Posted: September 5, 2012 | Author: rjrock | Filed under: Public Administration, Sociology | Tags: child custody, federalism, ICE, illegal immigration, immigrant federalism, Immigration, new federalism, undocumented workers |
In May 2007, Encarnacion Bail Romero, mother of Carlitos Romero, and an undocumented worker in Missouri, was arrested at a poultry plant by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during an immigration raid (Gigler, Ross, & Hill, 2012). While Romero was incarcerated for an immigration-related law that the Supreme Court later struck down as unconstitutional, the State of Missouri terminated Romero’s parental rights and granted the adoption of Carlitos to a Missouri couple (Cambria, 2012). After Romero exhausted all legal options, the adoption was upheld by a Missouri Juvenile Court (Ross & Hill, 2012). Romero’s case is not an isolated incident, as Wessler (2011) found that more than 46,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were removed from their children in the first half of 2011, and at least 5,100 children of detained or deported undocumented immigrants are in U.S. foster care. These types of cases highlight the complexity of intergovernmental relations in a federalist system, existing precisely because of the gaps between the patchwork of federal, state, and local immigration laws and policies. Immigration policy gaps exist because federal, state, and local policymakers disagree over both the aims and means of immigration policy and because federal policy consequences are borne by state and local governments in the form of an unfunded mandate, giving rise to immigrant federalism caused by active state and local governments seeking to create change.
Hoefer, Rytina, and Baker (2012) estimate that there are 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, the majority of which are from Mexico and Central America. Extreme estimates by conservative, anti-immigration think tank FAIR, suggest that undocumented immigrants cost $113 billion annually, 76% of which is borne by state and local governments (Martin & Ruark, 2010). Although, the Congressional Budget Office (2007) found that while the costs to state and local governments exceeded the revenues from undocumented immigrations, the budgetary impact was modest. Furthermore, and Shafritz, Russell, and Borick (2011) and Hanson (2007) both recognize that undocumented immigrants are positive for the U.S. economy. Why then are state and local governments more active in the legislation and regulation of immigration?
While the lack of reliable statistics give fuel to differing partisan perspectives on the immigration debate, the unequal budgetary burden placed on state and local governments make illegal immigration “the mother of all unfunded mandates” (Shafritz, et al., 2011, p. 164). It is therefore, little surprise, given both the economic burden and a lack of clear direction from the federal government, that state and local governments are seeking a rearrangement of immigrant federalism (Huntington, 2008). In fact, Huntington (2008) argues that the immigration debate should be considered through a lens of federalism to determine proper allocation of power between the various levels of government, rather than having the federal government preempt all immigration law and policy decisions. Huntington’s (2008) perspective echoes the notion of incremental decision making inherent in a federal system that Shafritz, et al. (2011) consider “integral to democracy” (p. 140). Indeed, the tendency towards incrementalism may be one of key reasons for lack of clear immigration policy from the federal government.
Shafritz, et al. (2011) note that in 2007, “at least 1,100 immigration bills were submitted by state lawmakers” (p. 164). Some of the new legislation is aimed at making illegal immigration less favorable in the jurisdictions of local lawmakers, while other localities enact legislation to make illegal immigration more favorable (Huntington, 2008). Where some lawmakers are seeking to discourage illegal immigration to reduce the economic consequences of the unfunded mandate, others are seeking to encourage immigration in order to grow their local economies. There are also some who consider anti-immigration a thinly, veiled attempt to advance a nativist and ultimately racist agenda (Zeskind, 2005). Indeed, history would suggest that immigration policy has it roots in a discriminatory agenda (U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, 1980). It is clear that differing policy actors have conflicting views on the aims of U.S. immigration policy, and likely the means. It is equally clear that the federal government must consider the various policy aims of constituent governments, while also assuring the needs and interests of minority or weaker groups are protected. It appears to this author that the federalist system of government is both the cause of the slow progress in immigration reform, and responsible for the benefits of the existing immigration policy to various constituents.
Despite the history of incrementalism inherent in a federalist system, the immigration debate has started a new chapter in what appears to be a continual redefinition of federalism to determine where legislative and administrative power resides in immigration policy. As federal immigration policy consequences are largely borne by state and local governments, the last decade has seen the rise of immigrant federalism creating a patchwork of federal, state, and local immigration laws that clearly disagree over both the aims and means of national immigration policy. While the immigration federalism policy debate appears far from over, the urgency to improve immigration policy is clear, because existing policy allows the U.S. citizen children to be involuntarily taken from their undocumented immigrant parents, a situation that should never occur in a country built on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Cambria, N. (2012, July 19, 2012). Judge gives Missouri couple custody of illegal immigrant’s child Retrieved August 4,, 2012, from http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/judge-gives-missouri-couple-custody-of-illegal-immigrant-s-child/article_8d7ca32d-94e9-54f4-91a8-7512476da753.html
Congressional Budget Office. (2007). The Impact of Unauthorized Immigrants on the Budgets of State and Local Governments. Washington DC: U.S. Congress: Congressional Budget Office Retrieved from http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8711/12-6-immigration.pdf.
Gigler, L., Ross, B., & Hill, A. M. (2012, February 1, 2012). Adoption Battle Over 5-Year Old Boy Pits Missouri Couple Vs. Illegal Immigrant Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/adoption-battle-year-boy-pits-missouri-couple-illegal/story?id=15484447 – .UB1uVI6_FLo
Hanson, G. H. (2007). The economic logic of illegal immigration. Council on Foreign Relations, 26(April 2007), 1-52.
Hoefer, M., Rytina, N., & Baker, B. (2012). Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2011. Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2011.pdf.
Huntington, C. (2008). The consistutional dimension of immigration federalism. Vanderbilt Law Review, 61(3), 787-853.
Martin, J., & Ruark, E. (2010). The fiscal burden of illegal immigration on United States taxpayers (pp. 1-95). Washington DC: Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Ross, B., & Hill, A. M. (2012, July 18, 2012). Tug-of-Love: Immigrant Mom Loses Effort to Regain Son Given to US Parents Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/immigrant-mom-loses-effort-regain-son-us-parents/story?id=16803067 – .UB1t-o6_FLo
Shafritz, J. M., Russell, E. W., & Borick, C. P. (2011). Introducing public administration (7th ed.). Boston: Longman.
U.S. Commission On Civil Rights. (1980). Historical dimiscrimination in the immigration laws. In R. Fiske-Rusciano (Ed.), Experiencing race, class, and gender in the United States (5th ed.). Boston, Mass.: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Wessler, S. F. (2011). Shatter Families: The Perilous intersection of immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System: Executive Summary (pp. 1-10). New York, New York: Applied Research Center.
Zeskind, L. (2005, October 23, 2005). The new nativism. The American Prospect Retrieved August 10, 2011, from http://prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=10485
Posted: September 5, 2012 | Author: rjrock | Filed under: Communications, Sociology | Tags: 1968 Olympics, alternative critical paradigm, American Dream, Avery Brundage, black power, Black power salute, critical theory, cultural studies, dominant narrative, International Olympic Committee, John Carlos, media, media concentration, media influence, medium theory, Olympics, social change, Tommie Smith |
The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was the setting of one of the most dramatic symbolic protests in Olympics history. Set during the turbulent 1960s, within the backdrop of the civil rights, feminism, and anti-war movements in the United States, U.S. track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, winners of the Gold and Bronze medal in the 200M, used the Olympic podium in symbolic protest against structural social inequality in the U.S. and abroad (Bass, 2002). Their raised fists and shoeless feet represented the unfinished business of the civil rights movement and defied the dominant narrative of U.S. democracy, highlighting the continued need for structural change in the social and economic institutions of the United States. As a result, there was an immediate backlash as powerful forces discredited the legitimacy and relevance of the act (Zirin, 2008). While Smith and Carlos are largely revered in the popular media discourse today (Brown, 2012) for their courage and prominence in the civil rights movement, their symbolic act had serious economic and social consequences for the athletes (Small & Zirin, 2008). Moreover, structural inequality remains a pervasive social issue in the United States. Examination of the social, political, economic, and cultural circumstances, leading up to and following the protest have explanatory power to address important questions about the use of the Olympic media event as a force for social change. What was the role of media as a force for change? What forces shaped the symbolic moment and how do those forces apply today? Finally, do the Olympics remain a platform for change by activist athletes? Examining these questions using a critical cultural lens, this author contends that while the Olympics remain an attractive media platform for protest, the consequences of protest by activist athletes are higher than ever, with strong inducements to assure that the Olympic stage is preserved for state and commercial actors and their dominant narratives.
The now-famous black power salute on the Olympic podium was not a spontaneous event, but rather a carefully planned and orchestrated protest with roots in the Black Freedom movement, heavily influenced by civil rights leaders and sociologist Harry Edwards, a professor at San Jose State University (Bass, 2002; Small & Zirin, 2008). Both Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos were track stars at San Jose State University, where they became radicalized by Harry Edwards and became involved in black militant groups (Small & Zirin, 2008). Influenced heavily by Muhammad Ali’s use of sport as a platform for civil rights, chance remarks by Tommie Smith may have precipitated events by postulating the possibility of an Olympic boycott by black athletes during an interview at the World University Games in Tokyo (BBC, 2012). This pseudo-event caused significant media controversy that played out over subsequent months, leading to the formation of Olympic Project for Human Rights, an organized effort advocating the boycott of the 1968 by U.S. black athletes (Bass, 2002).
The proposed boycott received considerable media attention, usually expressed in terms of national outrage, drawing the criticism and ire of Avery Brundage, head of the International Olympic committee (Hartmann, 1996). In contrast, the proposed boycott received the endorsement and support of notable blacks athletes and civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Lew Alcindor, Louie Lomax, Jacky Robinson, Stokely Carmichael, and Muhammad Ali (Bass, 2002; Earp, 2011; Hartmann, 1996). With the support of the civil rights movement, the OPHR published a list of demands that included the restoration of Muhammad Ali’s boxing title, the removal of Brundage as head of the IOC, the exclusion of apartheid countries from the 1968 Olympics, desegregation of the New York City Athletic Club, and the placement of black coaches and administrators onto the U.S. Olympic Committee (Hartmann, 1996). While the boycott and the subsequent demands attracted a great deal of media coverage and public outcry, the proposed boycott failed to receive the needed support from African American Olympic athletes and never materialized (Bass, 2002). The reason that loomed largest “was that athletes who had trained their whole lives for their Olympic moment quite understandably didn’t want to give it up” (Zirin, 2008) However, the stage had been set for the Olympic protest.
On October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith won Olympic gold in the 200M sprint and John Carlos won the bronze. The athletes stepped up to the podium, in front of a global audience of nearly 400 million people wearing “black stockings but no shoes, a black glove on one hand, and Smith had a black scarf around his neck…as the Star-Spangled Banner began, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and simultaneously raised a black-gloved fist” (Bass, 2002, p. 240). The pair received immediate condemnation from the crowd as the audience began to boo and hiss (Bass, 2002). During an interview with Howard Cosell (1968), Smith would later comment on the symbology of the moment, explaining:
The right glove that I wore on my right hand signified the power within black America. The left glove my teammate John Carlos wore on his left hand made an arc with my right hand and his left hand also to signify black unity. The scarf that was worn around my neck signified blackness. John Carlos and me wore socks, black socks, without shoes, to also signify our poverty.
Within two days, the IOC expelled the two athletes from the Olympic village and banned them from further Olympic competition.
Upon return to the United States, the athletes were greeted as heroes by San Jose State University and members of the black militant movement, but were largely condemned by the national press, and specifically sports journalists (Hartmann, 1996). For example, Brent Musburger, a sports columnist for the Chicago American wrote (Zirin, 2008):
One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country. Protesting and working constructively against racism in the United States is one thing, but airing one’s dirty clothing before the entire world during a fun-and-games tournament was no more than a juvenile gesture by a couple of athletes who should have known better. (p. 1)
Moreover, Musburger described the pair as “a couple of dark-skinned stormtroopers” (Zirin, 2008, p. 1). The near universal condemnation of the protest had severe social and economic repercussions for the athletes, as former job offers and career prospects evaporated (Small & Zirin, 2008). According to Small and Zirin (2008), “Their athletic careers were ruined. For years, they received death threats and were treated like traitors to their country. They couldn’t find good jobs” (p. 1). As a result of their protest, Smith and Carlos were to lead their lives without the cultural or economic capital typified by most successful Olympic athletes.
The Possibilities of the Olympic Stage
The Olympics have long been an attractive venue for political statements and protests since the first modern Olympics were held in Athens (Cotrell & Nelson, 2010). The venues attractiveness stems from of the high-profile nature of the global event, the events accessibility, the availability of transnational allies or supporters, and the “symbolic meaning that facilitates collective claim-making and widens political opportunity” (Cotrell & Nelson, 2010, p. 5). As such, the Olympics of 1968 must have been a near irresistible opportunity for actors in the civil rights movement. In particular, the list of OPHR demands suggests the activist organization was well aware of the opportunity, given their linkage of the U.S. civil rights movement and international apartheid. Moreover, OPHR was likely well aware of the power of the Olympic stage, given lessons learned from the early civil rights movement in the South.
Indeed, the early civil rights movement was a brilliantly executed media campaign whose beginning coincided with the full penetration of network television and the rise of television news broadcasting (Bodroghkozy, 2008). Television beamed dramatic images of racial injustice and civil unrest directly into the living rooms of most Americans, who hitherto had remained unaffected by the civil rights movement. The non-violent direct action March from Selma to Montgomery serves as a case in point. The event, labeled ‘Bloody Sunday’, with images of peaceful protesters being run down by armed troopers on horseback, spurred hundreds of individuals to head to Selma and prompted quick reaction by legislators (Lee, 2002). Furthermore, the situation caused one network’s Washington news chief to remark, “Negroes are the architects, bricklayers, carpenters, and welders of this revolution. Television is their chosen instrument” (Monroe, 1967, p. 83). In this sense, “television appears to put all aspects of social experience on show to all, without distinction” (McQuail, 2010, p. 125). Undoubtedly, the new mass medium appeared to hold considerable power to raise awareness of the plight of African Americans and spur change, a lesson not lost on OPHR.
Forces Shaping the Symbolic Salute
It is likely the OPHR was aware not only of the global audience reach of the Olympics, but also of the event’s symbolic power in the ideology of liberal democracy. According the Olympic Charter, “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity” (International Olympic Committee, 2011, p. 10). Despite the IOC charter, the IOC condemned the OPHR’s proposed boycott, arguing that there was no place for politics in the Olympics (Zirin, 2008). Furthermore, the IOC used various tactics to shut down the boycott and silence OPHR, including sending Jesse Owens to attempt to discredit the organization. (Zirin, 2008). Not only was the IOC a powerful organization, but in the eyes of the movement, a hypocritical organization.
In addition, the Olympics were an important symbolic event for the United States and African American athletes were an equally important part of the U.S. Olympic narrative (Earp, 2011). However, Harry Edwards, OPHR’s leader, and both Smith and Carlos determined to undermine the hypocrisy of African American athletes being used to support a narrative that collided with their lived experience (Earp, 2011). Moreover, the OPHR’s rejection of American Dream rhetoric was important in an international context, given 1968 was considered the height of the Cold War. While both Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson were popular culture examples of the dominant narrative, OPHR challenged the narrative in their founding statement (Zirin, 2008):
We must no longer allow this country to use … a few “Negroes” to point out to the world how much progress she has made in solving her racial problems when the oppression of Afro-Americans is greater than it ever was. We must no longer allow the Sports World to pat itself on the back as a citadel of racial justice when the racial injustices of the sports industry are infamously legendary. (p. 1)
It is therefore, little surprise, that the protest took symbolic shape.
Bass (2002) described the protest in terms of symbolic violence, an action that “dislocated the normative staging of the nation as well as the sprinters’ own place as national subjects….it quickly became a powerful symbol that both inspired and intimidated and simultaneously acknowledged the lack of power of many more (p. 4). However, the protest was made up of both powerful symbols, but brilliant staging. For example, MacAloon (1982) notes that the Olympics hold no place to represent “subnational group identities of race, ethnicity, or ideology that are for many, the core of their beings” (MacAloon, 1982, p. 108). It was into this gap, that Smith and Carlos were able to insert powerful cultural symbols, the raised fist juxtaposed over the playing of the ideological normative Star-Spangled Banner, forcing a global audience to consider the condition of U.S. African Americans for the entire length of the song. It is little wonder the protest created such a backlash and yet, remains in collective consciousness more than forty-four years later.
Implications for Today
Despite the Olympics being notoriously political, the Olympic charter remains opposed to demonstration, ruling, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted” (International Olympic Committee, 2011). Of course, the IOC’s stance is not surprising given the growing political and economic importance of the Olympic games. As a case in point, the 2012 London Olympics had the largest global viewing audience for any event on record (CNN, 2012). More importantly, the bulk of the IOC’s considerable revenue comes from the license of media rights; NBC for example, paid more than $1.2 billion for the exclusive right to broadcast the London Olympics in the U.S. market (Associated Press, 2008). Cotrell and Nelson (2010) suggest that the scope and size of the modern Olympics has much to do with the IOC’s steadfast resistance to the politicization of the Olympics, noting:
Protecting the brand, some contend, is less about promoting the Olympic spirit and more about simply making money. From this perspective, the contemporary IOC acts as a corporate entity that is, in fact, very political — engaging in precisely the type of behavior that the Charter prohibits. (p. 16)
Viewed in the commercial sense, the IOC can be viewed as a corporate entity that has the exclusive right to commodify the Olympics and the associated international rivalry that plays out on the Olympic stage, the very commodification Smith and Carlos objected to.
Moreover, in the intervening years since 1968, the commercialization of sport in general has increased significantly (Earp, 2011). In the post-Michael Jordon era, successful Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps can earn endorsement deals northwards of $100 million (Mackey, 2012). That is 100 million reasons to be careful not to challenge the dominant narratives posited by the IOC or an athlete’s representative nation. A great Olympic example of the power of the commercialization of sport over an athlete’s media behavior occurred during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona with the media-savvy Michael Jordan. As a Nike brand spokesman wearing an Olympic jersey made by Reebok, Jordan took care to mount the Olympic podium with an American Flag draped over the offending brand label, rather than risk the ire of Nike (Earp, 2011). The contrast between Jordan’s symbolic gesture and Smith and Carlos’s black power salute testifies to the power of the commercialization of sport.
Of course, the growing audience and salience of the Olympics all but assure the venue will continue to be the target of protests. Indeed, Cotrell and Nelson (2010) find that the incident of protests are rising, however, the character of the protests are changing from the nation versus nation boycotts typified during the Cold War, and protests seeking domestic policy change, like that of Smith and Carlos, to protest of transnational issues such as globalization or the environment. In addition, while the IOC has maintained firm resistance against such activities, host nations are becoming more adept at managing protests by providing specific zones for activist to operate within (Cotrell & Nelson, 2010). The changing nature of Olympic protest, the growing commercialization of sport, and the growing sophistication of protest management techniques, appear to negate the likelihood of a similarly powerful protest occurring in future Olympiads. What does this say about the future of the tripartite public sphere that has emerged in sport, politics, and the media?
It seems the implications are grim for would-be activists that seek to use the Olympic stage as a platform for social change and participatory democracy. The array of political and economic forces surrounding the Olympics, are oriented in such a way as to assure that the narratives remain shaped by commercial and state actors. In this sense, there is little room for the collective action frames typified in the notion of participatory democracy, rather the environment is more suitable for the notion of limited citizenship (Gamson, 2001). Even in the era of new media, this author wonders whether the networked public sphere enabled by new media can moderate the effects of the economic and political forces that shape Olympic discourse. As a case in point, the most dramatic social media protest of the London Olympics had to do with the NBC broadcast and issues arising from their handling of time zones and web streaming of live events, (Deitsch, 2012); not exactly a call for sweeping social change.
However, despite the challenges of political demonstration at the Olympics, there is some reason for hope that Smith and Carlos’ legacy remains an example for others. During the London Olympics, in the backdrop of the IOC’s refusal to permit a moment of silence for the victims of the Munich Olympic terrorist attacks, French swimmer, Fabien Gilot, sported a very visible Hebrew tattoo on his left arm in commemoration of his Jewish grandfather and Holocaust survivor, that said ‘I am nothing without them’ (Lebrecht, 2012). While it is not known whether the tattoo was in direct response to the IOC refusal, the widespread coverage of the tattoo suggests that cultural symbols retain their power in an Olympic setting.
While this author used a wide variety of sources from both the popular press and scholarly research, there were several scholarly sources whose inclusion informed the theoretical perspectives presented in this paper, and as such, warrant brief comment. Bass’ (2002) work utilized a critical culturist perspective in examining the events leading up to and following the black power salute. Likewise, Hartmann (1996) follows a similar path. Bodroghkozy (2008) appears to examine the role of television in the civil rights movement using medium theory to illuminate how the specific attributes of network television supported the movement. Finally, Zirin (2008), and the perspective Zirin shares in the documentaries by Small and Zirin (2008) and Earp (2011), are largely discussed from a social-culturist perspective in the examination of the media sport experience to identify the forces that affected Smith and Carlos.
The powerful symbol of Smith and Carlos’ defiant protest remains in the collective consciousness of U.S. culture even today. While Smith and Carlos’ potent gesture during the 1968 Olympics was greeted with nearly universal condemnation by the American press, in the final analysis, the athletes were proven to be on the right side of history. While the Olympics as a platform for protest is more attractive then ever, the economic and political consequences of such action are also more severe, particularly given the rising commercialization of sport. This author wonders whether the courage of Smith and Carlos’ defining moment would be possible in the post-modern era? It appears more likely that today’s would-be activist athletes would succumb to the forces that assure that the Olympic stage is preserved for state and commercial actors and their dominant narratives.
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Posted: September 5, 2012 | Author: rjrock | Filed under: Communications, Sociology | Tags: communication, Framing, media, media concentration, media effects, mediated visibility, message cues, political scandal, process model of framing, scandal, semantic framing, sociology, trial by media |
The rise of mediated communication has fundamentally changed how the world is experienced by society, perhaps no more so than in the realm of politics. In fact, “the media have become a main source of information and opinion for the public” (McQuail, 2010, p. 526). As such, political actors have an increasing reliance on the media to shape their public image, set their political agenda, and to provide the arena with which political events are played out (McQuail, 2010). While politic actors spend a great deal of time and energy using the media to provide “a basis of support for their power and policies…mediated visibility is a double-edged sword” (Thompson, 2005, p. 41), insofar as increased visibility also creates increased risk. Of course, the most significant risk facing politicians is that of the political scandal, or ‘trial by media’. Thompson (2000) describes a political scandal as a situation where previously invisible behaviors that violate social norms, become visible, are seen as contrary to the politician’s carefully crafted image, and are characterized by an ensuing public outcry or demand for justice. Of course, Thompson’s (2000) definition of political scandal in a era of mediated visibility presumes that the media is the cause, in terms of increased scrutiny, visibility and construction of the scandal event, and also creates effects, in terms of audience reaction. Arguably, Thompson (2005) does little to describe how the construction of the scandal event creates the effect on audiences. However, recent empirical research by Kepplinger, Geiss, and Siebert (2012) describes how media-constructed frames of political scandals provide cues that determine how message recipients process the scandal information to draw conclusions and form behavioral intentions. What follows is an analysis and critique of Kepplinger, et al.’s (2012) work to understand its explanatory power for how ‘trial by media’ affects audiences and discuss the implications of their findings.
Framing Scandals: Overview and Method
Whereas the existing literature on framing effects infer a strong relationship between journalistic frames and audience influence, McQuail (2010) suggests that “it is not obvious how framing will work as an effect process” (p. 511). To explore how media constructed scandal information influences the audience, Kepplinger, et al. (2012) used “three strands of research to develop a model of individual-level opinion formation in scandals: a) scandal research, b) framing theory, and c) appraisal theory” (p. 600). The authors appear to use Scheufele’s (1999) process model of framing effects, whereby journalists construct the frames, the frames are transmitted to the audience, and the audience accepts certain frames “with consequences for their attitudes, outlook, and behavior” (McQuail, 2010, p. 511). Moreover, the authors recognized that framing theory did not describe the link between specific media frames and the resulting inferences (Kepplinger, et al., 2012). Therefore, Kepplinger, et al. (2012) ‘filled the gap’ with appraisal theory (Nerb & Spada, 2001) which identifies relevant cognitions that lead to the creation of opinion in negative events including five aspects, a) whether the damages are large or small, b) the degree to which the transgression was caused by human behavior, c) whether the people followed selfish or altruistic goals, d) whether they were aware of the consequences of their actions, and e) whether there was an opportunity to act differently. These cognitions are understood to form the basis of people’s beliefs, and moreover, will influence an audience frame of guilt or excuse. The author’s model integrating these theories were used to test how the type of frame, amount, and completeness of frames affected the audience to arrive at a guilt frame or an excuse frame (Kepplinger, et al., 2012).
With their model as the basis for the research, Kepplinger, et al. (2012) designed the research with the following hypotheses:
H1: Media depict the cases using primarily fragmentary frames, blaming the public figure with regard to some components (e.g., selfish motives) but not with regard to all (e.g., prior knowledge).
H2: Cognitive reactions of individuals result from a) learning from the media and b) conclusions of individuals, drawn from an overall impression.
H3: Individuals will develop one of two polarized individual frames: a guilt frame or an excuse frame.
H4: A person will call for more severe punishment if he or she a) believes the public figure is guilty and b) feels angry; an individual will call for milder punishment if he or she c) excuses the public figure and d) feel sad about the case.
H5: Individuals will tend to develop a(n) (individual) guilt frame (a) the more complete guilt frames they receive and (b) the more fragmentary guilt frames they receive.
H6: A model of opinion formation in scandals accounting for learning from the media and information processing of individuals will adequately model the relationships between cognitive reactions, emotional reactions, and calls for punishment. (pp. 662-663)
In order to test their hypotheses, Kepplinger, et al. (2012) conducted a content analysis of how the four political scandals were depicted by media according to the five aspects, damages, human agency, selfish goals, prior knowledge, and freedom of action, and combined them with individual survey data by calculating the individuals media input. The combined data demonstrate the extent to which journalist frames influence audience information processing.
Framing Scandals: Findings
Indeed, Kepplinger, et al. (2012) found support for much of their hypothesis. Only rarely did the media portray complete frames across all five aspects, instead typically providing fragmentary guilt frames in one or more aspects, with human agency being the most dominant, resulting in support for H1 (Kepplinger, et al., 2012). More importantly, the researchers found that learning accounted “for a low share of variance in cognitive reactions” (Kepplinger, et al., 2012, p. 671), whereas information processing to form a consistent impression explained as much as 92% of variance, suggesting that all five journalist frames positively and significantly influence the cognitive reaction, providing empirical support for H2. In addition, the audience cognitions led to the formation of a guilt frame or excuse frame, depending of the audience perception of damages, which also influenced audience views on punishment, providing support for H3 (Kepplinger, et al., 2012). The support for H4 was weaker, with some evidence of a relationship between the degree of perceived damage and calls for punishment, with cognitive variables accounting for 40% of calls for punishment, while emotional reactions of the audience did not significantly contribute to calls for punishment absent cognitions (Kepplinger, et al., 2012).
Moreover, the Kepplinger, et al. (2012) found the more guilt frames an audience received, the greater the tendency to develop their own guilt frame, with as much as 9% of the development of a guilt frame explained by guilt frames the audience received. Furthermore, “although recipients received fragmentary frames, they complemented the picture and developed a coherent guilt frame by themselves” (Kepplinger, et al., 2012, p. 675), suggesting that audiences elaborate on fragmentary information to arrive at their own conclusions, providing support for H5. Finally, Kepplinger, et al. (2012) were able to construct a structural equation model “spanning from media input, via cognitions and emotions, to behavioral intentions” (p. 675).
Rather than supporting the notion of ‘trial by media’, whereby the media determine public perception of guilt during a scandal, Kepplinger, et al.’s (2012) findings suggest that the media provide fragmentary information, which is then elaborated on by an audience to create an impression of guilt or an impression that excuses the behavior. These findings are therefore consistent with Petty and Cacioppo’s (1986) Elaboration Likelihood Model suggesting that people with will be motivated to achieve cognitive consistency drawing on both knowledge and experience, or ‘incidental cues’ to fill in information gaps. In this sense, individuals as well as media are equally responsible for the formation of an individual guilt frame.
Insofar as the media operates on a 24-hour news cycle, scandal stories often begin with fragmentary information and are updated frequently as new information is discovered. In such a setting, the audience is subjected to repeated fragmentary guilt frames increasing the likelihood that individual audience members will arrive at a guilt conclusion, despite the lack of a complete picture. Therefore, in this sense, the 24-hour news cycle and associated journalistic business model contribute directly to the formation of public opinion in scandal events, contributing to the development of a ‘trial by media’.
Moreover, the initial framing of a scandal event can have serious consequences on the formation of public opinion, whereby reported levels of human agency or degree of damage can provide incidental cues to the audience that support the formation guilt or excuse audience frames. In a situation with a perceived high degree of damage, the notion of ‘trial by media’ becomes a distinct possibility, much akin to the notion of a ‘witch hunt’, with serious potential consequences for political actors caught up in the scandal event. Arguably, Kepplinger et al.’s (2012) findings raise serious ethical questions about the media’s coverage of scandal events, particularly in the era of 24-hour news.
The research of Kepplinger et al (2012) is an important addition to media effects research, insofar as it demonstrates a relationship between journalistic framing of scandal events, audience cognitions and emotions, and the audience’s behavioral intentions. However, there are opportunities to further their research to draw more conclusive findings. First, the research focused on solely on political scandals, to the exclusion of financial, criminal, or sexual scandals. This author wonders whether audience elaborations would exhibit the same consistency in the face of a sexual scandal, where audience morals may play a more salient role in the creation of guilt or excuse frames. Moreover, would the same journalistic framing norms apply during a media investigation of powerful political figures, as they would for others with less power?
In addition, the research did not explore the role of confirmation bias in an individual’s elaboration process. To what degree do political leanings affect the media effects described? Are individual’s more or less likely to elaborate according to their own established views? To what extent are journalist more or less likely expand on the journalist guilt frames based on their bias? In an analysis of scandal events, Puglisi and Snyder (2008) found that Democratic leaning newspapers provided relatively greater coverage to Republican scandals and Republican leaning newspapers provided greater coverage to Democratic scandals. Given Kepplinger et al.’s (2012) findings, is greater coverage inherently biased? More importantly, does the combination of greater coverage and the workings of confirmation bias all but assure an individual will arrive at a guilt frame?
In addition, Kepplinger, et al. (2012) suggest that their work could benefit from more investigation into how opinions form over time to understand their malleability. Furthermore, the authors acknowledge that more work is needed to understand the sources, beside media content, upon which individual frames are based (Kepplinger, et al., 2012). This author concludes the findings are sufficiently compelling to warrant further investigation to advance this line of media effects research.
Kepplinger et al.’s (2012) research into how media-constructed frames of political scandals can cue message recipients to elaborate and draw conclusions in absence of complete information. Moreover, the greater the number of guilt frames the audience receives, the higher the likelihood the audience will draw a guilt conclusion, a disturbing finding consider the character of the 24-hour news cycle. Accordingly, the greater visibility of today’s heavily mediated reality is fraught with risk for political actors seeking to manage their image, where the simple association with scandal could very well minimize their ability to advance their agenda, or even destroy their career.
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