Category Archives: Protestors and their Targets

Bullseye? The Consequences of Mobilizing Unintended Targets

By David Everson

Amidst the calls for a more relational and dynamic approach to the study of social movements, the protester-target nexus would seem an area of inquiry ripe for further development. Social movement scholars have already begun to fruitfully expand our horizon of targets beyond the state, reflecting not only the multitude of arenas in which contention occurs, but also an enveloping political landscape confronting activists characterized by the ever-increasing blurredness of the boundaries between governments and the institutional agents of global capitalism. Though we surely have much to learn about the strategically-chosen targets of activists, future work should also not lose sight of the unintended targets of social protest, and the manner and means by which the spectator audience can alter the course of contentious trajectories. I will suggest below that a renewed focus on “bystander publics” (Turner 1970) promises to yield potentially novel theoretical insights for our models of movement-countermovement dynamics and social movement outcomes. I support this claim by drawing from my dissertation work on Euro-American memory of and attitudes toward the American Indian Movement (AIM), which suggests that our understanding of the unintended consequences of movements needs to account for the processes through which dominant group bystanders alter the “discursive fields” through which social movements, and even racial groups, are culturally constructed. Continue reading

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When Targets Police

By Heidi Reynolds-Stenson

At many protests, law enforcement or security officers act as a buffer between protesters and their targets. As a result, protesters often do not come face-to-face with their targets at street demonstrations (unless they are targeting everyday people; Einwohner 2001). And, as protest-policing protocols increasingly emphasize the pre-emptive control of space, protesters are often kept further and further away from the targets they seek to influence or disrupt (Gillham and Noakes 2007). Because their primary target may not be accessible, movements often engage in indirect proxy targeting, like the students who targeted their universities for complicity in the Vietnam War (Walker, Martin, and McCarthy 2008). So, while protesters and targets react to one another and try to anticipate the reactions of the other side, this interplay is, in many cases, delayed and mediated though law enforcement (Earl and Soule 2006), the media (Koopmans 2004) or proxy targets. Continue reading

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From Causes to Cars: Reputation Matters!

By Deana A. Rohlinger

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Posted in Flickr Creative Commons by Neil Cooler

We spend a lot of time evaluating reputation. We research the reputation of a manufacturer before buying a car, investigate the reputation of a neighborhood before renting a home, and carefully consider the reputation of an individual before deciding to act on his/her professional advice. Despite the importance of reputation in everyday life, we largely have ignored its influence on the course and outcomes of social movements.

Activist groups mobilizing around a shared, general goal rarely stand as equals, shoulder-to-shoulder, united against an authority. Ultimately, a target decides which group to deal with and a social movement organization’s reputation, or, among other things, the ability of a group to meet the institutional norms of its target, is a critical factor in its decision-making.1 Continue reading

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Media Bias, Media Endogeneity

By Charles Seguin

Citizens of large nation-states generally receive most of their information on social movements through news media. Accordingly, the media are one of the central institutions targeted by social movements. In attempting to understand movement effects on media, movement scholars have sometimes, but certainly not always, conceptualized media-movement interactions within what I would call the “bias model.” The idea behind the bias model is that media attention and framing are subject to numerous organizational, cultural, political, and institutional selection processes which filter movement messages and events to determine which will receive coverage and how they will be framed. That is, some population of movement events and messages exist in the world, and are distorted in news media representations through differential media selection and interpretation. Within the bias model, the media nicely fits the analogy of a movement target—a wholly separate entity at which a movement takes aim. While we’ve learned a lot from the bias model, it is incomplete, and often misleading. The media-movement relationship is endogenous for two reasons. Continue reading

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