From as far back as we can remember, news in the media was effortlessly available and with access to the internet, even more so. Leading studies have shown that the influence of mass media has an adverse effect on many aspects of human life. In this article, we will explore mass media and how media influenced the perception of society in a recent incident at a leading university in South Africa.
What is mass media?
Mass media refers to media technologies that reach large audiences via mass communication. Most media these days are sent in digital format on the internet, reaching millions of readers. According to statista.com, about one-third of the South African population uses smartphones. That amounts to approximately 20 – 22 million users with access to media.
How does mass media broadcasting influence perceptions?
We all know the Spur Steak Ranch franchise group, right? The Spur group is 55 years old with a great tradition but, do you remember the incident that occurred in 2017 at Texamo Spur in The Glen Shopping Centre? There was an altercation between a man and a woman because of, allegedly, the one child scuffing the other parents’ child on the playground. Now…before social media, this incident would have created some atmosphere in the restaurant and the incident would have been soon forgotten. But because of mass broadcast through social media, an entirely different social scenario was perceived. A bystander started recording the incident, not from the beginning though, but rather halfway through the incident and decided to post the video on social media.
Millions of people saw this and immediately classify it as a racial incident. Why? Because the media was pushing the racial narrative and society believed it. Instead of examining exactly what triggered the outrage, many, including the media houses, condemned the incident without investigation. The consequence of the influence that this type of media had on the Spur group was an instant boycott of the Spur franchise and a loss in revenue. This proves the strength of influence of the media. Instead of reporting an incident between a man and a woman, the media thought it best to change the narrative to a racial incident between a black woman and a white man. Given the history of our country, it was inevitable to NOT sit well with many a South African.
How did the media influence perception of the Stellenbosch Univerity incident?
Many of us who had the privilege to study full time at a university would know that almost all students are up to mischief during their first year, right? The incident that occurred at the University of Stellenbosch recently whereby an intoxicated student urinated on a fellow student’s desk was a bit of a more severe “mischievous incident” I would say, however, and again, mass media influence the perceptions of society by changing the narrative and exploiting the racial tension in the country. Before the internet and mas broadcasting, this incident would most probably have gone for an internal investigation by the university and the issue would have been dealt with accordingly. With the narrative being changed during mass broadcasting, the consequence was that students marched against racism at the university, demanded the expulsion of the student, and society labelled the issue as a human rights violation. What was mass media involvement in this? Instead of broadcasting that a fellow student urinated on a student’s property, the media exploited the racial sensitivity by changing the narrative to ‘ a white boy urinated on a black student’s property.
Societal perceptions during the absence of media.
Let us think about all the incidents, e.g murders, arguments in public places, student misconduct, etc. What would your answer be in the following scenarios in the absence of mass media broadcasting? Think of it from a non-racial perspective for a moment.
What if the confrontations were between two white males? Would it have enjoyed the same attention?
What if the altercations were between two black males?
What if the altercations were between a coloured and an Asian male?
What if the altercations were between a black female and an Asian female?
What if the altercations were between a white Afrikaans speaking and a white English speaking male?
What if the altercations were between a Zulu male and a Xosa male?
And lastly, for the non-racist of us, what if the altercation was merely imagined as being between a man and a man? Would it have enjoyed the same attention?
(This one you need to answer without the media influencing your decision by changing the narrative into a racial agenda.).
Would your answers have been different if these scenarios were mass broadcast on social media?
In conclusion – while the media is capitalizing on the racial sensitivity in South Africa for the sake of revenue using mass broadcasting and the social influence this has on society, racism will never end in SA and the dream of a Rainbow nation will be superfluous. This is especially the case in a multi-racial, multicultural society. For us to succeed in the dream of a non-judgemental society, we should control how we perceive information that is broadcast in a mass format. At least for the sake of peace in this beautiful and colourful nation of ours. Don’t let your judgement be influenced by propaganda spreading in mass media. You too might fall victim to undeserved social judgement one day…