertising agencies and companies feel so afraid of having an incidental inclusion of disabled people in the advertisements. The United States and Great Britain are realising the potential of gaining profitability by publishing adverts that are inclusive of disabled people. (Haller BA.,2001)
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in Hong Kong also aims to help disabled people to be protected from discrimination by implementing the Disability Discrimination Ordinance(DDO). “Under the DDO, it is unlawful to vilify a person with a disability in public, or discriminate or harass a person on the ground of disability in the following areas of activities, [such as] employment and provision of goods, services and facilities, etc. (Chapter 13, pp.80)
However, you may notice there is nothing which shows they have an equal right to be on the press or in other media as individuals not as disabled group. Unless this factor is counted under the employment sector, I suggest this ordinance to be revised.
The United States has already stepped up their game by addressing the needs of disabled people as regular consumers of tangible household and lifestyle products. This sentiment is felt by the public and the disabled community and businesses grow. Unfortunately, it turns out that the UK is a bit of a turtle. According to the research by Beth Haller and Sue Ralph, they “are still more hesitant in including disabled people in their advertisements due to both different advertising methods and societal attitudes.” (Haller and Ralph, 2001, p.1-3)
You may wonder what kind of attitudes and methods are there? Well, in this case the TV ad time is limited and strictly advocated in the Great Britain, when in comparison to the US. Moreover on UK TV, due to some misunderstandings in the early stages when Fuji TV published an ad in 1990 about fixing a man who has learning disabilities. There was misleading information that this involved getting a cosmetic surgery promoted by Fuji Film.
After the incident, people are reluctant and careful not to post advertisements which can cause controversies. Some disabled magazines and charities have a different perception of the disable community’s needs. The disabled community hopes that they will be included in advertisements, magazines, jobs and more as part of the general population, rather than aimed and categorised by disabled-charities.
“MARK: Your Fuji film commercial in 1990 – you were the first actor with a learning disability to be on a TV commercial.
PINO: That’s right, but that became a discrimination thing again.
MARK: Well, yeah, because it was really interesting – there was an article where Brian Rix, who was the Chair of Mencap, saying it was disgusting that this learning disabled man was being exploited on this TV commercial, without ever actually having a conversation with you, because you got paid, didn’t you?
PINO: I was happy, yeah!”
(Changes in Society, pp.2)
In fact, what the general public may believe that some advertisements are a discrimination of the disabled community, they may not be hand in hand on this statement. The disable person in the above commercial was very happy to have been part of the commercial and got paid for it as well.
So I believe that the community, advertising agencies, government lawmakers need to wake up and start talking to disabled people instead of making assumptions! Also, there is a strong need for revision in the laws to keep up with the latest media and advertising prejudices.
Hope you have all learned something.
Appendix 1. [It] is a term developed in public health and refers to a combination of media-intervention activities that aim to develop a proactive media strategy in order to influence public perceptions and debate.
- Blahovec S. (2017, December 06) Confronting the Whitewashing of Disability: Interview with #DisabilityTooWhite Creator Vilissa Thompson. Huffington Post. Retrieved June 23, 2018 from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-blahovec/confronting-the-whitewash_b_10574994.html
- Changes in Society (n.d.) Changes in Society. Heart and Soul. The Big 30. Retrieved from: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5849779420099ed16a2a2d13/t/5a16f913c83025aa86ed71e4/1511454996010/Big+30+Website+-+Changes+in+Society+-+Long+-+Transcript+Inew%29.pdf Podcast: https://www.thebig30.com/changes/
- Deakin, A. (1996, September 20). Body language. Marketing Week, 19 (26), p.37. Retrieved from https://www.marketingweek.com/1996/09/20/body-language/
- Dreher, T. ‘Community media intervention’, in M. Abdalla, J. Ewart & H. Rane (eds), Islam and the Australian News Media, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. pp. 185. 2010, http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1518&context=artspapers
- Grinberg, Emanuella. “Chicago Torture: Facebook Live Video Leads to 4 Arrests.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 Jan. 2017, https://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/04/us/chicago-facebook-live-beating/index.html
- Haller B. and Ralph S. (2001) Profitability, Diversity, and Disability Images in Advertising in the United States and Great Britain. Vol 21 No 2. Disability Studies Quarterly. Retrieved from http://dsq-sds.org/article/viewFile/276/302%20Beth%20Haller%202001
- Higgins, Daire. “Children’s Rights & The Media” Page4 Chapter 3. Unicef, Learning Technology Team, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland http://elearning-events.dit.ie/unicef/html/unit1/1_3_4.htm
- Lau, Chris. “Hong Kong Teacher Punished Special Needs Pupils, Some as Young as 6, by Spraying Alcohol Sanitiser in Their Faces.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 23 Dec. 2015, scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/1894419/hong-kong-teacher-punished-special-needs-pupils-some-young
- Magee, K. (2016, September 09). The invisibles: Why are portrayals of disability so rare in advertising? Campaign UK. Retrieved June 20, 2018, from https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/invisibles-why-portrayals-disability-so-rare-advertising/1407945
- Twitter (2016) #DisabilityTooWhite. Twitter. Retrieved 23 June, 2018 from https://twitter.com/hashtag/disabilitytoowhite?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Ehashtag
- Unerman, S. (2016, July 14). Ad industry is failing to represent people with disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/ad-industry-failing-represent-people-disabilities/1402234
- Wong, A. (2017). Guests: Vilissa Thompson and s.e. smith. Episode 4 Disabled People in Media & Journalism. Disability Visibility. Retrieved 22 June 2018, from https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2017/10/08/ep-4-disabled-people-in-media-journalism/
Transcript from: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Disabled-People-in-Media-Journalism.pdf