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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 18 - 2011, No. 4

, pages: 5-20

This article suggests how listening might be rethought as foundational to theories of the public sphere and the forms of communication that take place in public. Listening, as a communicative and participatory act, is necessarily political but political theory tends to concentrate on the rights and responsibilities of speech and expression. Attending to the rights and responsibilities of those listening opens up surprisingly far-reaching speculations about the guarantee of plurality and offers a powerful conceptual corrective to communication models based on an idealised dialogic encounter. The analytical separation of “listening out” – an attentive and anticipatory communicative disposition – from “listening in” – a receptive and mediatised communicative action – opens up a space to consider mediated listening as an activity with political resonance. Rethinking audiences as listening publics, offers productive new ways to address the politics, ethics and experience of political communication and public life.

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, pages: 21-38

This paper reintroduces the theory of political alienation as a model for analysing and critiquing public sphere structures, arguing that commodified and professionalised media and organisational structures distance the general public from the production of public opinion and limit the public’s capacity to use communication for democratic empowerment. These communication norms and practices act as a counter-force to more deliberative forms of communication and (re)create five conditions of alienation – commodification, social isolation, meaninglessness, normlessness, and powerlessness – that influence what individuals know, how they interact, and who ultimately has power in the political process. Integrating literature on public opinion, deliberative democracy, mediated communication, and collective action, this paper offers an antinormative lens for critiquing currently existing practices and understanding how contemporary communication structures operate systemically.

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, , pages: 39-54

This article demonstrates that the cultural layer of public opinion on environment is based, basically in theology and in political philosophy. However, postmodernist culture has engendered an environmentalist paradigm with new properties inspired by biocentrism (conservation, contamination, extinction) in consumption (recycling, reforestation), a perspective of relativism and a hermeneutic view of mass media´s information. The aim of this essay is to evaluate whether public opinion processes may vary from the norm when new social discourses are studied. From the new findings we have assumed that, currently, public discourse on the environment is easily assimilable through its proximity to other ideological discourses.

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, pages: 55-72

This critical essay is an attempt to understand populist discourse of the Tea Party movement and the lurking reactionary- nationalism in the background. Taking a discourse theoretic approach proposed by Laclau (2005), the essay attempts to show how the differential issues/discontents in the populist discourse of the Tea Party came to share equivalence through the articulation of equivalential social logic and the shared universal negative feature in the key signifiers and the antagonism to the government and the incumbents. The essay problematises the conceptualisation of populism as a form of political practice that speaks for the people and against the established power structures, and argues that populism must be critically analysed as a discursive political practice independent of ideology or content.

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, , pages: 73-88

This article presents an empirical study of the relationship between politicians and journalists in three European countries. Based on a survey among political journalists and Members of Parliament in Belgium, Norway and Sweden we ask how “intimate” the relationship between these two groups really is, and if the informality of the relationship also influences the image they have of one another. Our study shows that the degree of informality differs significantly between the three countries, where the Swedes have less informal contact. We believe this country difference can be mainly attributed to the higher degree of political professionalisation. Unlike Nimmo (1964) our analysis does not suggest that the more informal the relationship is, the less suspicious journalists or politicians are towards the other group. Rather our results seem to show that trust and suspicion go hand in hand.

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, pages: 89-106

Mediated public diplomacy plays an important role in achieving foreign policy objectives by trying to influence public opinion in other countries. The Russia-based global TV channel RT serves as a central tool of Russian mediated public diplomacy. Its objective is not only to present the Russian perspective on different issues but also to propagate it. However, there is not much research on RT in general and none on the strategies RT employs to persuade its viewers of the rightness of the Russian stance. This article explores the use of persuasive strategies in the RT interview show Spotlight. A qualitative content analysis of 15 episodes, which discuss Russian relations to its Baltic neighbours Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, revealed that Spotlight constructed a one-sided pro-Russian reality. Various strategies are employed to hedge this reality against doubts about its trueness as well as to support Russia’s position in conflicts with the Baltic States. By this, RT aims to isolate the Baltic States internationally in order to help Russia in achieving its foreign policy objectives.

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