Sunday, February 24, 2013

Image Events and the Keystone XL Pipeline

On a muggy August night in 2011, I found myself joining a crowd of 300 protestors shining flashlights at the Governor's mansion, chanting, "No more pipeline! No more pipeline!" Truth be told, I felt a little silly. But I believed then, as I do now, that the Keystone XL pipeline is a bad idea for Nebraska and for the planet.

Also that year, I attended a hearing on the pipeline and I held an "I Stand with Randy" event in my neighborhood. Randy is a Nebraska rancher who became the face of the movement when he refused to allow TransCanada access to his land. Randy, and three other Nebraska ranchers were arrested recently at the White House as part of a national pipeline protest.
                                                               Protesting the pipeline before

                                                                                                     the hearing at Pershing.
The protests, demonstrations, lobbying efforts and petitions were led, in part, by Bold Nebraska, an organization that can be credited with helping derail the pipeline, at least temporarily. Bold Nebraska often uses "image events" as described by Kevin DeLuca in "Making Waves." In the initial stages of the pipeline protest, the messages by Bold Nebraska were not just about the environment, although protection of the fragile Sandhills eco-system was considered an important issue. Image events were also designed to frame the issue as protecting the rights of Nebraska landowners, a message that resonates with conservative Nebraskans.

In making waves, DeLuca suggests the image events by radical environmental groups are not just "the desperate stunts of the disillusioned" and that they have a power of their own that lies outside of traditional rhetoric. DeLuca says, just as politicians use advertising and photo ops, "subaltern counterpublics participate through the performance of image events, employing the consequent publicity as a social medium though which to hold corporations and states accountable, help form public opinion, and constitute their own identities as subaltern counterpublics."

In today's networked age, the internet is also used as a way to spread those image events even further than DeLuca's "televisual" era. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter can help solidify image events as a tool for change.

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