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Agreeing to disagree: a guide to discussing media and migration

Neeka Ghiassi, Wonder Foundation Intern

How are immigrants represented in the media? Is there such thing as a ‘good’ immigrant’? How should we engage in conversations with those who disagree with us? These were some of the questions we tackled at the Baytree Centre in Brixton a few weeks ago, for the latest workshop of Wonder’s Knowing Me Knowing You project, “Agreeing to Disagree”. Across a series of sessions, a group of young people (including me) discussed a variety of tactics and themes with three speakers, enabling us all to find a better understanding of how to approach conversations with those we disagreed with, and how to analyse media that can shape our views of migration. 

Reframing migration narratives

Our first speaker, Raphaella Gabrasadig, shared her father’s story of becoming refugee, and asked us to consider how the media could be better used as a tool to express silenced migrant voices. We were also asked to examine the media stereotypes of the  ‘good immigrant’, including high-achievers such as Nadiya Hussain and Mo Farah.  We realised the real danger of this narrative, as it simultaneously creates an opposing stereotype: the ’bad immigrant’.

Finally, we took part in a group activity of how to how to engage in conversations to reframe harmful media narratives on a personal level. When talking about preconceptions or concerns about migration, we found the importance of staying calm, connected, and compelling, and avoiding being angry and defensive. An important part of this that we also got to practice was the idea of finding shared value with someone on the opposite side of an argument - how can you find a shared concern and build a positive discussion from there? This is a crucial step to help us learn how to understand the frame in which others think, allowing us to break down the ‘us vs. them’ wall that serves as nothing but a divide in society.  


The challenge of fake news

In the second part of the workshop, we were joined by the director of the Ethical Journalism Network, Aidan White, who challenged us to consider importance of ethical news in the internet age, and where responsibility lies for providing accurate information. We wrestled with questions like: should we filter the internet? Is everything posted online beneficial?

Today we are exposed to the news and media everywhere, and fake news is part of this divisive yet influential landscape. Aidan’s incisive speech prompted participants to explore the social responsibility of journalism as well as well as looking at how powerful companies such as Facebook and Google distribute news. The group discussion was characterised by a range of opinions, with some arguing for freedom of expression, and others highlighting the negative consequences some posts can have. One participant highlighted that is it also our responsibility as people to verify information.  


Identifying oppressive and subversive narratives

The workshop ended with UCL researcher Aysun Kiran, who gave her expertise knowledge on the depiction of minorities in the media by exploring the oppressive or subversive narratives in media and film. In light of the ongoing tension between the Kurdish minority in Turkey and the Turkish state, we explored two Turkish films, ‘Nefas’ and ‘Jin’, both showing the important role of the film industry in either reinforcing the oppressive language of the media , or subverting the oppressive language. In the workshop we engaged in a group discussion on how filmography depicts the ‘enemy’ through high angle shots, shadows, and other visual cues.


Aysun finished the day by sharing a mantra to guide us well through all these discussions of media and power going forwards: ‘ask more questions, assume less’. 

Do you have questions about these themes? Want to join the next workshop?

Find out more and reserve your free place here.