The Mediation of Insurrectionary Symbolic Damage: The 2010 U.K. Student Protests

  • Cammaerts B
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Abstract

In this article, the intricate relationship between the logic of damage as an act of political communication and its mediation is addressed. The mediation of protest by mainstream media is often deemed to be one-sided, biased in favor of the establishment and predominantly antiprotest, focusing on the spectacular crowding out real debate on the issues. A content analysis of the 2010 U.K. student protests as reported by four U.K. newspapers found this to be only partially true. The use of symbolic damage tactics by the protesters did not squeeze out attention for the issues, rather it increased media attention and coverage considerably. Militant voices were more quoted and given more space in articles than moderate voices. In all newspapers there was a degree of understanding for the anger of the students, but the use of symbolic damage tactics did produce much negative exposure. The use of symbolic damage tactics not only relates to a mainstream media opportunity structure, creating spectacle and drama, but also potentially produces division, negative representation, and delegitimization. Finally, the use of insurrectionary symbolic damage is a reminder of the failings of representative democracy in how it deals with political conflicts.

Author-supplied keywords

  • content analysis
  • logic of damage
  • media framing
  • mediation
  • political violence
  • student protests

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Authors

  • Bart Cammaerts

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