Monday, February 28, 2011

Media Event and Protesting

One point Roderick Hart makes concerning the influence of television on American democracy is that the proliferation of coverage makes it so that television “now tells us how to feel about politics” (8). I have recently become intrigued by the ways American news media has shaped national conceptualizations of protest and protesters. In the last several months one emerging topoi in mediated constructions of politics has been the notion of the protest. Tea Party demonstrations, for instance, were quickly labeled as a 21st century social movement due to their large attendance and networked minded leadership. While those on the political right quickly proclaimed a rejuvenated sense of civic participation, others portrayed the Tea Party through frames of irrationality and racism. Conversely, those on the political left have recently been rather positive in their reception of the labor protests in Wisconsin, at the same time that pundits on the right have cried foul. I think it is useful for us to consider the framing of protests and protesters because Lizabeth Cohen’s A Consumer Republic shows just have influential early feminist and African American protests were in establishing the notion of “citizen consumers” (8). Ironically, Cohen goes on to note that opponents of consumer focused economics resisted such efforts by labeling them as communist and anti-business (59). The political reforms enacted following the 2007 recession have been labeled along similar lines. I do think it is worth discussing however, that mass demonstrations in the forms of boycotts, marches, and sit-ins have become less utilized in comparison to the 30’s and 70’s. How can we account for this? Is it possible that television coverage has given us a poor perception of protest? Or, is our networked society bringing protest back? How would our news media cover the protests against food prices by 1930's women?


  1. Is is that we're a more lazy society? If we don't get paid for it or see a direct benefit, why do we care? I remember people calling for the masses to boycott BP in the wake of the oil spill, but it mostly failed. One reason is because boycotts of BP at local gas stations didn't impact anyone except the local franchise owner. So, it has become more difficult to boycott businesses when the people you really want to affect are not affected... I think the biggest form of protest now is social media. If you don't like a product or have a negative experience at a merchant, you are going to write about it on Facebook, or if you're real ticked off, create a YouTube video. This type of negative word-of-mouth can be very effective. And, people can do it from their couch...

  2. I think it is important to consider both the societal and economical contexts during these time periods. In the 1930's women and minorities had little to no voice or influence in public affairs. Media portrayed women as mindless housewives, and minorities (more specifically African Americans) were portrayed by the media in positions of inferiority. Protests were perhaps one of the few, if not only ways, for these groups to make themselves heard. Communication in media at this time was a one way street; producer to consumer. Media did not facilitate consumer to consumer interaction nor did allow for consumer to producer communication. Protests not only made a statement to the producers/decision makers, but they also provided an opportunity for marginalized consumers to gather, and rally together. The producer dictated the content and the only way for consumers to respond was through mass movements.

    I agree with Stephanie in saying that the social media and the world wide web have taken on their own form of consumer protests in present day society. Networked communication has provided us with a place and context with which we can express our opinions and "protest" ideas, products, brands, companies, corporations, government, etc. But I question, are these opinions truly 'heard'? Or are they lost in the fragmented clutter of the World Wide Web?