Politics, Civil Society and Participation: Media and Communications in a Transforming Environment

Title chapter: On barricades
Author: Ilija Tomanic Trivundza
Keywords: masses, crowd, public opinion, press photography, protests
Abstract: Social movement literature has for a long time criticised a tendency of the mainstream media to reduce the complexity of protest events and negatively cover the activities of social movements which challenge the established socio-political order. According to the protest paradigm, as this tendency is referred to, the media will tend to focus on protest action, conflict and violence and through this obscure the issues being raised. The protest paradigm is generally supported by a limited set of visual motifs, mostly negative images of masked, violent protestors, of the destruction of property etc. or the reduction of protest to carnival. But there is an alternative to the protest paradigm. The uprising paradigm – as I propose to call it – is not merely an inversion of the protest paradigm, although it to a large extent relies on inversion of its conventions and motifs. What distinguishes it from the protest paradigm is that protestors are not presented as threatening masses but as “the masses” transforming themselves into “the people”. In this sense, the uprising paradigm, especially as it was used in the mainstream media since the 2011 Tunisian Revolution, is linked to the ideological project of defining democracy as a variation of western-style liberal democracy and serves to reinforce media’s role in facilitating democratic civic life. Like the protest paradigm, the uprising paradigm is visually supported by a limited set of photographic motifs and this chapter analyses the symbolic meaning of one of its most potent images – that of (the citizens on) the barricades.
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