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Communication and Political Crisis

Media, Politics and Governance in a Globalized Public Sphere


Brian McNair

Communication and Political Crisis explores the role of the global media in a period of intensifying geopolitical conflict. Through case studies drawn from domestic and international political crises such as the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, leading media scholar Brian McNair argues that the digitized, globalized public sphere now confronted by all political actors has produced new opportunities for social progress and democratic reform, as well as new channels for state propaganda and terrorist spectaculars such as those performed by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. In this major work, McNair argues that the role of digital communication will be crucial in determining the outcome of pressing global issues such as the future of feminism and gay rights, freedom of speech and media, and democracy itself.
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Chapter 2. Fifty shades of freedom: The democratic century


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We are all democrats now. Or, if that sounds like an overly optimistic assertion of current geopolitical realities, let me suggest this: An unprecedentedly large proportion of the world’s population are, or claim to be, democrats.

Of the 165 United Nations member states recognized in 2014 (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015), containing within their borders the world’s approximately 9 billion people, the governments of the great majority—from the United States to North Korea and every shade of polity between—lay claim to the term ‘democracy’. The Chinese communists do it (the term minzhu, or ‘people-as-masters’, has been used there in different contexts), the post-Soviet Russians do it (and the Soviet-era states of the Warsaw Pact described themselves as ‘people’s democracies’), and yes, even the North Koreans do it—that is, they describe their system of governance as democratic and their country as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In doing so, they acknowledge the rhetorical and ideological value of the association, internally and externally, even as they dismiss the liberal pluralist forms of representative democracy which have evolved in the advanced capitalist world in the last century.

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