May 27, 2011

Media today, Ryan Giggs and Martin Luther King Jr

Ryan Giggs and reality TV celebrity Imogen Thomas

There has been a lot of media speculation surrounding premiership footballer Ryan Giggs and reality TV celebrity Imogen Thomas having an extra-marital affair. Now, I am not in any way defending people who have affairs, I think it is wrong and cowardly. But what I would like to address is how the media and social media appear to blow these events way out of proportion! To illustrate my point, let’s look at what might or might not have happened if today’s media and technology had been involved when Martin Luther King was leading the civil rights movement in America.

In 1960s America there was an intense struggle for desegregation and equality for African- Americans. One of the most important displays of unrest was the march on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I have a dream” speech. King was the leader of the movement, and one of the most respected and revered black men in the USA.

However, he was alleged to have had a number of extra marital affairs, with young girls and prostitutes, there is FBI evidence from their surveillance of King to prove this, but it is now locked up until 2027. No mass uncovering of the truth came out in his lifetime and he has inspired millions of people, and has become an important historical figure in American history – described on Wikipedia as a heroic leader and a martyr. However, Could it have been different? Let’s look at what might have happened if the media and technology of today was involved.

Firstly, the FBI surveillance tapes find their way onto Wikileaks (how it got there we don’t know). This begins to start rumours on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook. As the buzz online grows people around King start to hear rumours about the affair. Of course his wife already knows because the FBI has already played her the tapes, but she wouldn’t say anything to undermine the movement (this bit is true). Instead of planning his “I have dream” speech, he now has to start thinking about his approach to dealing with this controversy.

Meanwhile, journalists are desperately trying to track down the girls involved, finding one and paying $100,000 for an exclusive. This encourages other people who have had relations with King to step forward and sell their story.

Because of social media the stories are picked up and shared and of course make it onto global news channels. There is no hiding now.

This has damaged his reputation significantly, and others involved in the civil rights movement are worried that keeping him as the leader might hurt its cause; this worry is increased when enemies of the movement start accusing the Reverend of being ungodly and immoral.

Bowing down to pressure and instead of leading the march on Washington, King resigns his position as leader, apologises unreservedly and fades away from memory.

In this alternate reality, there is no speech and charismatic leader of the march. Now, we don’t know if that is how it would have happened, and we don’t know if it would have affected the civil rights movement, but what we do know is if it happened to a prominent figure fighting for a just cause today they would no doubt be crucified in a similar way (Schwarzenegger was fully aware of this). How would you judge King? And what will Ryan Giggs’ legacy be? Do you judge someone for what they did for others, or for what they did for themselves?

Matthew White is a writer and historian who also wonders what it would have been like if the Romans had washing machines and fridges.

1 comment:

Maria said...

Ha ha don't know if King and Giggs are on the same par, but it a valid point...What if Gandhi had been outed as the dope smoking, Tory hating hippy he really was?

I think we should just leave peoples personal lives personal and stopped exposing every nitty gritty do we really need to know? And as Matthew points out we maybe sabotaging the next Dr King!!!

STOP READING THE NEWS OF THE WORLD...and maybe they'll stop publishing the rubbish!