Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens, and Social Movements

By Brian D. Loader; Paul G. Nixon et al. | Go to book overview

2

The quadruple 'A'

Media strategies of protest movements since the 1960s

Dieter Rucht

In contemporary societies, mass media are extremely important for almost all political actors (Zaller 1992). This is particularly true for social movements and protest groups. As a rule, they are outsiders vis-á-vis the institutionalized political game, having few means to get their voices heard and their activities seen. Joachim Raschke, a German political scientist, aptly-although not literally-highlighted the importance of media coverage when he said 'A movement that does not make it into the media is non-existent' (Raschke 1985:343), underlining the fact that groups and events that are not reported by the media are known only to the immediate participants and bystanders, and not by the broader public.

Most, but not all, social movements and protest groups strive to get media attention and, if possible, positive media coverage, which in turn may be crucial to influencing people's hearts and minds and, eventually, policy decisions. Some groups are very successful in dealing with the media; others attain media resonance only to a small extent, or in rare moments, while still others fail completely. If they fail, however, this does not necessarily mean that their cause is definitely lost. They may try to develop their own means of communication to spread their word, to reframe their goals and demands, to change their forms of action and/or to reorient their media strategies so that they become more attractive to the media, or parts of it. In other words, movements have different ways of dealing with the media.

The media, in turn, have different ways in dealing with social movements. They can ignore them or react to them only under particular circumstances; they can proactively contact movement activists and eagerly seek information; they may comment positively or negatively on movements' goals and activities, or side issues such as the activists' outlook or personal background, thereby following a more general tendency 'to downplay the big social economic, or political picture in

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