Option 1: The Distracting Villain
In what ways are contemporary “villains” emphasized and individualized in the media as means of distracting the U.S./Canadian public from broader, systemic factors at play?
Have students research this issue related to a current event. As an example, Osama bin Laden was among the most discussed individuals (if not the most discussed individual) during the decade between the attack on the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 and his death on May 2, 2011. Map out what important news events during that time—particularly those regarding U.S. contributions to conflict in the Middle East—were overshadowed by the manhunt for bin Laden?
Option 2: Firearm Rhetoric
“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Or “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” These are the go-to slogans of firearms-rights folk all over the world (particularly, though, in the United States, where the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms. As a result, these people tend to individualize gun violence when it rhetorically suits them (“mentally deranged” or “a bad apple”) or overgeneralize this same violence when that suits their agenda (“Muslim terrorists” or “Antifa radicals”). How could we challenge these narratives through an avoidance of villainification and an explorations of broader, systemic factors?
Research a contemporary act of extraordinary gun violence (e.g., the Dunforth shooting) and compare an article by an unaffiliated media source (e.g., BBC) with an article or blog/vlog post by a highly affiliated source (e.g., Alex Jones). Write a response about the elements of the story that are contained in one source but not in the other, and purpose a few contributing, systemic factors that neither source explore.
(Created by Aaron Thacker, 2018)