November 9, 2018

Media and Violence


1) Narratives (continued)

2) Birth of a Nation

Narrative Features


How are the

  • events leading up to
  • the violence itself

described or narrated

Narrative Features: Action


euphemism: description of action using language with positive valence instead of neutral or negative terms (describing a lynching as a "trial" and "execution")

dysphemism: description of action with negative or pejorative adjective instead of neutral or positive terms (calling a protest "chaotic")

Narrative Features: Action


Objectification: characterize narrative action as irrefutable or true ("no doubt" victim of lynching "guilty of a crime")

Subjectification: characterize narrative as subjective and potentially incorrect ("alleged")

Narrative Features: Action


Activation: use of active voice to attribute responsibility of actions to specific actors ("Hose outraged…")

Passivization: use of passive voice to deny responsibility of actions to specific actors ("… was lynched", "… was burned")

Narrative Features: Action


Naturalization: actions shown to be natural (just the way things are), inevitable, or expected (crime so terrible, lynching response was due to "moral insanity")

De-Naturalization: actions not natural or inevitable, but orchestrated or planned (Ida Wells on Southern Horrors)

"The Birth of a Nation"

"The Birth of a Nation"

What is it?

  1. First major feature film (1915)
  2. Valorizes KKK; White Supremacy in the South
  3. Provoked protest/censorship campaign by African Americans, NAACP
  4. Helped spawn rebirth of KKK

"The Birth of a Nation"

Unambiguously racist film

Why watch it?

  1. What kinds of narratives used to bolster white supremacy?
  2. What kinds of narratives used to justify racial violence?
  3. What do these look like when embedded in entertainment/pop culture?

"The Birth of a Nation"


Ben Carson (the little Colonel): White southerner/love interest

Elsie Stoneman: White Northern woman (attacked by Silas Lynch)


Silas Lynch: African American ("mulatto") politician