The environmental movement relies extensively
on the mass media to get its message across to the general public, but
doing so has its costs.
In the late twentieth century,
political movements feel called upon to rely on large-scale communications
in order to matter, to say who they are and what they intend to publics
they want to sway; but in the process they become 'newsworthy' only
by submitting to the implicit rules of newsmaking, by conforming to
journalistic notions (themselves embedded in history) of what a 'story'
is, what an 'event' is, what a 'protest' is. The processed image then
tends to become 'the movement' for wider publics... (Gitlin 1980, p.
In his analysis of how the media treated
the new left student movement of the 1960s and 70s, Todd Gitlin observes
how the movement was at first trivialised and marginalised through images
that emphasised frivolity, youth, outlandishness, militancy and deviance
whilst understating numbers, effectiveness and neglecting the content
of the movement's statements and the causes of their protests. "Thus
the protesters were made the issue rather than the things they were
protesting." (Parenti 1986, p. 91) Such media images and symbols are
powerful, not only in shaping the public perception of a movement but
also the movement's perception of itself.
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