Monday, April 11, 2011

Media Reform, Media Justice, and the Prison-Industrial Complex

I just returned from the National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) that was held in Boston this past weekend. It was a busy three days and I’m tired but inspired.

As I have argued elsewhere, media issues should be considered central for all activists working against the prison- industrial complex. There is a strong connection between the prevalence of media messages of fear and the public’s acceptance of mass incarceration in the U.S., and I believe it will be impossible to effect any real change in the criminal injustice system until and unless we change the media discourse around race, poverty, crime, and violence.

The NCMR brought together over 2500 activists, educators, writers, artists, filmmakers, and citizens inspired by the conference slogan: Change the Media, Change the World. Sponsored by the non-profit organization Free Press (, the NCMR is held periodically on an irregular schedule and I always find it invigorating and energizing. It is absolutely crucial for dissident movements to establish a sense of community so that individual activists can fight the feelings of isolation and marginalization that often plague those whose opinions and ideas are ignored or ridiculed in the mainstream culture.

The NCMR is by no means a radical utopia (I was particularly displeased by the inclusion of Nancy Pelosi as a featured speaker), but it always offers many inspiring moments, such as the speech by Malkia Cyril ( who emphasized the need for a deep connection between the media reform movement and the fight for media justice. For me, the term media justice invokes the battle against degrading images of people of color and the poor and working classes that continue to infest commercial media while serving to distract us from the real crimes promulgated by America’s corporations and their lackeys in the U.S. government.

“Divide and conquer” is an ancient strategy that the powerful still employ as an effective means of social control, and our media saturated society allows for more propaganda tools than ever before. But the NCMR reminded me that “divide and conquer” can be met by “organize and unite,” and that the fight for social justice has not been entirely lost yet.

To find out more about the National Conference for Media Reform and to watch videos from conference sessions go to:

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