The Assasination of Malcolm X
As we all know, the most powerful creator of rhetorical issue is the media. The media played a large and important role in consistently creating a negative public image of Malcolm X which is still connected with him. The reality created by the media is powerful enough to create lasting images and stereotypes about people. These images may be true in some cases, but when incorrect, form an issue that demand a correction. The media has the ability to set the agenda, what people think and think about. When the report involves issues of race, the reporting and writing contain elements of the racial ideology.
When I read all of the three articles, the most racist article would be the Newsweek. Because of their racism style of reporting, it is almost impossible for the public, particularly the white public, to critique messages on race in any useful way. As a result, the media has the potential through its many channels to create racially biased images, particularly in the mind of the white public (Malcolm X’s case). Based on the three articles from The New York Times, Newsweek and New York Post, the media created an image of Malcolm X as a violent and extremist who was primarily interested in harming the white population in the USA.
Malcolm X was described as advocating violence and a racial fanatic. Throughout the changes in Malcolm’s life and in his thought, the media concentrated on creating a negative image that was sometimes true of his past, but not necessarily true of his present. The media created a specific image and consistently conveyed that negative image to the white public. Malcolm X played a very important role in the Black Muslim organization for many years. Malcolm’s image in the press was first created as Malcolm X, a leader of the Black Muslims, and it was Malcolm’s speaking that brought a lot of attention to the group.
Terms related to the Black Muslims were almost synonymous with Malcolm X because of his powerful role in the organization and because of the strong beliefs linked specifically with both Malcolm and the Black Muslims. Black Muslims, and thus Malcolm X, were characterized as extremists within the media. The media created this image with the terms used to describe Malcolm X and Black Muslims which are anti-Christian, anti-white, protester, black supremacy, bitter, confrontation, enemy, extremist, hate, sect, threat, and trouble.
These terms appeared frequently and with high intensity, shaping a negative image of Malcolm X in the media. After Malcolm returned from Mecca, he announced that he no longer indicted the entire white race as racists and devils, and yet he was still connected with black supremacy. Other terms that cluster around extremist and appear in relation to Black Muslims and Malcolm X are enemy, confrontation, and bitter. These labels have implications of violence. Violence from a minority group against the white society is extremely disturbing to that population.
We can see from Newsweek report, the tone used to described Malcolm X was a bit harsh for our reading. From the article, we as readers can make assumptions that the editor or writer of that article maybe a White people who hate Black people and also seemed very biased towards the Muslims. From all those three articles, we can see that the most neutral report was from The New York Times. I cannot sense any biasness in their report. It is the same with report from New York Post. The writer of New York Post delivered the report more like a story telling because he or she was at the crime scene.
From the article, we as readers can feel the fears during the awful tragedy. As we all know, Malcolm X was powerful. His skill and strength as a speaker are a evidence to that fact. The portrayal of power as related to Malcolm X turned negative quickly. Malcolm gained popularity and became a threat to Elijah Muhammad’s leadership of the Black Muslims. Popularity had contributed to Malcolm’s power and it could be and probably was seen as a threat to the Black Muslims, possibly contributing to the theory that some within the Black Muslim organization wanted Malcolm dead.
The media connected Malcolm X with a negative image of power by using terms such as demagogue, evil, followers, fiery, icon, rival and split. These terms helped to shape the negative image of Malcolm X. Most of the terms can be seen from the Newsweek article. Compared with the other two reports, Newsweek showed biasness when describing Malcolm X. Malcolm is called a “demagogue” in the Newsweek article. This title of power could be viewed as fearful power. Icon is a religious term, and for Malcolm to be seen as a kind of religious symbol may have been seen as clashing.
After Malcolm left Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, his newly formed group and Muhammad’s group were pictured as rivals. The word rival sounds as if Malcolm’s role is specifically as the enemy. It creates an image of Malcolm separating from a group with which he has been identified as being powerful and using that power against them. In Newsweek article, it summarizes a variety of terms used by the media about Malcolm to bring up his criminal past. Drugs and related terms are brought up frequently in articles about Malcolm, even though drugs had been a part of only at the early life of Malcolm X.
The article stated that he was Big Red, a Harlem hipster trafficking in numbers, narcotics, sex and petty crime. The focus is on a part of his life that he had abandoned when he accepted Islam. The used of these terms helped to shape the negative image of Malcolm X in the media. Proof of this image is seen in the Newsweek article. The media created Malcolm X as a powerful, violent, extremist desperado. In doing so they were successful in creating an issue so great. The media showed that only a few characteristics are attributed to a group or individual and are taken to be their essence.
In this case, most negative characteristics were attributed to Malcolm X and were left to be the essence of who he was. Malcolm was seen as a violent person. He was seen as dangerous, and his power as threatening. In reality, what Malcolm was advocating was self-defense. There is a difference between violence in general and self-defense. Self-defense is usually violent, but self-defense is only used to defend oneself from a violent attack started by another person or group of people. The media also only showed Malcolm X as violent and did not explain his philosophy of self-defense.
As such, his essence in the media was violence. The media characterized Malcolm X by using few characteristics of extremism, power, violence and desperado without knowing of who he was. The issues of his past were brought up among the group of Black Muslims to show his faith, perseverance, and success in beating that past. The media also did not report on Malcolm’s later beliefs. Finally, the media otherized Malcolm X in that the characteristics attributed to him made him appear strange and different.
His image in the white public was one of a wild, untouchable, extremist desperado. Because of that, he appeared to be unapproachable, which created fear in the white public. The media was successful in creating an image of Malcolm X as wild so that the white public viewed him as other than he was. He became a wild, exotic being within the media created reality. Last but not least, we can say that the print media is powerful that has the power to create reality. In the case of Malcolm X, the media-created reality was a damaging situation.