All Lives Matter: A Glance at Social Media and Controversial Agendas

If we have perfected the mantra that all lives matter, then the evidence of history and present statistics regarding our human “interactions” with one another demand we give an account for why 6 million or more Jews along with Gypsies and the disabled were murdered during the Holocaust, which lasted approximately 12 years; why an estimated 17 million or more Africans became the number one commodity of the Transatlantic Slave Trade that resulted in four centuries of human torture, rape, and unspoken deaths, why U.S. children toiled in factories for 70 hours a week until the 1900s, why from as early as 1980 to 2014 African American men continue to be six times more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, and face stiffer sentencing than white males, and why black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers?

Answer: We have not lived by the mantra that all lives matter. 

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In the midst of these human indignities, and essential to the advancement of humanity, traditional media (print, radio, television) has always been central to how groups of people are able to tell their story and set their agenda. Individuals, however, have often been at the mercy of whether or not traditional media would publicize their agenda. That is, of course, until the rise of social media! The evolution of social media has forced a more shared power structure of social and political platforms. It is so revolutionary, that a movement as controversial as BLM (Black Lives Matter) could and did insert itself onto the national presidential stage to force America’s 2016 primary candidates to join the discourse. Though differences exist in terms of who grew to support the movement or measures of it, and who chose to counter the movement, the point is, the candidates had to respond to the movement.

Studies in Adler University’s Media and Communications (MAMC) graduate program consider the range of analysis that can be conducted on both the media and the message. From the standpoint of media, we examine, for instance the strategic difference in how an organization utilizes one media channel versus another as explored in Giselle Auger’s “Fostering Democracy Through Social Media.” What is it that one must do, or that an organization must consider in order to advance its cause or product into the communication space where the masses now dwell? Did BLM get lucky, or did they benefit from prescribed notions of how to use media channels?

Analyzing Controversial Messages Through Its Construction

When analyzing a message, we may also explore why a platform, such as BLM, could be so controversial in its message construction. Would it be, or would it have been during the Holocaust, controversial to advocate JLM (Jewish Lives Matter), or CLM (Children’s Lives Matter) during early battles of child labor laws? Perhaps it’s controversial because it challenges the status quo, the systems that are already in place which privilege certain bodies, skin colors, statuses in society over others. And that is something that is common to many social movements- anything that challenges power and privilege gets dismissed or labeled as dangerous until the majority sees a reason to support it. Would we project on to CLM that adult lives do not matter, in the way some project onto BLM that white lives or blue lives do not matter? Would it be less controversial had BLM announced “Black Lives Matter too?”

The BLM platform, in part, is advocating for police accountability across America. Rather one believes that we need police accountability or citizen accountability, or both; one thing is for sure, approximately two thirds of American voters say the U.S. needs radical change according to a 2016 Quinnipiac University poll.

For more information on studying the intersections of media, social justice, corporate, and non-profit agendas in Adler University’s online MA in Media and Communications, contact Dr. Davina at djones@adler.edu.

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