Pop Culture without the Pop

Pop culture is defined as “modern popular culture transmitted via mass media and aimed at particular at younger people.” They are a “set of practices, beliefs, and objects that are dominant or ubiquitous in a society at a given point in time.”

Celebrities are key elements of pop culture. The way they dress, walk, talk… down to the perfumes they use can influence the mass. Possessing this kind of power can be influential, positively and negatively, and the way celebrities use this power is up to them. While their fans can influence them, they influence their fans on relatively higher levels. The trends that they establish becomes culture over time. For example, The Beatles represent the 70’s, a time of hippies, psychedelics, and  Woodstock. The hip hop era, also known as the “golden era” was filled with diversity and influence. Hip hop groups like Wu Tang Clan and The Tribe Called Quest left their legacies during the 90s. So who represented the 21st century?

The 21st century is filled with more diversity and more genres of music. When I think about popular celebrities during our time I think of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Coldplay, Lil Wayne, Skrillex, and last but not least, Kanye West. And I want to address the latter.

Kanye West has had a past full of controversial topics that my friends debate about at parties and during Thanksgiving dinners. Over the years, amid of all the backlash, Kanye has freely spoke his mind, here are a couple of examples:

  • Criticized President George W. Bush for not “caring about black people”
  • Claimed Bill Cosby’s innocence with lack of facts backing his innocence
  • Slut-shamed ex-girlfriend Amber Rose
  • Interrupted Taylor Swift during her acceptance of a reward at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
  • And posed with Universal Music Group executive Lucian Grainge and YouTube’s head of music, Lyor Cohen with a signed “Make America Great Again” hat with President Donald Trump’s personal signature; he then continued to praise Trump and his newly signed hat on his Twitter account.

As soon as he tweeted the picture, Twitter was blowing up. I saw pictures and opinions of it all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, any social media that is out there. His wife, Kim Kardashian West retaliated and said that “…Kanye is years ahead of his time.” Celebrities like John Legend personally contacted Kanye insisting that he would “reconsider aligning yourself with Trump. You’re way too powerful and influential to endorse who he is and what he stands for. As you know, what you say really means something to your fans. They are loyal to you and respect your opinion. So many people who love you feel so betrayed right now because they know the harm that Trump’s policies cause, especially to people of color. Don’t let this be part of your legacy. You’re the greatest artist of our generation.” While it was a considerate text, Kanye claims that “bringing up my fans or my legacy is a tactic based on fear used to manipulate my free thought.” The conversation between the two were not very productive.

Many fans, including myself, have reconsidered my alliance with Mr. West. I admit, he makes great music that I enjoy listening to. I have listened to him since I was kid, but our political views do not align and that is okay. But what is not okay is the fact that the person he supports is known as a misogynist, racist, sexist, narcissistic human being that a history of dehumanizing and slandering people of color, the disabled and women. So when Mr. West supports that kind of person, then what kind of person is he? I do not know the answer myself because there is a conflict of interest here. Do I not support him, and still listen to his music? Sacrifice my support and the music I listen to? How can I support an artist that supports a human I despise? And if someone is friends with someone that I did not like, do I have a right to tell that person and expect them not to like them too? All these questions are running through my mind now, and in this political climate, it is even harder to answer. Is this the culture we are forced to live in?


— P.S.


Final Thoughts

As I conclude my final blog post, I was trying to think of the most important lessons I’ve learned while studying the vast and intense issues of Genocide and Human Refugee Advocacy. To be honest, if I were to list the amount of lessons I’ve learned, this blog post would be twelve pages long. I’ll save you the scrolling and sum it up to one statement I believe everyone needs to know, live by, and push for. Knowledge is power.

Even as a University student who was forced to take a wide-range of general education courses, I found myself still stuck in my bubble. I was choosing what I wanted to read about people I wanted to read about. I chose to tune out the bad and read only surface-level news. I was only paying attention to stories and information that applied to me. Why? Because it was easier.

What I’ve learned is that not everything easy is good. In order to better yourself, your mind, those around you, the world, you must constantly be challenging yourself. Pay attention to those stories that make you uncomfortable. Figure out why they make you uncomfortable. There’s a reason. Read about tragedies going on in other countries. It’ll motivate you to actually do something.

In a world where we can pick and chose what we want to pay attention to and read, it’s easy to ignore important news. But what I’ve realized is the more you read, the more informed you are, the more of a better person you become. The statement “knowledge is power” I’m referring to does not apply to power that controls people, but rather power that enlightens oneself and others.

For me, paying attention to the genocide and human refugee crisis allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and gain knowledge I probably never would had if I stayed inside my bubble. It’s made me a more passionate person. I feel like I am obligated to make a difference now.

It’s time to gain our individual power and learn something new every day that makes you sad, uncomfortable, or passionate. Find what it is, and study it. You’ll be amazed.


Here’s to New Tricks

There’s the saying that states: “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But is this really true? Or are people simply hesitant to face unfamiliar territory? This saying insinuates that people are set in their ways and incapable of altering their mindsets once they’re made. This sounds to be believable because it’s often times human nature to be stubborn. Even if we are open to hearing other people’s opinions, points of view, or logic, we often don’t make an effort to critique our own actions or beliefs. From my experience, I think that more often than not people do this in an effort to protect ourselves from feeling insecure or to protect our fragile egos. Acknowledging that means that we’re admitted someone else is more right, maybe even more superior than we are, and that’s hard to admit for many people.

But here’s the good thing – if we want to change, we canchange. It’s really all about three things: drive, perspective, and approach.

First, you have to want to do it. You have to let yourself be a little open to the idea that other people have a different set of experiences that shape who they are and what they believe. If you aren’t open to the idea of change, it’s not likely to happen.

Second, you need to have the right perspective. It’s important to remember that everyone has a different opinion, and that’s okay! By opening our minds and our hearts we can better understand ourselves, but also more about ourselves, and that something that would be a shame to pass up. So view change as growth, as a positive thing!

Lastly, you need to make an approach. Let’s say you’re breaking a habit – take small steps and cut down slowly. Let’s say you’re trying to be more open to other ideologies – practice active listening instead of active speaking.

Change can be scary, I can attest to that, but it can also be awakening and exciting. The world is full of people with wonderful insight, inspiring talents, and unique experiences, and that’s part of what makes this world so beautiful. Stubbornly cutting yourself off may be easy but it deprives you from sharing this human experience with others. So here’s to new learning new tricks and opening ourselves to the unease of opening our minds to those of others.

–       MC


Will it ever stop?

This blog post is taking material from “‘If I look at the mass I will never act’: Psychic numbing and genocide” written by Paul Slovic and published by Judgement and Decision Making, Vol. 2, No. 2, in April 2007.

In my past blog posts, I’ve touched on needing to inform ourselves so that we can be better prepared to act. However, information alone isn’t enough. “Without affect, information lacks meaning and won’t be used in judgement and decision making”. The article explains how when the Holocaust ended, we told ourselves, “this will never happen again. We won’t let it happen again.” And yet, to this day, we are still seeing multiple examples of where genocide is still taking place. Why is that? We have the available resources today to inform ourselves on what is happening all over the world, and yet we still aren’t doing much. The article says that “the statistics of mass murder or genocide, no matter how large the numbers, fail to convey the true meaning of such atrocities. The numbers fail to spark emotion or feel and thus fail to motivate action”. If I went on Google right now, I could easily find a number that reflects the amount of people who died in the Rwandan genocide. However, a number is not a story, and without any emotion attached, many have a hard time reaching out. So what should we do about this? Well, there are some ways to go out and experience a wide array of culture right in your hometown. Go volunteer at a refugee center, talk to the people, hear their stories, be reminded of their humanity. We will never grow or change if we don’t leave our own personal bubble. Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t enough to make people want to help. So go out, and find the stories. They will change you and will make you eager to influence change.

-Kate Keeley

Fake News


Donald Trump has recently converted the term “fake news” into something worthy of a laugh. Many memes stem from this overused political dig he instigates. While this new funny saying is often used as a joke in American culture, it has some truth and weight behind it. The news is typically infused with hidden agendas, bias, and presents information through a filtered lens. They report on whatever will sell, not necessarily important and relevant events we should be aware of.


This concept of fake news is most prominently seen in the refugee crisis. I was struck with the reality of the effect the news can have on enacted policy for refugees and immigrants. Oftentimes, those in charge of media take advantage of uncertainty and make refugees seem dangerous. Uncertainty is dangerous because it leaves us vulnerable and looking for an explanation. When people are uncertain they search for something sure and solid, not questioning anything once they are given an explanation. Uncertainty can leave people desperate, confused, and looking for a scape goat. I think that the news takes advantage of this lack of certainty pertaining to refugees and turns relatively mundane happenings into newsworthy events. They make mountains out of molehills, because “that’s what sells.” Why can’t we just get the actual news for once – not colored or marked with biases or hidden agendas? Why can’t I turn on the news and just get an accurate report of what is going on in the world?



Did older sources of media deal with this too or is the bias infused reporting a characteristic of this time period?


In order to restore this harmful culture of news, better communication could be initiated. Communication between those who have a deep understanding of the policies concerning refugees and the media would be beneficial in decreasing uncertainty. Real, honest, true communication is valuable and rare. Communicating with honesty promotes a better world for all of us. I don’t turn on the news to listen to stories that are enhanced for public consumption. I turn on the news to get a report of what is happening around the world. In the future I hope that our culture can transform into one that encourages the value of integrity in the news. The well-being of our brothers and sisters on earth is of more weight than a popular trending story.


-Megan Essex

Seeing stories, not statistics

Warning: blanket statements below.

I think as Americans, we cling to the mentality of out of sight out of mind. In order to maintain this mentality, we result in turning stories into statistics. We tend to turn people into projects. We LOVE taking a crisis or a situation and assigning it a number such as the 100-day slaughter or the 60,000 people stuck in a refugee camp, and view it as just that; a number, not a life.

We dehumanize by making the value of someone numerical.(English)_FiguresAtAGlance_Infographic(4JULY2017)_StaffNumberUpdate

Granted, I think we sometimes do this subconsciously as a sort of coping mechanism for when a situation becomes too big for us to “fix.” When a crisis starts to run into the thousands,we forget that there are so many ones; so many littles in a drowning sea of big.

In a reading that I was assigned this week, we are shown that in a refugee camp there are many stories and many lives such as factory workers, students, shop assistants, so on. However, when we read about them, we usually only get the number, not the story. Instead of hearing the stories of those in crisis, we hear the number. Why is that?

Now, I don’t think its necessarily bad to view the refugee crisis as a project, because it is; however, when we view something as solely a project and not a person, we give ourselves permission to see it it as something that is without value and as something that can be abandoned or left to be finished later. The refugee crisis has value and can not be abandoned or shoved under the rug to re-evaluate on a rainy day. These people are more than an addition to a growing statistic and should be treated as such.




Changing the Refugee Narrative in Media

Media is a huge influence on society and the issues that society thinks about. Media is the gate keeper of public issues and public opinion. It brings important issues to the table and frames them in a way that shapes our knowledge and our views. It’s increasingly important for media to take responsibility for the amount of influence they have on the public and the way society thinks about critical issues.


Unfortunately, one of the most critical and important issues of our time has been framed exceedingly negative by the media. As described in  “Uncertainty, Threat, and the Role of the Media in Promoting the Dehumanization of Immigrants and Refugees,” an article by Victoria Esses and Stelian Medianu, the media turns constant uncertainty into crisis and threat. Refugees are dehumanized in media with three common portrayals:

  1. Refugees are sources and spreaders of infectious diseases
  2. Refugees are bogus queue-jumpers trying to gain entry to western countries
  3. Refugees are bogus and harboring terrorists



With these three themes, media focuses on the negative, rather than the positive. Behaviors like such are typically justified on the grounds that they are required to protect society from the “threats” that refugees pose. Media is promoting dehumanization by highlighting potential, but unlikely, threats to society and justifying these actions. Many individuals who play into these negative themes are more likely to believe that refugees deserve negative outcomes.


In addition, dehumanization leads to lack of support for government policies that aid in resettlement of refugees. But government is also responsible for these negative attitudes about refugees. In the article by Esses and Medianu, they found in Australia, “They found that 90% of the descriptive terms used by the federal government to describe asylum-seekers during this time were negative, with the asylum-seekers described as illegitimate, illegal, and threatening.”


It’s important as informed citizens to be critical of our news sources, the way we create opinions, and the knowledge we gather. We must support media organizations that are unbiased, factual, and truly care about informing citizens. If we can do so, the way we think about critical issues, such as the refugee crisis, will be more informed, fair, and valuable. Explore outside your comfort zone.