News & Media

November 5, 2015

Crossley Speaks on Media Saturation, Hashtag Activism, at Fall Hakim Lecture

On Wednesday, October 28th, television and radio host, commentator and public speaker Callie Crossley spoke on the topic of “Narratives and Hashtags: The Media’s Impact on Social Justice,” at the Fall 2015 Hakim Lecture.

Callie Crossley

On Wednesday, October 28th, television and radio host, commentator and public speaker Callie Crossley spoke on the topic of "Narratives and Hashtags: The Media's Impact on Social Justice," at the Fall 2015 Hakim Lecture.

Crossley, who is host of WGBH's Under the Radar with Callie Crossley and a regular contributor on NPR, CNN, Fox 25 Boston and PBS NewsHour, discussed the current media landscape worldwide, in which media saturation is "ubiquitous" and "so pervasive, [that] at any given time we are literally being assaulted" by outlets selling narratives.

"In an all-media, all-the-time environment, is it any wonder that people accept the first thing or frame presented to them?" Crossley said.

Addressing political narratives and the big money that shapes them during this election season, Crossley questioned what's really behind the fascination with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, as well as the work that goes into scripting what public figures want society to see. She referred to a clip from the television series "Scandal" for a glimpse at what happens behind closed doors when communications professionals are looking to craft an image or spin a public relations crisis.

Crossley also discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and the inaccurate - and potentially dangerous - perspectives that outsiders formed by focusing on the name of the group rather than on their mission, including that supporters were "uppity" or that they advocated for the killing of police officers.

"Few people have time to sort through the media for the 'one' story," she said. "They hear one thing, and it sticks."

One of the more recent media trends is "hashtag activism," a term coined by the media to recognize Twitter and other social media platforms' effect on issues and public policy. Its origination is widely credited to The Guardian, which used the term to describe the 2011 #OccupyWallStreet or #OWS campaigns and protests that drew attention to income inequality. Crossley noted that hashtag activism has been particularly effective in bringing awareness to the population.

"Before this, [income inequality] was not an expression people were connected to, even if they were living it," she said.

Other recent examples of hashtag activism are #BringBackOurGirls, which was first used by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2014 to draw attention to the 200 kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria; #YesAllWomen, through which women shared stories of sexism and violence against women; #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which was started by Houston high-schooler Tyler Atkins to question which image of him the media would use if he were shot by the police; #Kony2012, which was used to promote Invisible Children, Inc.'s movement to stop Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony; and #BlackLivesMatter.

"Rejection of the single story gets us out of our own narrow minds," Crossley said. "Young people heading up social justice movements understand sharing and controlling the narrative from the beginning."

As the stories that are being told by the media aren't often the ones that we should be hearing, Crossley said, this "democratization of the media," brings together in a virtual space all of the visuals and all of the stories. The media's impact on social justice often translates to new or changed public policy.

The annual Hakim Lecture Series was established by Dr. Raymond Hakim in honor of his late wife, Catherine McLaughlin Hakim '70. A sociology major at Emmanuel, Catherine studied under longtime sociology professor Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND, who left an especially indelible mark on her student experience. The lecture series commemorates Catherine's life, her fondness for Emmanuel, and the relationships she formed at the College and continued to maintain throughout her life. The Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture Series is sponsored by the Department of Sociology. Lectures focus on issues of sociology, social justice and public policy on the local, national and international levels.

Past speakers have included Mary C. Waters and William Julius Wilson from Harvard University, Michael Patrick McDonald, author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion, David Cunningham, faculty member and director of the Social Justice & Social Policy Program at Brandeis University, and Peggy McIntosh, Associate Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and founder and co-director of the United States S.E.E.D. (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project on Inclusive Curriculum.