“Arabs are only shown in large numbers…”

Published February 1, 2012 by lorijss

In the media in this society, magazines, books and television shows and movies, portray or ‘orientalize’ non-westerners more so than offering unbiased portrayals.  I agree with Said, “Arabs are only shown in large numbers. No individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences (823).” This is an image always portrayed by the American media, like popular media networks that create this illusion that they are being unbiased. If the media were being unbiased they would portray the personalities or individual Arabs and talk about the culture and ways of the Arab world. The only time Arabs are shown on the news is in relation to war and political upheavals. Like Said said “most of the pictures represent mass range misery or irrational…gestures (823).” Only European Americans and even Europeans who are not living within supposedly US borders are usually portrayed as having their own personality and own individual experiences. Even African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans who live within the American border, are not portrayed as having individual personalities the way the European American is portrayed. Instead like the Arab, the supposedly ‘ethnic’ subpopulations of the US are portrayed always in large masses and in large groups.

Subpopulations in the US are always portrayed from the point of view of the European American who may have one-sided and stereotypical views of subpopulations that are non-white or of non- European decent whether they are conscious of it or not.  The European American or European are sometimes generally portrayed as being ‘cultureless’ and ‘raceless’ and not as having their own point of view but having a view that is seen by their own way of life, as universal, just and right while other groups that are not European decent are portrayed as having a culture and a race. Mostly the former group is always portrayed as uncivilized, underdeveloped, and inferior, sometimes evil, and treacherous by the mass media. People get their perception of Arabs from the media and this becomes like a cycle, stereotype and prejudices thus remains intact.
The book Orientalism by Said, states that before the attacks on the US on September 11, 2000, the Arab was portrayed in “simplistic stereotypical terms.” In television and films” the Arab was portrayed as an “oversexed savage, a treacherous, if clever, marauder or an oil sheik (824)” who regardless of being seen as ‘inferior,’ lacking “intelligence” or being “uncivilized” and backwards was able to make the West feel as if they are lacking in something that their culture and lifestyle says that they should have and control, such as oil. One hundred million people are seen as all the same despite being located in different regions of the world, always portrayed in large numbers, and seen as being one and the same persons.
Academic knowledge and discourse legitimize colonial rule through its vocabularies and images. Even today while Britain for example, no longer has colonies in almost half of the globe, the effects of colonial rule still rings true today. The countries are seen as having the language of their colonizer as the formal language.  People in these previously colonized countries may view themselves as in the way their colonizers viewed them. For example, in Jamaica now there is a phenomenon called “the bleaching” in which people who are dark skinned do not see themselves as beautiful so do things to make their skin seem lighter. This is apparently a result of slavery and colonialism in which to be white and fair was seen as superior and to be black was seen as inferior and subject to the slavery. Even in the media today, problems that occur in countries are sometimes portrayed as having only to do with the third world countries and nothing to do with Western Europe and the United States.
References:

Orientalism by Edward Said

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