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Communicating with Power

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Edited By Cherian George

Communication is ubiquitous and information is abundant. Political and economic markets are more open than they have ever been. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that communication continues to flow across fields where power is distributed unevenly. This collection of articles analyzes and responds to asymmetries of power in a diversity of contexts. They are drawn from presentations at the 2016 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference theme presented an opening for scholars from various disciplines and academic traditions to engage with the questions of power at different levels of analysis—from micro sites of power like a doctor’s consultation room, to the geopolitical arenas where nations wage war, make peace, and spy on one another. The resulting collection straddles different methodologies and styles, from survey research to essays. Leading scholars and junior researchers have combined to create a volume that reflects the breadth of communication scholarship and its contemporary concerns.

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Chapter Fourteen: We Know How to Communicate with Power: We Just Don’t Do It (Perry Parks)

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

We Know How TO Communicate WITH Power

We Just Don’t Do It

PERRY PARKS



On June 17, 2015, a young white man shot nine black worshippers to death in a historic church in South Carolina. The assailant reportedly sat for nearly an hour through a Bible study led by the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney before opening fire on the defenseless parishioners who had welcomed him. Online photos soon appeared of the suspect, Dylann Roof, posing with a gun in one hand and a Confederate battle flag in the other. On June 19, family members of some victims shocked many Americans by confronting Roof in court with a message not of anger or vengeance but forgiveness. A week later, President Barack Obama delivered a eulogy for Pinckney, steadily building rhetorical momentum before flowing into a rendition of the hymn “Amazing Grace” in what some commentators proclaimed to be among the most affecting moments of his presidency. Two weeks after that, on July 10, the Confederate battle flag, widely recognized as an emblem of white supremacy that had flown from the South Carolina state capitol grounds since the mid-20th-century, was officially lowered.

It is significant that all the facts about the Confederate battle flag and the cause it symbolized had been available (e.g. Webster and Leib 2001) long before a man who identified with that flag gunned down nine people in a black church. The...

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