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Dangerous Discourses

Feminism, Gun Violence, and Civic Life

Edited By Catherine R. Squires

Dangerous Discourses brings together new work by feminist scholars who provide a multifaceted view of the ways contemporary media discourses inscribe particular understandings of gendered social identities, gun violence, and public policy.
The chapters examine multiple media locations where discourses about guns and violence against women proliferate, including social media, mainstream news, National Rifle Association-sponsored magazines, gun research, public policy debates, popular magazines, and television drama. 
Utilizing theory and empirical research, this book helps us see more clearly how gender, sexuality, and other intersecting identities must be included in analysis of media discourses of guns and gendered violence.  The authors discuss the role of patriarchal ideologies, and center feminist thought and concerns in order to get beyond the one-liners, sound bites, and truisms about bad guys, the Second Amendment, mental health, and personal freedom that currently dominate public debates about guns and violence. 
With its unique views on the ways gun violence and gender inflect each other in the United States, this book is designed for courses in media studies, women’s studies, and sociology.
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Chapter 3. What Does Civility Have to Do with It? TV News Coverage of the 2011 Tucson Rampage Shooting


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TV News Coverage of the 2011 Tucson Rampage Shooting

Ruth DeFoster & Catherine R. Squires

When tragedies occur, news media and political elites attempt to make sense of events for the public. As they gather and disseminate information, newsmakers “are involved in a wider process of defining what is at issue” as they discuss tragedies.1 In the case of Jared Loughner’s 2011 shooting rampage in Arizona, the two victims who garnered the most extensive coverage—Christina Greene, a young girl born on September 11, 2001, and Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords—fit the profile of the type of victims (white, female) who tend to spark prolonged media coverage and public soul-searching.2 However, the press’s response to this incident, rather than highlighting the most salient and pressing issues that led directly to the shooting—such as the ease with which a mentally ill man acquired dangerous firearms—was characterized by a relentless focus on incivility and political polarization. We ask: How did civility become such an important element of understanding a mass shooting? Why did the press and politicians—including the president—focus on the health of our political discourse rather than gun control or other policy options?

This chapter explores how journalists, commentators, and politicians constructed a civility frame to talk about a mass shooting that, it quickly became clear, was not actually inspired by any identifiable partisan beliefs of the perpetrator....

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