In the present age, the number of individuals who own a cellphone or have access to one, compared to those who don’t, have risen. This results in an increased use of social media and an easier way to obtain information from news outlets. This meaning, it can lead to the optimized consumption of articles to become highly educated on specific topics. Although social media provides a platform for the general public to share newfound knowledge and images that are unaltered from news outlets, it can also lead to false information and propaganda regarding politics. In response to a 46-year-old black man’s murder by a white police officer, protests, petitions, and riots against police brutality towards different ethnic groups have spread internationally. This response has prompted the Black Lives Matter movement. After the increased awareness of the movement through news outlets, America has experienced a tension that has further aided in dividing the country.
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In 2013 Trayvon Martin, an black adolescent was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a white police officer. In his court proceedings, the court ruled that the officer be acquitted of all charges. Following this ruling there was widespread rage which resulted in the Black Lives Matter movement being founded by three women color. However, since Martin’s death, it hasn’t been as widely supported, until the homicide of George Floyd in 2020. Following his death, the movement rapidly gained more support and resurfaced in national headlines. In Minneapolis, Minnesota the police were called on George Floyd because it was presumed that he was trying to pay with a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill. When the police arrived at the convenience store, they restrained Floyd and knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. In the transcripts of the body cameras produced by the police officers, Floyd repeated twenty times that he could not breathe. It was after six minutes that Floyd became unresponsive and two of his autopsies revealed that he died of homicide. However, the mistreatment of black people isn’t a recent discovery. Locula points out that, “The ill-treatment of black people in America has triggered poor education, low-class neighborhoods, drug addictions, abridged quality of life, deficiency, less economic opportunity, subordination complex, and inexpressible misery for blacks” (“Historic Racism in America”). To combat these inequalities, the Black Lives Matter movement advocates for changes in law and policies that aid in the mistreatment through political action and protests. They also call for the defunding of police and relocation of the money into different sectors that could use more attention.
A large number of protests have spread nationwide over America concerning the Black Lives Matter movement, with over two thousand locations reporting peaceful protests. These protests consist of marches or silent protests of standing on the side of a street and holding signs. However, there have been two hundred locations that have reported riots have ensued from these once peaceful protests. It has become apparent that there are people that take these protests to the extreme, let their feelings impact their reasoning, and damage innocent people’s properties. One version of the movement is considered to be a march that pressures the government into taking responsibility for policies that directly harm members of the black community, but do not affect white people as severely. They believe that their protests, which are peaceful at first, only turn violent when those opposing them become aggressive. On the other hand, the MAGA coalition believes that “anti-fascist” protestors are traveling to predominately white neighborhoods to destroy Trump supporter’s properties which then forcing white vigilantes to fight back.
Most conservative news outlets, such as New American, and even the President choose to solely focus on the protests that have equated to violence. In doing so they are using transfer propaganda, which is a technique that projects negative or positive images of one person, entity, or objects to another to evoke a negative or positive reaction (Cross 275). Newman argues that the Black Lives Matter movement is not just a march against systemic racists, it instead poses an immense threat to the whole community, not just the police officers (35). In doing so he is using one of Cross’s propaganda devices, transfer propaganda. He is taking a small percentage of people, considering 93 percent of the protest were peaceful, and associating them with the entire movement that is overall trying to create equal justice. President Trump makes the same statement in a press conference at the National Archives Museum that, “‘Left-wing mobs have torn down statues of our founders, desecrated our memorials and carried out a campaign of violence and anarchy’” (qtd. in “Trump Goes After Black Lives Matter). While there is truth behind the fact that protestors have called for the removal of statues of historical figures that were predominately slave owners and have wrongly taken them down without any clearances. However, a majority of protest have not done this. By projecting the negative image that the Black Lives Matter movement is solely trying to wreak havoc it causes their audience to be overcome with fear or anger. Which is the MAGA coalition has taken it into their own hands to confront protestors and bring their guns to be able to defend themselves from what they view as “mobs” of protestors. However, all this does evoke fear in the protestors as well. They are aware that their protests aren’t meant to be riots, so when they see these “white vigilantes” carrying guns it incites fear in the protestors, causing them to act impulsively.
Propaganda isn’t the only technique that is used to try and persuade the audience’s opinion with biased information, charged language also plays a critical role in influencing perceptions. In mass media, there are numerous ways that the Black Lives Matter movement has been broadcasted. Depending on what news outlet the reader listens to, they could either view the movement positively or negatively. It is extremist tabloid newspapers like the New York Post, which have a conservative basis against the movement that tends to be considered the most unreliable news source. In a vast majority of their articles, they have the reputation of defending police officers and making it appear as if African Americans are the only ones to blame for how police treat them (Chama 206). To relay this mindset, they tend to broadcast charged language to their audience. Charged language are words that have strong connotations behind them that are capable of provoking powerful emotions to persuade an audience to start believing a specific way of thinking (Birk and Birk 292). In one of their articles, the front headline is referring to a protester as “privileged, pain-in-ass anarchists” (McManus). When negatively charged words like these are used it appeals to the audience’s emotions and portrayed to the public, the audience, which tends to be more right-leaning, will grow to detest the movement. News headlines like these can damage the relationships between African Americans and police officers. As a result of these misleading, negatively charged headlines this will strike fear in police officers that work in predominately black communities and cause them to be emotionally charged. This results in them acting on impulse and unfairly over-policing these communities. Hence why a black child will be shot to death when playing outside in the snow with a toy gun, but the same will not happen for a white child. These tabloids only increase the tension between people of the black community and police officers.
However, conservative media is not the only source that uses charged language. In an article from Time Magazine, the author when going into detail about the killing of George Floyd, refers to the video that surfaced as horrific and that you can hear his anguished gasps (Altman 30). This is the same tactic that was used in the New York Post, except this time it is used in favor of the black community and against the police officers. This does the same job of using negatively charged language against the police officers and the incident that occurred with Floyd to fuel the movement. Instead of inciting fear in its audience, it incites anger. In turn, this will could cause more riots to occur because people are fueled by their emotions and not thinking logically. When both sides view each other as being in the wrong and have a strong negative idea about what the opposing side stands for, it leaves the country divided. Propaganda and charged language are used by both political parties, there is not one side that is just innocent or guilty of using those devices. It may be used to obtain “good” ends, but this does not make it less problematic.
However, the propaganda and charged language that is used by the for and against the Black Lives Matter movement is only aiding in dividing the country worse than it already is. If these propaganda techniques continue to be used, the two political parties will continue to view each other as enemies and could potentially result in something that resembles another civil war. Both sides could put forth an effort to use propaganda or charged language that is beneficial to their side, without harming the other. For example, using language that talks positively or neutrally about their side, while also using the same attitude towards the opposing side. People tend to forget that everyone is in this together, this is one country. To continue improving policies and government, everyone’s opinions have to be taken into play.
Altman, Alex. “The President, the Protestors and the Plague of Police Violence.”, TIME Magazine, vol. 195, no. 22, 15 Jun. 2020, pp. 30-33, EBSCO Host.
Birk, Newman P., and Genevieve Birk. “Selection, Slanting, and Charged Language.”, Eschholz, et al., Bedford/St. Martin’s, pp. 285-293.
Chama, Brian. “The Black Lives Matter Movement, Crime and Police Brutality: Comparative Study of New York Post and New York Daily News.”, European Journal of American Culture, vol. 38, no.3, pp. 201-216, EBSCO Host.
Cross, Donna Woolfolk. “Propaganda: How Not to be Bamboozled.” Eschholz, et al., Bedford/St. Martin’s, pp.271-281.
Eschholz, Paul, et al., editors. Language Awareness: Readings for College Writers. 13th edition, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2020.
Locula, Jerry. “Historic Racism in America: George Floyd's Remarkable Global Justice Solidarity.”, Peace & Conflict Monitor, 2020, EBSCO Host.
McManus, Bob. “NYC Coddles the Privileged, Pain-in-Ass Anarchists Who Spit on Cops.” New York Post, 5 Nov. 2020.
Newman, Alex. “Black Lives Matter: Behind the Façade.”, New America, vol. 36, no. 19, 5 Oct. 2020, pp. 35-38, EBSCO Host.
“Trump Goes After Black Lives Matter, 'Toxic Propaganda' in Schools.” Politico, 17 Sept. 2020, Nexis Uni.
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