January 02, 2012

Trimble defends Children of the Plains

In the same column in which he praises the Sioux student who earned a physics degree, he makes a spurious claim about the 20/20 special Hidden America: Children of the Plains:

Charles Trimble: Indian youth share an important lesson with usThe recent brouhaha caused by Dianne Sawyer’s ABC program “Hidden American; The Children of the Plains,” brought forth an interesting societal inner conflict in Indian Country, especially in the Northern Plains. On the one hand, we come close to seeming to boast about the extent of our poverty and social pathology: highest infant mortality; lowest life expectancy; highest unemployment; staggering rate of alcoholism and domestic violence in the poorest counties in the nation. On the other hand, we resent it when someone else points out those same statistics.

Diane Sawyer told no lies, nor did she exaggerate any facts or figures. She did point out at least one bright spot–Red Cloud Indian School, but unfortunately she gave the impression that it was an elite academy of sorts, and did not point out that it operates on a much smaller budget than any school of comparable size on the reservation, and drains little of the funds from the federal budgets appropriated for the reservations.

And she did give the opportunity for Indian children to express their own dreams for their future. I don’t know what the answers would be if I were to ask any of those children featured in the ABC show, or their parents or relatives, what they thought of the show. But I’m sure there would be positive responses, and some positive outcomes in terms of benefits.
Comment:  Ever hear of a lie of omission, Chuck? Avoiding lying or exaggerating isn't the whole story by a long shot. Americans massacred Indians, enslaved Africans, and nuked Japanese civilians. Those are facts, not lies or exaggerations, but they hardly give a complete, well-rounded picture of American history.

Same with the 20/20 documentary. It was heavily loaded with negative information with few positive aspects. As I noted in my "poverty porn" posting. And this negative information reinforced Americans' beliefs about the poor, drunken Indian reservation. It was much like the SCALPED comic book, which also reinforces stereotypical beliefs about the downtrodden Indian.

It's called stereotyping, buddy. Most stereotypes are based on facts--e.g., some Indian wore headdresses and lived in tipis--but focusing on them creates a false or misleading impression. Let me repeat that: information that's 100% true may present a false picture. Especially if it's taken out of context and presented in isolation.


Trimble may want to work on his media deconstruction skills. This is grade-school stuff, not brain surgery. Don't take news reports at face value.

For more on the subject, see Video Response to Children of the Plains and "Poverty Porn" Column in ICTMN.

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