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Environmental Conflict and the Media

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Edited By Libby Lester and Brett Hutchins

Has the hype associated with the «revolutionary» potential of the World Wide Web and digital media for environmental activism been muted by the past two decades of lived experience? What are the empirical realities of the prevailing media landscape?
Using a range of related disciplinary perspectives, the contributors to this book analyze and explain the complicated relationship between environmental conflict and the media. They shine light on why media are central to historical and contemporary conceptions of power and politics in the context of local, national and global issues and outline the emerging mixture of innovation and reliance on established strategies in environmental campaigns.
With cases drawn from different sections of the globe – Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, Latin America, China, Japan, the Pacific Islands, Africa – the book demonstrates how conflicts emanate from and flow across multiple sites, regions and media platforms and examines the role of the media in helping to structure collective discussion, debate and decision-making.
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12 Whither the “Moral Imperative”? The Focus and Framing of Political Rhetoric in the Climate Change Debate in Australia: Myra Gurney

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Like most complex issues, climate change has many dimensions with competing and conflicting values and agendas. These are debated using frames which filter perspectives through the lens of existing ideological beliefs and worldviews (Goffman, 1974). Frames, according to Nisbet and Mooney (2007), use language to “organise central ideas, defining a controversy to resonate with core values and assumptions”. Unpacking how an issue is framed is important in order to expose the underlying assumptions and power relationships upon which knowledge production in any particular discourse is founded (O’Brien et al., 2010b).

The media play a pivotal role in both the production and reproduction of different frames, or what Gamson and Modigliani (1989: 3) call “interpretative packages”. These make suggested meanings available for the attentive public through linguistic devices such as metaphors, catchphrases, historical examples and visual images. They also act to construct reasoning devices such as appeals to causal relationships and to principles such as moral arguments (Gamson and Modigliani, 1989: 3–4). Lakoff (2008) contends that because repeated frames are cognitively reinforced, the discourse becomes “internalized,” as Foucault (1972) would argue, making it difficult to think outside the boundaries of those recurring frames. ← 187 | 188 →

Understanding the nature and direction of the debate also requires considering the way people use media to inform their opinions, the power of media as a gatekeeper and framer of different narratives (Couldry, 2000), and the importance of language in this process. In the case of climate change in particular, the...

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