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Professor Bill Yousman Speaks on the Rhetoric of Hate in Media and Politics

August 1, 2019

Hate speech and imagery is a dangerous thing and all too prevalent across mainstream media and politics. 

In his talk titled, The Rhetoric of Hate in Media, Bill Yousman, an associate professor within Sacred Heart University’s School of Communication, Media & the Arts, asserted that it is imperative that individuals today be mindful of their speech and the language and imagery in the media they consume. This talk was the second of a four-part “Heart Challenges Hate” series of lectures and was attended by students, faculty, staff, and several community residents.

The four-part series was sponsored by SHU’s Office of Mission & Catholic Identity, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Human Journey Colloquia Series.

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The Importance of Analyzing Media 

Yousman teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in media literacy, which stress a critical analysis of media industries, content, and social impact. His research focuses on media and the construction of ideology, the role media representations play in shaping perceptions of race and the relationship between media and democracy. 

In planning his talk, Yousman wondered where to start, offering that there are so many past and present examples of hate speech, imagery, and insensitivity. Using Powerpoint slides, he cited recent controversial comments made by a congressman, aired a photo of another politician who had dressed in blackface at a college gathering, and splashed up provocative magazine headlines and cable news screen captures.

These examples, Yousman said, were the type of “rhetoric” he hoped to expose — language used to persuade people to hate people that are different from them, and the use of half-truths as a form of propaganda.

Yousman suggested the term “radical Islamic terrorists,” for instance, has been used in an all- too-encompassing manner — that certain acts of violence are attributed to this group when far-right extremists may actually be to blame. In the same way, he opined that Islam is often the first religious target for slander, “more than any other.”

Practical Take-Aways: How to Fight Hate

So, how do you determine what’s what? And how can you become a conscious consumer of media? Yousman suggests developing media literacy skills. 

Ask important questions and take time to do some research: Who is the author and what is his or her purpose? What techniques are used? What lifestyles and points of view do the media generally represent? What’s omitted from the message?

Entertainment programming also plays a role in muddying things, Yousman said, from sitcoms to song lyrics. Similarly, he added, cartoons have been used for generations to spread propaganda, intimidate, and disconcert. So again, be mindful and vigilant — don’t mindlessly consume. Always ask questions and seek to understand what lies under the surface.

Yousman also noted that it’s easy to be against extreme examples of hatred. It is more difficult when it’s cloaked in politics and mainstream media, like widely shared magazines, cable stations, and radio.

As to what individuals can do to combat hate speech, Yousman recommended advertiser boycotts, writing letters, and speaking out.

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At SHU, we make it our mission to equip all students with the tools they need to succeed both during graduate school and in life beyond. To learn more about how we can help you on your grad school journey, we invite you to reach out and request more information or subscribe to our blog below. Best of luck on your next academic venture!

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Note: This article was originally published here.


SHU Graduate Admissions Team

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