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Communication and Political Crisis

Media, Politics and Governance in a Globalized Public Sphere

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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 6. Non-State actors, communication and politics

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← 134 | 135 →

· 6 ·

NON-STATE ACTORS, COMMUNICATION AND POLITICS

The marginal cost of entering the globalized public sphere and communicating to global audiences with political messages is low by historical standards. High-quality video, audio and text-based communications can be produced with smart phones and mobile devices, edited on laptops, uploaded on social media platforms such as YouTube and shared around the world via Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, most of them free at the point of use. The infrastructure of political communication has been hugely reduced in cost, making it much easier for marginal or subordinate political actors to engage with the mainstream news media cycle and supply materials for use by story-hungry journalists and editors. A key reason for the privileging of elite information sources which was once routine—the media’s need for information subsidy—has faded. This is not to say that political and other elites do not still enjoy a presumed authority in relation to the definitions of events and processes in the news, which originates in the structural position of the source rather than the substantive content of the information being presented. In the past, that privilege was reinforced by the scarcity of alternative sources which could contradict or contest official and elite accounts; today, it is much more fragile than ever before. ← 135 | 136 →

One could cite many examples of this erosion of elite communication privilege, but I will here refer to the well-known case of WikiLeaks....

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