On the 16th November I had the privilege to sit and have a very interesting discussion with the film director and producer Gianni Massironi. His notable work includes directing and producing many films and documentaries for the Italian television RAI. Mr Massironi has also worked with some of the most celebrated Italian directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni and Mark Peploe. I was honoured to meet with him to find out the role the media, including cinema and television, plays in the issue of hate speech.
On asking Mr Massironi of his insight on hate speech, he firstly said that we must understand that media always transmits a point of view. The viewer must be aware that there is always an agenda behind any information broadcasted on newspapers, television and on the web. People can be manipulated on any platform and the exponential growth of hate speech on social platforms is an alarming example of the power of the media.
Thanks to his experience and expertise of audio-visual means, he discussed an original approach that viewers can use to protect themselves from the manipulation of the media. This approach requires viewers to learn how to use their own special and personal ‘spectacles’ when absorbing information. He went to add that, as there are numerous ways in which audience can be controlled, it is very complex and difficult to pin point exactly where the problem of fake news and hate speech starts.
Gianni Massironi, talking as a film director, proposed the paradox that we live in a permanent state of a ‘Truman show’ where the audience is the cast that is not faced with the real problems of the society. He emphasised that the media should be honest and should declare what they are trying to portray, but this is just a dream.
It is common for media outlets to promote distortions and highlight specific scandalous aspects of stories to succeed in their aim of reaching a big audience. As a result, this behaviour enhances and promotes hate speech instead of tackling it. Showing bad practices and focusing on hate speech represent ways of exalting and glorifying unlawful acts which can invite and encourage individuals to imitate such crimes.
He also mentioned the big problem created by classifying groups of people that then become stereotypes and consequently victims of hate speech. In addressing this problem, Mr Massironi, through an example, recommended how the media could dismantle stereotypes and, at the same time, suggest good behaviour to the crowd.
The example is: imagine that an individual made a discriminatory remark about disabled people. This remark could result in violence and break communities. The media should not promote it, but should offer a positive vision of the victims, like producing a short video clip made by the disabled people. This would show that, even with their struggles, they can laugh and have fun and they also can be as creative as any other human being. This would be a counter speech! However, he highlighted that this rarely happens; yet it is common to see the focus on negative news to grab attention.
What I learnt from this conversation is that it is extremely important to be aware of our own point of view when we are absorbing information from media platforms. We have to decide what ‘spectacles’ we are going to use ourselves, so we do not fall into the trap.
As the saying goes, we must take everything with a ‘pinch of salt’!