November 14, 2018

Media and Violence


1) Narratives Recap

2) Resistance: Ida Wells

Violence Narratives Recap

Example: Lynching

What frames are used to endorse lynching?

What narrative features support this?

  • Lynching press coverage
  • "The Birth of a Nation"

Lynching: Diagnostic Frames

From advocates of lynching:

  • Inefficiency/corruption of courts
  • Legal punishment creates insufficient deterrent
  • Threat of black criminality/sexual aggression

Lynching: Prognostic Frames

From advocates of lynching:

  • Popular sovereignty in punishment is better than the courts
  • Heinous crimes require heinous punishment to deter
  • "Natural" to lynch in response to rape

Lynching: Narratives


Protagonists (Lynch mob)

  • sober, orderly (rationalization)
  • "best" or "leading" citizens, entire community (authorization, inclusion)
  • mob "redeems" the community "like the lifting of a fog when the morning sun bursts forth" (euphemism)

Lynching: Narratives


Antagonists (Victim)

  • animalistic (repudiation)
  • described as repeat criminal, troubled person (exclusion)
  • "monster", "fiend", "brute", etc (dysphemism)

Lynching: Narratives


  • ‘the hearts of the Citra people were bowed down in grief to know that a duty was to be performed.’ (euphemism)
  • Victim of lynching "undeniably guilty" of crimes, particularly rape (objectification)
  • Violence against victim described using passive voice (passivization)
  • Violence happens because of a crime, 'meet the only justice possible.' (naturalization)

Lynching: Narratives


  • "Boilerplate"/"stock" lynching narratives used regardless of truth
  • Complaint of overused/"hackneyed" language
  • Distinguished between "warranted" and "unwarranted" lynchings

Lynching: Narratives

Lynching: Narratives

Resisting Violent Narratives

Challenging Violent Rhetoric

Who has knowledge needed to do this?

Who has the motive to do this?

Who has the status and connections to be an effective messenger?

What can be done to challenge justifications for violence?

Ida Wells

Ida Wells: Biography

  • Born into slavery; family became middle class
  • Gendered expectations of "ladies"
  • Challenged segregation
  • Became part-owner of Memphis newspaper

Ida Wells: Radicalization

1892 Lynching in Memphis

Editorial criticism of lynching


Ida Wells:

Attributes as effective messenger:

African American: access to information, motive to combat lynching

Woman: credibly question "rape" narrative

Middle-class "Lady": respectable status, language, deportment

Journalist: access to media, skilled in communication, national network

"Credentials": approval from Frederick Douglass

Ida Wells: Diagnostic Frames

In Southern Horrors:

Lynching is systemic racial violence connected to the state

  1. Courts easily convict African Americans, compared to whites

  2. White men rape black women with little cost or condemnation

Lynching is built on racial bias

  1. Sexual relations between black men and white women are (often) consensual

  2. White elites are complicit in racial injustice of lynching to ensure dominance

Ida Wells: Diagnostic Frames

Lynching a threat to rule of law

Ida Wells:

How did she challenge lynching narratives?