Building the beast: Media construction of protest and protesters and the assignation of responsibility for violence

Paasonen, Karl-Erik (1995). Building the beast: Media construction of protest and protesters and the assignation of responsibility for violence M.A. Thesis, School of Journalism and Communication, The University of Queensland.

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Author Paasonen, Karl-Erik
Thesis Title Building the beast: Media construction of protest and protesters and the assignation of responsibility for violence
School, Centre or Institute School of Journalism and Communication
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1995
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Total pages 113
Language eng
Subjects 400100 Journalism, Communication and Media
Formatted abstract
People active in nonviolent environmental and social protest movements have sensed for many years that newspaper reporting of protests in which they have taken part tends to favour those social forces that make the decisions that the protests oppose. Worse, the reporting makes it seem that those people involved in the protest were responsible for any violence that 'occurs'.

This thesis addresses the latter question. A number of researchers, notably Herman and Chomsky, have presented evidence that this differential is systematic and is based upon ownership patterns. The aim of the thesis is to discern not only whether newspapers represent protesters as 'violent', but more particularly how it is achieved.

This thesis addresses three questions:
1. What metaphorical resources are typically drawn upon to frame protests and to establish initial ideological settings?
2. What kinds of existential domains are drawn upon to construct protesters differently from police and those who support them?
3. Given a continuum of situations, from reports where many police have been injured all the way through to protests where only protesters have been injured, is there a point where the construction of protests and protesters as described in the first two questions breaks down?

The conclusions are:
1. Qualitative findings do support the predictions of Herman and Chomsky, except in that the 'ideological filter' is not directed at 'Communism', but rather at 'Terrorism'.
2. Even in circumstances where it might be least expected - that is, where only protesters are reported as being hurt, or where only non-protesters are reported as breaking the law - even here, the responsibility for the violence is constructed textually as lying with the protesters.
3. A modification of Critical Linguistic theory may be in order so that Cognitive linguistic theory may be systematically included. This may make possible the necessary step from theorizing a monadic 'resistant reading' to a theory that includes the step from reading to public contestation.
Keyword Journalism -- Objectivity
Newspapers -- Objectivity
Demonstrations -- Australia
Violence -- Australia
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