Posts Tagged ‘political protest’
In a study of the 2003 anti-Iraq War global protests, Bennet, Breunig, and Givens (2008) argue that changes in social identity processes are leading individuals to seek less binding and more flexible relationships with organizations that provide support on issues that matter to them personally. This model of activism stands in contrast to the 1960s-70s era model, in which concerned citizens identified strongly with one issue and organization.
Single-issue organizations are still being formed today, of course, but our relationships to them are becoming looser and less hierarchical. Bennett and colleagues argue that these loose ties, along with a heavy reliance on online media for political information, account for the speed with which anti-war activists were able to organize back in 2003. It’s likely that these massive, multi-nation gatherings could not have been organized with the same speed and degree of coordination without the information technologies we have at our disposal today.
A communication-centered explanation of the difficulty to reform Wall Street so far would depend largely on which view of public opinion and the nature of the public sphere (indeed, which view of democracy) you adopt. University of Pennsylvania Provost and communication researcher Vincent Price (2008) usefully describes four models of the public sphere that could potentially apply to the U.S. at various points in the debate over financial reform and other issues:
The Competitive Elitism model: Under this model, the participation of citizens is limited to expressing their opinion through the ballot box. Otherwise, public opinion and decision-making is left to policy-makers, bureaucrats, experts and other elites. Public opinion becomes a matter of elites trying to convince each other of the rightness of their policy positions. As Walter Lippmann (1922) argued, the role of experts under this model is to explain complex issues to decision-makers and to manufacture consent from the public.