We know a lot about the ways media coverage shapes mobilization. Supportive coverage can help movements challenge dominant discourses, expand support, and gain leverage (E.g. Gamson et al 1992). Conversely, negative coverage can delegitimize movements in various ways, including by skewing coverage away from substantive issues or disproportionately highlighting violence in the movement (E.g. Gitlin 1980). Although research on movements and media take varying methodological and substantive approaches, it is a generally accepted proposition that, all things being equal, positive media coverage supports movement mobilization. Yet we would expect it likely is not this simple.
Some movements have especially salient frames about media bias that are central to their grievances. Conservative movements in the U.S. in particular have long-held perceptions of liberal bias about the “mainstream” media. This belief appears broadly held and supported by major conservative media (e.g. Brock 2004). Consequently, negative coverage may have a complicating effect on some (especially conservative?) movements. Continue reading
In late August, when news of the Parti Québécois’ (PQ) proposed Charte des Valeurs or Charter of Values spread (the Charter bans the province’s civil servants from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols), many expressed concerns that this would stir up dormant ethnic and religious tensions in Québec. It led to the removal of the only minority Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament when the MP suggested that the Charter is a form of ethnic nationalism. Early on, critics warned that the proposed Charter would see tremendous backlash calling it draconian, an example of “Stephen Harper-style wedge politics” (Maclean’s, September 20) and even Putinesque (Globe and Mail, August 20). Well-known human rights lawyer, Julius Grey, told Ingrid Peritz of the Globe and Mail that such “values” rules were more typical of the political right than of a party like the PQ that sees itself as progressive. “A charter of values smacks of the [U.S.] Tea Party,” Mr. Grey said. There are two issues here. First, who supports the Charter of Values and who mobilizes around it? Is the Charter tapping into a conservative streak in Québec public opinion and might there be a ring of truth to Grey’s comparison to the Tea Party ? Second, what are the political incentives for the PQ government to pursue such a policy? I don’t claim to provide a complete answer here, but it is clear (at least to me) that this is an attempt by the PQ to set an alternative policy/electoral agenda, confuse the electorate, and reclaim lost territory in rural (and more conservative) Québec where it lost ground. Continue reading
Political sociologists and social movement scholars have often commented on the overly broad definition of “political opportunities.” Many have called for specifying the nature of political opportunities especially so as to better operationalize and link political opportunities to policy outcomes and social movement mobilization. Indeed, political opportunity structure has referred to the more static nature of a country’s institutional arrangements (for instance, type of political system, electoral representation, etc.), to the more dynamic kind focusing on the presence of sympathetic party elites, party control of government and agenda setting. Continue reading
Social movement scholars have often struggled with operationalizing movement success and/or failure, and rightfully so. What may be considered a failure to scholars may be perceived as success to activists. In addition, movements are not monoliths and therefore success for some activists or for some groups, may not be relevant to other aspects of a movement. Finally, talking about success and failure also rests on the assumption that we know about the intentions of movement actors – that there are clearly stated and known objectives and that the decisions actors make are in reference to achieving those goals and objectives. Often, we can only speculate about motivations and intent; presumably success can also come about unintentionally. I have written about how the Occupy movement has shifted the spotlight to scholars’ understanding of movement outcomes, but I suggest that the Tea Party also requires us to think about how we define movement success and failure. Continue reading
Boing Boing reports on a recent campaign by Chicago advertising giant, Leo Burnett Worldwide, to defeat a Tea Party campaign against a proposed 0.7% tax increase to support the Troy Michigan public library. The campaign’s major feature was a hoax designed to change the narrative. Burnett won an Effie Award in the Good Works category with the campaign, and produced a slick video about it:
I am only familiar with the literature on campaign spending and turnout from drinking beer with a colleague who studies ballot initiatives in California, and I will spare you my alcohol addled beliefs based upon such conversation. Suffice it to say that Leo Burnett makes some intriguing claims about turning out Yes voters in local elections. Perhaps I can entice someone with actual knowledge to comment somewhere. In the interim, what should we take from this little nugget of a present day Mad Men agency executing a hoax to influence elections?
A few weeks ago, students in Montreal protested against the tuition increase proposed by the Québec government. But might there me more to this student mobilization than simply a protest against a fairly small (particularly by US standards) increase in tuition? A series of recent newspaper articles allude to this possibility by calling into question “the real” nature of, or motivation for, student mobilization.
Although the government and student leaders called a truce, protest, which included vandalism, continued. An April 26th Globe and Mail article by Alexander Panetta claims that “the latest events prompted questions about whether the student leaders actually control the movement they spearheaded.” CLASSE, which is considered a hard-line student group, was excluded from negotiations with the government because they continued to promote protest despite the education minister’s ultimatum. CLASSE’s spokesperson claims that the government really had no intention of negotiating which is why they have continued to promote the use of disruptive tactics. Continue reading
A federal appeals court’s recent decision to support a lower court that blocked the Oklahoma law might be considered as a big blow to the the Anti-Sharia movement, which has gained momentum in recent years. Yet, the anti-Sharia sentiment in the Republican primaries have resurrected fears about Muslims, and thus, fed Islamophobia.
Pundits have shifted their assessments of Tea Party clout with each swing of the pendulum in the GOP primary season — starting with debates even before the voting in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond. Either the Tea Party is said to be flexing its muscles, beating the “GOP establishment.” Or it is declared to be falling apart and failing to register much impact. The fortunes of Mitt Romney seem to determine which assessment is the favor of the day: if he does poorly, the Tea Party is strong; if he wins, the Tea Party is proving to be a paper tiger.
The trouble with all such assessments is twofold. First, they focus too much on the horse-race, attempting to label some candidates “Tea Partiers” and others “establishment” — while missing the big picture of the race to the right by all candidates in the GOP race. And secondly, such assessments mistakenly hold the Tea Party to a standard it cannot meet. Let me begin with the latter point, and come back to the former. Continue reading
In order to think about the influence of the Tea Party it is first important to understand the “essence” of the movement. What is the nature of its supporters’ discontent? How coherent are their political and policy goals? Is it something new on the political landscape that is forcing a realignment within the Republican Party?
Research conducted with Andy Perrin, Neal Caren, Steven Tepper and Sally Morris, concludes that the Tea Party phenomena – from the perspective of public support – is a case of “old wine” in a “new bottle.” Continue reading