The media's gleeful and jeering misrepresentation of what happened to Brandy in South Africa is a cautionary tale for those in the media, the public eye, and the public itself.
Recently, to cap the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day at the 90,000 seat FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, Brandy was slated to be the surprise guest.
The event's organizers did not inform the public that Brandy, a major star, was appearing. After the football (soccer) and rugby matches were over, the crowd left, and by the time she came on only about 40 people remained. Nobody knew she was coming.
And so, in a story that has gone viral, the media shouted breathless headlines around the world giving the impression that Brandy was rejected by 89,960 people. Left to perform for 40 people and a sea of empty chairs. What a loser!
Not just sensationalist gossip sites but serious news outlets ran with this headline impression. You'd have to actually read deep into the articles (which few people do in celebrity gossip) to discern what actually happened.
This speaks to a larger issue of media responsibility, and how the media can run amok shaping a public conception that is not true. Years ago, when I was first getting started as an activist and writer, an advisor warned me, "You have to spoon feed the media." Even when you do, they often have their own agenda -- or jaded carelessness.
I've seen it time and again in stories about colleagues' as well as my own work. I've also noticed that in nearly every article that my non-profit organization or I were involved in, there was always some detail -- thankfully most of the time minor -- that was incorrect.
At times, though, this can come with somewhat harmful repercussions, such as when a young ex-offender privately struggling to overcome depression and worse is paraphrased or quoted thuggishly out of context in a way that is not what he intended; this can be shocking to a person in recovery who is not used to the public blatherground let alone the public eye.
Or, even more dangerously, when the media does not get the facts right -- or reports as fact, but end up to be a clear lie (say from a big polluter) instead of an opinion within quotation marks -- in a life or death social justice or environmental fight. And other times, it can be simply aggravating and a little smh-funny, such as when a front-page story quoted me directly saying I used to sell "grass" earlier in life. That's the reporter's era, not mine. Nobody says "grass"; I said "weed". Grass (America's endangered native prairies) and our prairie urban youth are what this Ghetto Plainsman helps save! Direct quotes are supposed to be verbatim.
So, does this mean that a lot of what the public trusts as true in the media's reporting isn't?
As for Brandy, I am sorry that she got caught in a manufactured worldwide embarrassment that has nothing to do with her unique talent. I know it's a shallow world and everybody's just looking for the next thing to LMAO or gawk at, but for those who aren't afraid to go a little deep, Brandy's vibrational, even transformational voice -- and the spaces she inhabits between sung words -- resonates in the lives of people who experience the depth of human emotions. That's pretty remarkable for a popular, mainstream artist.
There are actually a couple songs on her Full Moon CD that I haven't listened to in 10 years because they are that powerful and haunting and beautiful. Back then, for a little while, I felt some kind of way, and I haven't felt that way again. Like fine wine, I'll save those songs for some other time, undiluted by familiarity. Their intense abundance will stand alone in a new moment.
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