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Document Type:Latin Dissertation
Language of Document:English
Record Number:53759
Doc. No:TL23713
Call number:‭3248382‬
Main Entry:Julie Pelton
Title & Author:The power of discourse: Silencing dissent through debate about...dissentJulie Pelton
College:The Pennsylvania State University
Date:2006
Degree:Ph.D.
student score:2006
Page No:222
Abstract:Reactions to events of the past several years, including the attack on the World Trade Center and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, have reawakened public and academic concern with emancipatory politics, political freedom, and transformative or revolutionary change. In particular, the anti-war demonstrations raise the question of whether contemporary forms of cultural politics are capable of disruption, or simply reaction. I use this manifestation of political dissent to engage contemporary and critical theoretical claims about agency and structure, the proper location and shape of politics, and the production of meaning. Newspaper coverage of dissent between 2001-03 provides the empirical basis of these case studies, with individual investigations focusing on newspaper articles about dissent, reports on protest events, and letters to the editor about dissent. Discourse analysis is used to study news media frames about dissent: I reconstruct the discourse about dissent in the context of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, outlining the major themes used to frame discussion of the political debate between pro-war and peace activists. Like other studies of protest coverage, this investigation substantiates the conclusion that news coverage tends to focus on event characteristics (violence, arrests, numbers of protesters), radical or fringe elements, features of events (mobilization and logistics) and frequent crowd actions ("waved signs and chanted") rather than the substantive claims being made. I explore the effects and power of these frames, illustrating how the discourse of dissent established certain subject positions (the dissident) as deviant and interacted with powerful post-9/11 rhetoric to reinforce notions of patriotism and unity. This discursive construction of dissent effectively restricted the space in which debate over war could occur. Genuine, critical discussions were sidetracked by raising the phantom of dissent as the issue in need of debate. "Letters" sections of newspapers and magazines served as a valuable link between "official" discourse and individual understanding and use of the language of news; they provide a vantage point (though not a perfect one) from which to observe the contentious interactions that take place among individuals (and between individuals and institutions like the newsmedia) throughout the process of discourse formation. Letters challenged the ultimate primacy and power typically granted to news text. Although a dominant discourse about dissent was evident in official journalistic accounts, the same is not true of letters: vigorous debate was ongoing. Nonetheless, letter writers were rarely able to reorient the debate once the parameters were established: readers were not substantially able to critique the discourse about dissent that served as a distraction from real debate over the march to war. Finally, I examine the representation of protest activities and dissident individuals in reports on protest events in order to understand how the increasing emphasis on "the visual" and "cultural politics" (including parody, culture jamming, etc.)---in social theory and in our everyday lives---impacts the possibility for social transformation. Through the aestheticization of dissent, political opposition is increasingly trivialized, individualized, rendered ineffective and emptied of meaning in newspaper coverage. The language and actions of a cultural politics were easily manipulated by journalists, resulting in the cooptation of oppositional messages. The spectacle of protest events was clearly emphasized during this time, contributing to the marginalization of dissent.
Subject:Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Debate; Discourse; Dissent; Newspapers; Silencing; Social research; Journalism; Political science; 0615:Political science; 0391:Journalism; 0344:Social research
Added Entry:A. Sica
Added Entry:The Pennsylvania State University