Today’s Motivations… Cultural Diversity and the Media


Howard Beale (Peter Finch) delivering his &quo...
Howard Beale

In our society, the media becomes a substitute for real interaction—especially when it comes to cultural diversity. There are people who have no direct interaction with blacks, Hispanics or homosexuals; they only know what they see on “the tube.”

The media (television, in particular) offers us images in various forms—commercial, performance and news—portraying lives of people different from ourselves. We are increasingly exposed to diverse populations through the images presented through television, movies, internet and other communication platforms.

In the 1976 film “Network,” newscaster/mad prophet Howard Beale said it like this:

“We deal in ‘illusions’, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds… We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even ‘think’ like the tube!”

Insightful, for a 35-year-old-movie…

When the media stresses the inclusiveness of society, the concept of diversity begins growing more acceptable to the masses, which then become a better selling tool for advertisers (and to a larger audience).

Soon, it is a pattern that feeds on itself.

Commercials, a large part of “the media,” is a powerful force for the principle of cultural diversity (or more so) than the products they are selling.

In “The Black Image in the White Mind,” Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki write about the power of advertising in creating a starting point for social harmony. Of course, the issue is relevant to all races:

Television commercials are leading cultural indicators. There are no people more expert in a society’s cultural values and taboos than those who create television advertisements… we do believe ads provide uniquely appropriate indicators of the culture’s racial heartbeat. In pursuing public notice for its clients’ wares, it is possible that advertising agencies, which are nothing if not creative, could be stretching cultural limits, exercising a potential to nudge Whites towards racial comity.”

Critics argue that visibility of gays and lesbians in advertising does not mean increased social acceptance of gays and lesbians, but merely an attempt by advertisers and network executives to get an untapped market.

The network is not concerned about the “rhetorical warfare” over homosexuals, said George F. Schweitzer, senior vice president of CBS marketing and communications in New York, adding, “It clearly does not dictate our advertising positions.” Buying ad space in a homosexual publication “is not a political statement,” he said. “It’s an advertising strategy.”

Advertisers have no duty to make political statements. Agencies that generate ads do not make social trends; they gauge cultural “temperature” and use those insights to sell products.

That is exactly my point. Without cultural and political rhetoric to bind them, advertisers can make significant headway in racial justice (or sexual orientation).

Leading corporations—by the system of national advertising—design ads to appeal to segments of the population, and through advertising, can increase the value of diverse groups (at least in the eyes of the majority).

With ads that includes images of diverse people, we promote the concept of a level playing field.

A level playing field is—after all—the ultimate goal of diversity.

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One thought on “Today’s Motivations… Cultural Diversity and the Media

  1. Did you ever notice that the most intolerant people are the ones who seem to try so hard to sell everyone on how great THEIR WAY is? If it were truly that great, why the hard sell?

    Our nation is truly moving more toward acceptance of diversity. I don’t even like the word TOLERANCE because it somehow implies that we must “put up” with THOSE people.

    We are part of a beautiful flower garden, diversity provides interest and richness. People who learn to celebrate rather than fear this richness are much happier.

    I for the life of me cannot understand why people spend so much time worrying about who a grown person chooses to sleep with.

    Thank you for this post.

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