In Media(s) Res

Yejean Kim

Mainstream media’s increasing encroachment on my private life began gradually, but has since snowballed to the point where think-pieces, listicles, news videos and more inundate my Facebook newsfeed more than my friends’ lives do.

Just examining my own self-regulated newsfeed makes it seem as if every conceivable topic is covered somehow, ranging from Drake’s turtleneck, to intersectional feminism, to the wage gap in China.

However, a recent incident has made me realize that there are things the mainstream media would rather not talk about; few think-pieces are written on, and few “share” to their friends.

Professor Deborah Miranda in the English department was recently asked to comment on CNN about the controversial canonization of Spanish colonist Junípero Serra. Pope Francis was making his papal visit to the U.S., and during it he elevated Father Serra to sainthood during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

However, California Natives protested this canonization, as these missionary expeditions resulted in the deaths of thousands of Natives from disease and abuse such as slavery. The Natives that were left were eradicated through other means such as forceful conversion and indentured labor.

To be clear, this is not an attack on Catholicism; it is not the first religion to elevate a controversial figure. Rather, it is an attack on how mainstream media handled the situation.

One only needs to watch the actual interview to see physical evidence of the marginalization of certain groups by mainstream media. Miranda is introduced as the author of “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,” and then asked by a breathless Chris Cuomo to, “Please make the case for why you don’t believe that Junípero Serra should be made a saint.”

The rhetoric here is hard to ignore—the “you” for example already turns the issue into a personal problem, but other rhetoric on the screen is even more unbelievable: Miranda is described as a “Native American Opposing Canonization.”

While this seems a rather bare bones approach to her byline, consider, for example, replacing the nouns with other minority groups and issues. “Black Opposing Police Brutality” or “Hispanic Opposing Immigration Pushback” would likely cause some kind of ire—someone, somewhere on the internet would at least write some rapacious think-piece.

The interview continues, and for a span of time Miranda’s voice has literally been silenced—she is speaking, but there is no sound because CNN has muted it. The moment is an apt metaphor for pitfalls of mainstream media in general—it focuses so intensely on some issues that it buries others by default.

Miranda states in the interview that Pope Francis did not meet with California Indians before she is silenced; she went on to say, she told me, that he only met with the Indians who were in support of it.

However, right after Miranda’s interview, another anchor interjects that the Pope has in fact met with the Indians and that Miranda is wrong. It is exasperating to hear claims like this when even a supposedly reliable news source does not present the full picture.

Miranda believes that often it feels as if people see Natives and their issues in a sense of “Why are you still here? Why are you still bothering us?”

Rather than the continuation of these questions, one hopes that there will soon be a backlash from us, the consumers of all this mainstream media.

Personally, I’ve had enough psychedelic cat memes and clickbait UpWorthy videos. Instead, I demand full, nuanced coverage of important issues, no matter how uncomfortable—and no, Drake’s turtleneck is not something I would consider important.