Repression and Policing

The article “Policing Protest in the United States: 1960–1995” by Clark McPhail, David Schweingruber and John McCathy laid out two types of policing: the escalated force and negotiated management tactics. Then they proposed five dimensions to describe these policing styles: 1) respect First Amendment rights 2) tolerance for community disruption 3) nature of communication 4) extent and manner of arrests 5) the extent and manner of using force. To demonstrate such theoretical framework, they introduced the policing practices from 1960s to 1990s. Their conclusion is that the current public order management systems are not uniform across the United States.

I am interested in their perspective of looking at the evolvement of the policing practices. For them their analysis is not only limited to identifying two types of policing, but rather they systematically examined the dynamic process of the transition from the escalated force style to negotiated management style. This approach fascinates me because their research object is no longer static but in fact dynamic. The shift of perspective can inform us that the role of the state or the police should not be treated as a fixed entity, and the mechanisms, styles and practices of repression/response from the authority also evolve as the landscape of the conflicts and activism changes. I think this co-evolvement process is exactly what researchers often neglect when they try to dig into specific concepts.

I am also thinking about how to integrate this perspective into my own research agenda. When I read their analysis of the transition from the escalated force style to negotiated management style, I thought about the radicalization of activists such as Ai Weiwei and a more negotiated style from Chinese authority. Ai Weiwei was only known as an artist before 2008 when he designed the Bird Nest Olympic Stadium, but as he became more public he began to criticize the state supported this architecture design. Then this radicalization process has begun and has a series of movements such as investigating the names of dead students during Sichuan earthquake, and advocates for release of human rights lawyers. I think the role of media is the key in the process and during the interaction with the media, he portrays himself as the human rights fighter and the effect of publicity from media further help him establish as an icon against the regime. For the authority side, their response I think is growing to the direction of a more negotiated position (not for actions like Ai Weiwei) for the domestic protests targeting practical issues, such as the case in Wukan. These types of protests are rapidly increasing as this society has been facing social issues caused by economic development, escalated force policing cost too much and higher authority positions as a more benevolent power is reasonable for protests against local authority. In my future research, the radicalization process as well as the evolvement of policing practices might be great interests to me.

Lastly, I want to raise a question: How do the mass media shape the practices of policing and the public perception of policing? I think this article neglects the discussion of the media, which is very important for the radical protest, because in many cases, the violent scenes by participants are made to attract media attention. In such situation, how does the authority respond? It becomes interesting: when both the authority and the movement organizers are aware of each other’s actions beforehand, as indicated in the negotiated management style, the media is actually the viewer of a performance. Is that truly what the public want?

Anti-CNN as Tactical Media?

When I tried to search “tactical media in China” in academic databases, I found the term of tactical media is rarely used in Chinese context, but there are several other articles describing online disobedience that draws from cultural materials, such as slang and symbols, to challenge existing powers. As said in Molly’s article, many words are given new meaning by netizens as a tactic to escape the censorship. Except for these practices and innovations of cultural symbols which could be understood as tactical media, I am also thinking about other more formal interventions. In Boler’s introduction, she mentioned the rise of Al Jazeera is the intervention that participates in the first tier of media structure. In this respect I guess in China there is no such tactical media that makes the intervention at this level. However, I do observe some groups which are temporarily self-formulated as a respond to the reporting of dominant media. The question I have for these groups is about how they can transform into more stable forms instead of just as temporary existence.

I am going to introduce a case to illustrate this form of tactical media in China, and through examining their rise and decline, I particularly ask why they can survive after the news cycle dies down. Anti-CNN was an forum founded by a group of college students who discovered that the media reports from CNN and other western media did not objectively portray 2008 Tibetan Protest. For example, some media used older footage of Nepal police beating monks to show the suppression from Chinese authority. It aroused huge anger among Chinese netizens against the fact that the discourse of the event was dominated by these western media. Often this case was thought as a manifestation of the growing neo-nationalism in China by several scholars (eg. Yang and MacKinnon). Western media first accused them of being supported by the Chinese government, but in fact they were completely self-initiated by several college students. However, they rightly pointed out this single event was not independent to other social factors. In the year of 2008, the Beijing Olympic was no longer just a sports event, but in fact for many Chinese people it was a presentation of the national identity. The disturbance of the torch relay in Paris led to another anger within domestic public sphere. These events kept the patriotic emotions of the public at a high level, and when the reports from CNN were found biased, these messages from Anti-CNN were quickly and widely circulated. For the media ecology within China, Anti-CNN might not be a typical tactical media, because in fact they reinforced the existing dominant ideology. If our perspective changes to the international ecology this type of media might be counted as one, because the dominant discourse still belongs to the mainstream western media.

Media has its own agenda, and the audience has limited media attention. After the news cycle dies down, Anti-CNN has to reposition itself. In 2009, they changed their site name into April Media and its task was not just to find the biased reports in western media, but they produced and curated news from the perspective of neo-leftist. This strategy is effective because in fact the emotion of neo-nationalism and neo-leftism in society is inevitable as long as the frictions between communist and western ideologies still exist. Now this site is one of the main places where news and views from the left are collected. The tactical media is described as temporary interventions and I wonder if the emphasis of temporary intervention has an assumption that this strategy is more impactful than the stable form after its initial “tactical” period. I think at least long term intervention such as the April Media after its initial stage of Anti-CNN suggests the oppositional discourse can be the hidden force that let the tactical media exist more consistently in the mainstream media environment.

The Outcomes of the Movements: The Diffusion Network

In  Marco Giugni’s piece, he pointed out that the outcome of a movement should not only be understood as direct political outcome, but rather the long term cultural outcome should also be emphasized. I think this perspective is quite powerful as a response to comment on the success or failure of the movements. Beyond the judgement of the movement, I am particularly interested in some of the mechanisms of how the cultural outcome works as laid out by Giugni, and one of them is the “spillover” effect:

“Another cultural impact of the movement can be seen in the “spillover” effect on other movements and citizens across the globe. Surely, the upheavals in the Middle East have encouraged citizens in other part of the world, including the U.S., to take to the streets to show their discontent. But such connections among movements can also be seen in the longer run. In this sense, in fact, the Occupy Movement itself could well be seen as a long-term product of the global justice movement, which laid the seeds for what would occur more than a decade later when the circumstances became favorable for the emergence of this new wave of contention. More to the point, we can expect the Occupy Movement to leave a legacy that will bear its fruits in the future, opening up the democratic space for new waves of contention and citizens’ political participation.”

As this paragraph above is only from his blog post, in which he did not provide more analysis about why the Occupy Movement could be seen as the product of the global justice movement. Even though they both target at the inequalities of distribution, I think some aspects, such as their organizational linkage, their specific appeals, and their tactical diffusion, should also be examined before claims that link a later movement to a former movement are made. I remember in a lecture about Wukan Incident a question was asked to an investigative journalist about whether the activists in Wukan learnt their tactics of protest from their experiences as migrant workers in the cities and the strikes happen more in cities. Her answer was that she did not think there was enough evidence of linking these protests together. I think her opinion insists that “spillover” effect is convincing only when established mechanisms are found, for example, the same group of people striking or protesting in different episodes.

When I read this article, I cannot help thinking about how to make the “political vs cultural” outcome framework fit into my own “adversarial vs supportive” media strategy perspective. In the non-adversarial case, Wukan Incident, the activists have their specific practical appeals including replacing the corrupt village leaders, and transparent village leaders election. These practical claims are easier for them and the government to reach agreement, and thus achieve the political outcome in this respect. In fact, the success of Wukan inspired other villages having similar problems of land disputes to organize their own protests. I think Wukan strategy is non-adversarial also because their way of dealing with the diffusion of the actions. They consciously alienate the visitors from other villages because one of the sensitive boundary for the party to judge the movement to see if they formulate a network (串联). The other case in my work is Ai Weiwei’s human rights movement, which I frame as adversarial. Although the information of his movement is banned in domestic media, discursively his movement is quite successful. He cleverly draws from cultural symbols, artistic forms and languages to generate a discourse of democracy and himself is thought as an icon of human rights fighters. I wonder to what extent his actions and his admirers can be thought as “spillover” effect of previous democratic movement such as 1989 Tiananmen Movement. In fact activists striving for Tibetan freedom, exiles of 1989 movement students, Falun Gong practitioners, alienated by Chinese authority, automatically connect to each other. Therefore, in this respect I think in authoritarian countries, the non-adversarial strategy might include the control to limit the “spillover” effect, and in contrast with the adversarial movement, the compromise is the lessened possibility of long term democratic discourse.

Change as the exogenous cause or endogenous origin?

I read Melucci’s article “The New Social Movements: A theoretical approach”(Thank you, Molly) before I got the email saying we can reflect on other articles, so I will just summarize some of his points and write about some thoughts coming to mind while reading this article.

Melucci first identified two camps on social movement theories, Marxism and functionalist sociology. The primary concern of marxist analysis is that it overemphasizes the importance of the structural capitalist system, underestimating the internal articulation (mobilization, organization, leadership, ideology) and the transformation of the movements. The functionalist approach finds the key explanation of the behaviors of collective actions is in the magnitude of the actors’ beliefs that mobilize the actions, and the beliefs come from the the disturbance of the equilibrium of the social movement. I think his critique against functionalist analysis is from the perspective of class relations, mode of production and appropriation of resources, and in later parts when he develops theories on new social movements he primarily uses this perspective. (Is it also Marxism I think?)

Then he defines different types of collective actions through the dimensions of deviance, conflict-based action. As can be seen from the figure in his article: As the level of conflict and deviance of movements increase, the organizational movement and political movements transform into class movements. In the transformation, there are an increase in the symbolic content and a decrease in divisibility of the stakes. Specifically he refers to the class movement as a high level of identity movement and low possibility of negotiation between stakes.

Then his analysis on the origins of the class movement turns very philosophical and abstract. He defines “A class movement is a movement involved in a conflict over the mode of production and over the appropriation and orientation of social resources.” The conflicts exist in the essence of the man’s works and the production of one’s work implies a social relationship. Classes are born out of the unbalanced production between the dominant and the dominated groups.

Melucci criticized theories that treat change or factors that activate collective actions as given factors without explanation, but he also denied change as endogenous factor in some other theories. He claims the central difficulty lies in the failure of distinguishing between synchrony and diachrony, between structure and change. For him the synchronic approach explains the structural conflict within the system, and he introduces the concept of contradiction to explain how a structural conflict turns to diachronic forms of behavior. As he stated, “the contradiction functions like a catalyst on the latent antagonism.” From this perspective, he further set up the mechanisms of conflicts between the classes in motion and detailed the interactions (appeal, repress, adjust, etc.) in the process.

In his last part, after setting up all the framework, he finally answers the question of what aspects of changes in the production system have led to new class conflicts. The new class conflicts are no longer the unfair exploitation of labor force, but “rather by the manipulation of complex organizational systems, by control over information and over the processes and institutions of symbol-formation, and by intervention in interpersonal relations.” The production here is no longer the material products but “rather the production of the individual’s biological and interpersonal identity.” The new social movement is the “defense of the identity, continuity, and predictability of personal existence.” In this process, the deprivation from the dominant group makes the dominated speak up their identities, and the originally thought private spheres are now become public. Their focus is not on political system but rather in the process “solidarity as an objective is the characteristic of the new movements. They reject representation but embrace direct participation. He also identified two other characteristics of the new social movements: the centrality of the body and the strong component of religion.

This article spent most of its pages on the layout of his framework of production and social relations, and his analysis is very theoretical. I still think his framework is largely based on classic Marxist analysis on social production and maybe he could have made this part more concise and spent more pages on his creation of the definition of new social movements. Another critic from me is that listed many characteristics of the new social movements, and I agree with him that actors of new social movements are identity mobilized, but I cannot see how centrality of body and religion are particular to this type of action, and how they relate to the theories of production and social relations. My final critic for his article is that perhaps he did not specify where the contradiction comes from. Since one of his most important tasks is explanation of the source of change, he just brought up the concept of contradiction as the internal factor, and for me I wonder if the contradiction needs other factors to trigger.

MegaPost on #21M Berkman Workshop

On March 21st, Harvard Berkman Center hold a workshop entitled “Understanding the New Wave of Social Cooperation: A Triangulation of the Arab Revolutions, European Mobilizations and the American Occupy Movement” and the class reflected on this event through this series of blog posts:

Artist As Researcher? Researcher As Artist?

Gabi’s interest in the study of narrative in social movements draws his attention to ask what the role of the artist is. During this workshop they had a discussion that researchers need to be careful in producing stories as the narratives could be crucial in the process of mobilization in movements, and it made Gabi to think the role of artist might not be just poster design or sign painting. Inspired by Sasha’s presentation on individual’s media practices that generate narratives across different media forms and the term of life-course, Gabi concludes the role of artist is “challenging the system using the means with which one is most comfortable—the tools used throughout a creator’s life-course.”

Historical Framing and Solidarity

Nathalie particularly reflects on the point of global wave of movements by a presenter in the Berkman workshop and she asks what the precedent global wave means for future movements. Then she draws on Kennedy’s article “Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Historical Frames: 2011, 1989, 1968” to compare movements historically. According to this article, the 2011 Occupy movement should not be compared with 1989 global wave of movements, but should be compared with 1968 movements because both are the reaction to the separation of the elites from the mass public. After summarizing Kennedy’s article, Nathalie points out the solidarity reached in previous global movements is a good perspective to look at for their own project.

Government’s Social Meddling
David focuses on humor or ridicule used in the narratives of social movements. Specifically he presents here two examples of how US Government and Russian Government use their networks to produce political content to mock the opponents. In the case of US government, they made all forms of messages such as cartoons and caustic jokes against Saddam Hussein, and disseminated through lots of technology devices in Iraq. Similar to the US government, Russia practiced the program through their news outlets: Novosti Press Agency has a global network that could produce politica publications and even games to poke fun at US, and the network is linked with movements actors in the US.

#21M, Earl & Star Trek
Amy is interested in the point made by one of the participants in the Berkman workshop: we should also look at failures of social movement, not just the ones that succeed. It reminds her the work of Garfinkel discussing what constitutes normalcy. To answer the question of what the normalcy in social movements is, she draws on Earl’s point that “an implicit legitimating system determines which social movements are deemed worthy of academic study”. She argues that the movements that are paid less attention to, such as TV shows, actually used the tactics of the traditional social movements that are thought as worthy of study. She calls us to scrutinize our expectations of what makes a social movement normal.

Power of Narrative and Identity
David summarized many topics discussed in the Berkman Workshop including the common theme in these linked protests, the role of media, the authenticity of information, the framing of movements, the technologies and the culture. Most participants identify a common factor to explain the movements in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and the Yemen is “indignation”, and some say these movements are leftist oriented. The framing of the movements is also important to make the actions sustained. Finally he pointed out that the perspective of how governments manipulate messages in movements was missing in their discussion and his later post has great examples of this aspect.

Thoughts on Berkman Workshop
Kelly raised the question of how the diversity of motivations of people in a movement could influence its identity, framing and tactics. Many in the Berkman Workshop said the composition of participants of the Occupy Movement is quite diversified as some people at the camps are to make a difference which some people there do not even know why they are there. Kelly questions if the 99% framing is too inclusive that makes it difficult to have a single outcome for this movement. She is also interested in the concept of permissioning and asks who involves in permissioning. Lastly, she comments on the reasons for comparing the three movements(Arab Spring, OWS and Europe Contention), drawing from Sidney Tarrow’s book, and she points out that the changes of contentions are more prominent in the past and timing might be important as indicated by one of the participants in the workshop.

More notes and information about the Berkman Event:

Project Proposal: Civic Media in China

Non-adversarial Media Strategy in Chinese Social Movements

In a media ecosystem, noise can come from all types of media. When activists create adversarial scenes and seek media attention to have the public put pressure on the authority, they should also be cautious that the noise might interfere with their own voices in the media space. For activists in authoritarian regimes, I am proposing a non-adversarial media strategy that they position themselves in line with the official ideology. The benefit of this strategy is to maintain the chances of negotiation with the authority, but the compromise is the lessened possibility of generating democratic discourse in the long term.

Why do some social movement actors position themselves in line with the higher authority?
How does this media strategy work? What messages are sent to what media?
In comparison with adversarial movements, what are the benefits and compromises?

Two cases of resistance will be compared to establish different outcomes of movements with non-adversarial and adversarial media strategies. Recent movements against land expropriation and human rights movements both are framed as democratic power by some observers, but actually the activists focusing on land disputes consciously cooperated with the authority if chances of negotiation were given, and scaled down the attention from outside. In contrast, human rights movements directly challenge the political system as well as the official ideology, and thus the result is that their voices are less likely to be circulated in Chinese media systems and they are more likely be repressed by the authority.

This paper conducts frame analysis on these two movements. The specific incidents, Wukan incident and Ai Weiwei’s activities, are selected to represent the two types of the movements. News coverage by professional journalists, tweets from micro-blogs, interviews from blogs, discussion from BBS, and the media production from activists on these two cases are analyzed to answer questions of who are the players in the media ecosystem, what they say, and what frames they use. By establishing the differences in the discourses from these media players, this paper shows the noise in this media ecosystem, and how the activists using new media respond to the noise.

Tools: Weibo Scope to retrieve tweets, spreadsheets to code, and SPSS

3/22 identify variables
4/3 retrieve data and code
4/11 outline and findings
4/25 first draft
5/16 final presentation

1. How does it respond to the social movement literature except for framing? I am thinking about political opportunity structure, and is it relevant?
2. How do the body of literature on hegemony converse with the literature on framing?

Keck, Margaret E., and Kathryn Sikkink. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Cornell University Press, 1998.
–Boomerang Pattern as the model for the human rights movement actors
O’Brien, Kevin J., and Lianjiang Li. Rightful Resistance in Rural China. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
–Peasant seek rightful identity in resistance
Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Yale University Press, 1992.
–Implicit resistance under authoritarian regime
Ferree, Myra Marx, William Anthony Gamson, Jürgen Gerhards, and Dieter Rucht. Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
–the method of frame analysis


Book Report: Shaping Abortion Discourse

Ferree, Myra M., William A. Gamson, Jürgen Gerhards, and Dieter Rucht. 2002. Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States. Cambridge, UK & New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

The body of literature on framing has been growing since 1970s (Goffman, 1975; Bennett, 1975; Gitlin, 1980; Gamson 1980, 1992; Snow and Benford, 1988, 1992; Gernards 1995;  Oliver and Johnston 1999) , but few of them like Shaping Abortion Discourse offered us grounded comparative empirical research. This book is an outstanding empirical study on how actors frame abortion discourse in the public spheres across two countries. The authors provides us with an exemplar model of frame analysis for future similar work. As can be seen from their online notes of coding, they successfully operationalized the procedures of analyzing the explicit and implicit frames in news articles. The nuances in human language require researchers to carefully investigate the hidden meanings of various claims. In this specific study on newspapers, these researchers pay special attention to distinguish between the frame of journalists and frames of quoted actors in the same articles. The amount of work they have committed to this study is impressive and the end result is an influential work for future frame analysis studies.

Their comparative approach is the counter-argument to the sweeping globalization theories in the beginning of the century. They select the topic of abortion because it is highly contested in both countries, but transnational network on the same issue has not influenced their discourses in fundamental ways. By establishing the differences of the forces that are shaping the abortion discourse in these two mature democracies, the authors naturally lead our attention to the culture and history of specific countries. They describe how some absolute terms can be differentiated from a comparative approach, “By adopting a comparative perspective, we use each country as a lens through which we can make visible the assumptions of the other. The comparative perspective also provides a valuable standard against which we can measure the discourse in each country – not, for example, as ‘inclusive’ or ‘civil’ in absolute terms, but as relatively inclusive or civil compared to the other country.” The results of the frame analysis have supported the importance of the nation state in highly contested universal issues even in the age of globalization.

The authors accomplished two tasks in this book. The first one is that they bring up and test a theoretical model of the cultural contest in the abortion discourse. The second one is to discuss the quality of the discussions on the abortion issue according to four theories on democracy. I find the second part is less compelling than the first part or maybe they could split this one book into two if they intend to give more comprehensive analysis on how the reality of politics connects with theoretical conceptions. I will describe their questions, approaches, and findings of their two parts in the following paragraphs and come back to discuss their limitations at the end.

In the first part, they ask how key actors frame the abortion discourse in these countries and they come up with the concept of “discursive opportunity structure” to encompass the larger cultural or social structural reasons for the differences of the framing strategies.

In this theoretical framework provided by these authors, many concepts such as public discourse can be applied as other politically contentious issues in other settings. They describes “a forum includes an arena in which individual or collective actors engage in public speech acts; an active audience or gallery observing what is going on in the arena; and a backstage, where the would-be players in the arena work out their ideas and strategize over how they are to be presented, make alliances, and do the everyday work of cultural production.” The public sphere refers to the set of all forums in a society in their work. For them, the mass media forum is the main site where political forces that shaping the discourse take place. It also partially justify their use of influential newspapers as their data source to test their theories.

The most challenging part of their study is to measure how the frames are used in the public spheres. They randomly sampled over 2500 news articles from four quality newspapers in US and Germany in a period of three decades. They develop concepts of standing and framing as the measurements of actors’ success in the discourse competition. Standing refers to whether the actors have a voice in the public sphere, and framing is to examine how dominant the voice is in comparison with other rival voices. Linking these concepts with concrete coding process, they examine the standing and framing at two levels: the article and the utterance. At the article level, we can see to what extent certain types of actors have their presence in the media. At the utterance level, we would know specifically what statement is made by any single speakers. They also measure the idea elements in the utterances into eight large categories in which many sub ideas exist. For example, in the abortion discourse, many claims contain the idea element of “the fetus has a right to life”. By looking at how often a certain type of idea appears on the utterances by particular speakers, we will understand how strong a discourse is in this debate by which actors. Except for their large set of data from analyzing newspaper articles, they also conducted the survey with various institutions and organizations and interviews with journalists and participants in these organizations to reconstruct the backstage of the media forum.

Then they discuss their findings in the framework of “discursive opportunity structure” that the different cultural and political contexts have played a role in the difference of the outcomes of the framing by the players in the public spheres. For instance, the authors find the state, political parties and churches have higher standing in Germany, while civil society actors and individuals are more prominent in the United States. For the framing contest, the “fetal life” frame is more obvious in Germany than in the US. They also find “German discourse has generally moved toward a more anti-abortion framing of what the issues are and the American debate has moved in a more pro-abortion-rights direction from the beginning of the period.” From chapter seven to chapter nine they analyze the representation of the women’s movements, religious institutions and the tradition of the left in the public abortion discourses. I am not going to discuss more on these findings because the results are more useful for the researchers specialized in abortion discourse, but our focus is their frame analysis that can be used for other issues that involve the participation of these key players.

The second part of the book is about the evaluation of the debates to see how the democracy functions in these two countries. They layout four theoretical models of democracy in chapter ten: Representative Liberal, Participatory Liberal, Discursive, and Constructionist/Feminist. These models are the normative criteria about the desirable qualities in a democratic public sphere. In chapter eleven, they use their data to measure these criteria and compare German and the United States to see how well they met the standards. Their result of analysis is that Germany does relatively better on those emphasized by the representative liberal tradition, while the United States does better on those emphasized by the participatory liberal and constructionist/feminist traditions.

I find this part is less compelling than the first part. The models of democracy come from the abstraction of the political systems in different countries, and using one case(abortion discourse) to generalize the democratic model of a particular country is less convincing because another discourse analysis probably will attest the US as another model. The logic of the second part is to use one case for generalization, while the logic of the first part is to create a generalized analytical model for other examples to test, and they have already successfully tested one.

Another weakness of their theoretical framework is about the role of media shaping the larger culture. They expressed in their introduction that having the voices in the mass media is not only an indicator of success in framing, but also having the function to influence in the larger cultural change. However, their theoretical framework seems to have neglected this part, and judging from their empirical data, I find how much this change can be measured is still unknown. If including the analysis of the media’s influence, the study might turn into a massive work, but this direction is useful for future works.

In their theoretical framework, they see media as a space where discourses from different actors are contested largely because the mass media dominates the public spaces. A question I think we could discuss further is how the media in digital age challenges their theoretical framework. Since the professional journalists and news institutions are no longer directly serve as the gatekeeper in the public sphere, questions such as how the discourses are contested in this new age, who are the actors, and whether the metaphor of stadium as the public sphere is still useful, deserve much more observations.

When I look at their methods, the first questions come to my mind is why they select these newspapers rather than other newspapers, and why they do not include televisions which are also the most important players in mass media. Although I am not so sure about the hidden ideologies that the New York Times (liberal but a bit left?) has, my guess is that the selections are not strictly representative of the American mass media and the bias in the selection of the samples are inherently undermining the validity of their studies.

There are also some other criticisms I find in some reviews. For example, Staggenborg (2004) mentioned some sociologists are not satisfied with their broad use of “discursive opportunity structure” where all kinds of social and cultural factors are put. She also pointed out that “the book is less successful in offering potentially generalizable theoretical propositions, as those listed in the book are really findings specific to the comparison between Germany and the United States rather than more general hypotheses or arguments.” Chang (2005) also digs into their arguments on the abortion discourse itself, and challenges their analysis from a view of religious studies, “the researchers fail to mention U.S. Catholicism’s historically tenuous position as a minority religion.”.

Despite the existence of the criticisms, this book is still a great example of frame analysis and comparative studies. Also they provide us with the exceptional methodological model that inspires future studies to work on other issues of contentious politics.

Staggenborg, Suzanne. “Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States [book review].” American Journal Of Sociology 110, no. 3 (2004): 818-820.
Chang, Perry. “Abortion, Religious Conflict, and Political Culture.” Journal For The Scientific Study Of Religion 44, no. 2 (June 2005): 225-230.
Pfetsch, Barbara, and Silke Adam. 2005. “Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States.” Political Communication 22, no. 2: 250-252.

A website has brief introductions to frame analysis:

Resource Mobilization Theory

Looking at the three articles we could clearly see the shift of perspectives on understanding the social movements. Le Bon’s approach of social psychology to define the rise of collective actions was replaced by the theories of resource mobilization, political processes and political opportunity structures in the 1970s. In the article by McCarthy and Zald, we are directed to the area of social movement sector, where individuals, organizations and structures are carefully defined. For them the rise and fall of movements are no longer simply determined by the shared grievances and generalized beliefs, but rather largely influenced by the social resources of organizations, interactions among different players and structured opportunities. Then in Sampedro’s work, he presents us a mixed model using a case of anti-military draft campaigns in Spain to frame the social movement between models of the elite dominated media and media with plural voices.

The three studies reside in different level of studies and they are not necessarily in conflict with each other. If we think of movements generated by social emotions we could always find cases such as riots in which ordinary people turn into evils ignited by hatred. At the same time the institutionalized movements in democratic western countries are good examples of the resource mobilization theory. Then if we set the model of resource mobilization in motion, which means to examine the movements across a long period of time, we could come up with new insights to challenge the hypotheses made by the resource mobilization model. However, actually I only appreciate Sampedro’s approach to counter the static model by introducing historical perspective, and it is still doubtful to what extent his mixed model could apply to more various societies that are not experiencing a larger social change such as democratic transition or with the media environment where mass media is not practiced based on the rules of sensation.

In McCarthy and Zald’s article, they pointed out their limitations of their hypotheses, “The propositions are heavily based upon the American case, so that the impact of societal differences in development and political structure on social movements is unexplored, as are differences in levels and types of mass communication.”(p.1213). As a student from China, I often bear the assumption that the political context is a strong counter-argument to respond to any theories developed based on western societies. But this assumption could be also problematic that I might be blind to the shared factors.

If I break the assumption for a moment, I find the resource mobilization theory could be powerful to explain the emerging nonprofit sector in China. The area of charity and voluntary sector have a higher level of institutionalization than some social movements that directly challenge the official ideologies in this authoritarian country. Their practices such as providing social services to the underprivileged groups are mostly routinized, and within this field large number of professionals work for registered organizations and rightfully resist structured inequalities. If we take a closer look, the rules to succeed in the nonprofit sector are as competitive as other commercial industries such as seeking resources and promoting themselves in media.

Too many times when we think of democracy in China, the first impression always falls to the spontaneous events of conflicts repetitively reported in the media and it is mixed with people’s ideal expectation of a radical transition. What is neglected here is to share part of our attention to the routinized actions that might enable social movement industries to emerge and eventually challenge the society where only dominant values could reproduce.