Advocacy Groups and the Entertainment Industry

By Michael Suman; Gabriel Rossman | Go to book overview

12
Hostile and Cooperative Advocacy1

Gabriel Rossman

Sociology grounded in the Weberian school constructs ideal types of social phenomena and then assesses deviance of real cases from these ideal types as a means of analysis.2 A Weberian ideal type need not represent the average of the empirical aggregate of a phenomenon, but rather it should exemplify that phenomenon and distinguish the traits that define it and grant it uniqueness. Once an ideal type is established, empirical examples can be contrasted with it, both showing the variety within a single phenomenon and testing the validity of the type.

Television advocacy groups are clearly a social phenomenon and thus are suitable for Weberian analysis. Much like Weber defined Western Europeans by two ideal types, the Roman Catholic and the Protestant, it is appropriate to define television advocacy groups by two ideal types, the hostile and the cooperative. Hostile groups are the dominant form, both historically and currently, though cooperative groups, a relatively recent innovation, have garnered some impressive successes.

In this essay I offer ideal types of offensive media portrayals, advocacy groups, and advocate tactics. I then attempt to explain whether the hostile or cooperative strategy is most effective, what the prerequisites are for using a strategy, and how groups come to choose a strategy. Finally, I examine how closely real groups adhere to the dichotomous ideal types.

Throughout this essay I will apply ethnographic data and content analyses gathered from a diverse set of advocacy groups. I gathered most of the ethnographic data during a six-month participant-observation study at the Los Angeles offices of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).3 I also have participant-observation data from considerably less extensive involvement with a conservative Christian group, and I interviewed representatives of several other groups by telephone.

The material for my content analysis is drawn from two sources. The first

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