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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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No book is ever entirely finished, and from this distance my 2006 study of Cultural Chaos seems more like the beginning of a project than its end. Much of what was written there was necessarily speculative and hypothetical, making connections between media control and power—rooted not in hard data but instead in what I presented as reasonable inference, given the methodological complexity of studying media effects and impacts. This book resumes the discussion, with the benefit of a decade’s observation of global political communication and its relationship to the crises which have unfolded over that period in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. There are no ‘proofs’ of direct media impacts on the conduct and evolution of global politics in the following pages, because causation is, for practical purposes within a chaos paradigm, impossible to isolate from the broader environment within which the communication process unfolds. I hope, however, to have marshaled in the following pages enough evidence to substantiate the thesis that more communication—globalized, digitized, networked communication—in circulation around the world reinforces the tendencies towards global democratization seen since the late twentieth century.

I also hope to have presented a case that these same trends and tendencies permit us to imagine a future for the human race in the decades ahead that is ← vii | viii → more optimistic and progressive than the media’s more dramatic representations and narratives of present-day conflict and looming environmental collapse suggest. If, to again employ...

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