Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Media Advisory

(from Moon-Yun)


Media Advisory: Continuing Coverage on Virginia Tech Shooting

SAN FRANCISCO (April 17, 2007) -- Now that the identity of the suspected shooter at Virginia Tech is known, AAJA [Asian American Journalists Association] cautions the use of his heritage or immigrant status in news coverage.

We understand the need to research the background of Seung-Hui Cho (first name is pronounced "sung hee") and to provide details about him as a nation struggles to make sense of the horrific incident.

But we are disturbed by some media outlets' prominent mention that the suspect is an immigrant from South Korea when such a revelation provides no insight or relevance to the story. The fact he is not a U.S. citizen and was here on the basis of a green card, while interesting, should not be a primary focus in the profiling of him. To highlight that suggests his immigration status played a role in the shootings; there's been no such evidence.

We remind the media that the use of racial and other identifiers must be accompanied with context and relevance. Without it, we open the door to subjecting an entire people to unfair treatment or portrayal based on their skin color or national heritage.

We at AAJA, representing approximately 2,000 reporters, editors, photographers and executives in the industry, encourage journalists to refer to style and reference books, both within their own shop as well as AAJA's at http://www.aaja.org/resources/apa_handbook/.


Ritchie Mae said...

This issue reminds me of the heated discussion between Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera. A clip can be found on YouTube:


This topic about generalizations is interesting. One person on Facebook.com looked Korean and, in his pictures, posed with guns. All of a sudden, people started sending him hateful comments because they assumed that he was the shooter involved in the Virgina Tech shooting.

Pat said...

Let's construct a generalization using what this media advisory warns against.

Seung-Hui Cho killed people at Virginia Tech
Seung-Hui Cho was an Asian immigrant.
Asian immigrants are dangerous and violent.

You can see that there is a leap from the second part of this syllogism to the third. The first two parts are facts; the third is a conclusion that appears to follow from the first two but, in fact, does not.

If such generalizations become embedded in our thinking, we start manufacturing stereotypes from them; and the more popular these stereotypes become, the more they roam the landscape of reality, causing havoc.

jenna said...

I'm glad that the AAJA sent this out, although I'm not sure if it will really do anything to keep the focus on the facts and not the generalizations. The first bunch of articles available I read online seemed biased and misleading, which was a bit annoying. It was almost as if the media was sending a message that we should be relieved that it was an immigrant South Korean rather than someone American.

Takashi said...

After the shooting this week, someone I know said, “Oh, I’m so glad the guy was Korean and not Japanese.” This person is a Japanese American who lived through the World War II years in the United States and I’m guessing this person’s comment was based on the experience of being Japanese during that time.

The Japanese did horrific things in Asia and Pacific in the 1930s and 40s. This fact doesn’t necessarily make me evil, and I hate to be looked at as a descendant of imperialistic Japanese militarists. But how can I, as a Japanese person, say, “I shouldn’t be subjected to stereotype or generalization for what my ancestors did in the past. I didn’t do anything. That’s got nothing to do with me”? Whether I like it or not, people will always look at me as an individual who belongs to the Japanese population, the aggressor in the Pacific War. That is a consequence of hideous crimes committed by my ancestors, and I feel obligated to reclaim the trust of the people for the Japanese in whatever ways I can.

Generalization and self-awareness should be two separate matters. In an ideal situation, nobody should be subjected to unwarranted generalizations, and achieving such society should be a common goal for all people. But the reality demands people to “clear up bad names” even when the individuals are not responsible for whatever mistakes made.

Pat said...

I agree with Takashi's statements about the burden we Japanese carry. See this page: Asia Week

Ryan said...

This is a topic that I discuss regularly with my friends in the department. At the recent CCCs convention (a gathering of about 3500) writing teachers, I could count on two hands the amount of Asian faces that I saw. The Asian caucus of English writing teachers could fill a small classroom. It is a sad fact that even for supposedly mindful members of academia, Asian-American or Asian culture is invisible and only becomes apparent in the face of a great tragedy.
I was personally disgusted watching Wolf Blitzer and his panel of so-called experts speak about the mysterious and "closed-off" aspects of Asian culture, depicting Asians as anti-social and incapable of living in Western society.
This tragedy needs to inspire a dialogue--and not a dialogue that inflames the topic of Asian-American or Asian otherness, or mollifies the initial media furor; nor should this subject be trusted to the hands of dominant white scholars and theorists. Everyone must mourn the fallen and condemn the psychotic person to an afterlife of torment; and for the rest of the sane, responsible Asians that live in this country, it is time to become visible.

Pat said...

The BBC article I read this morning said that Virginia Tech students and faculty have recognized Seung Cho as one of the fallen. I think that is the true measure of a tragedy: when the perpetrator is a victim also.

The dialogue that you speak of is beginning. Just as people responded to Don Imus, they will respond to people like Wolf Blitzer. Did anyone read the piece in yesterday's paper written by the parent of one of the Columbine students who was killed? It seems to me to be a fitting response to WB and his ilk.

Ryan said...

I'm sorry, the idea of a submissive Japanese economy is ludicrous. And Japan is definitely not beholden to France or Great Britain. Japan is a dominant, global imperialist, as pernicious as the US and much more successful than any other European nation. Describing Japan as a hot Oriental slut diminishes certain brilliant maneuvers that Japan as a nation has accomplished. They do not have a nation burdened with defense department debt like the United States.
Calling Japan a whore to the west imputes a false victimage to a country whose imperial history rivals China, England, and the United States. Further, it perpetuates the the exoticiziation of the ethnic other; it also relies on circular reasoning. Japan is feminized in Western eyes because the West feminizes Japan. The merger of the Nikkei and the NYSE is not submission. It is the a move towards the transparent reign of Capital. If you want to interogate power, you must confront the power structures instantiated within, around, and beneath the florid language of Orientalism and ethnic guilt. You must see how capital is working. Otherwise, you foreclose the argument within stale binaries of past-present; male-female; the known-the other.
I still insist that we need dialogue and dialectic, not eulogies or polemics.

Pat said...

I think that many people are engaging in dialogues; for example, we are doing so here at the blog.

Let's all make a pledge to each other to listen: to listen with compassion and empathy.

And let's, as Ryan said, put aside polemics.