By: Jack Weingart
Stuart Hall’s article, “Racist Ideologies and the Media,” discusses the concept of ideology while exploring the mainstream media’s role of naturalising racial and social inequalities such that the public comes to accept differential treatment of people within society as the way things are, or common sense.
Hall uses the term ideology to refer “to those images, concepts and premises which provide the frameworks through which we represent, interpret, understand, and ‘make sense’ of some aspect of social existence” (Hall 2000:271). Hall argues that the portrayal and perpetuation of race/racism in the media, which is a key producer and transformer of ideologies, touches directly the problem of ideology. According to Hall, ideologies produce different forms of social consciousness and work best when people do not realize that the way in which they formulate and construct their worldviews are underpinned by ideological premises. Rather than seeing their views as guided and constructed by society’s ruling ideologies, people tend to believe that their views are uniquely their own and sensible.
Hall explains how the media constructs a definition of what race is for viewers, what meaning the imagery of race carries, and how “the problem of race” should be understood. In simpler terms, the media classifies out the world in terms of categories of race, setting people a part based upon their appearance and preconceived notions that have been socially constructed over time. The media articulates, works on, transforms, and elaborates on these ideas of race, and consequently, shapes viewers thoughts about race and perpetuates racism in today’s so-called “multi-cultural” world.
There are two forms of racism perpetuated through the media today—overt racism and inferential racism. Overt racism is explained as the coverage granted to openly racist arguments, positions, or spokespersons. Inferential racism, on the other hand, is the “apparently naturalised representations of events and situations relating to race, whether ‘factual’ or ‘fictional,’ which have racist premises and propositions inscribed in them as a set of unquestioned assumptions” (Hall 2000:273). According to Hall, inferential racism is more widespread and in many ways, more insidious, because it is largely invisible.
Hall, Stuart. “Racist Ideologies and the Media.” Media Studies: A Reader. Eds. P. Marris and S. Thornham. 2nd Edition. New York: New York University Press, 2000. Ch22, 271-282.
Word count: 347 words