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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 4. The communication crisis of democratic governance


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There is a widespread perception, not least on the part of politicians themselves, that modern-day democratic governance is conducted in conditions of exceptional media scrutiny—a view captured in Keane’s concept of monitory democracy (see chapter two). This hyper-scrutiny, if we might call it that, often and unfairly or inappropriately tips the political process into mediated crisis, putting governments on the defensive and hindering the pursuit of ‘good’ governance. From this perspective the relationship between communication and politics is viewed as dysfunctional, with a tendency to push sincere efforts at rational and informed governance into critical disorder and chaos.

In Australia in February 2015, for example, in the aftermath of a leadership ‘spill’ (challenge) which had threatened Tony Abbott’s premiership after only 18 months in office (seven months later he was removed from office, complaining as he went about the ‘febrile’ media),1 his government’s communications minister Malcolm Turnbull (who succeeded Abbott as prime minister in September 2015) linked the Liberal Party’s crisis to the ‘bullying’ of journalists covering Australian politics. As reported by the Guardian, Turnbull said, ‘I must say that over the years the great mistake that politicians have made is to allow yourself [sic] to be bullied by the media. It’s vital to win the respect of the public and indeed of the media itself, to stand your ground and ← 77 | 78 → stand up for what you believe in and...

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