Media 'militant' tendencies; how strike action in the news press is discursively constructed as inherently violent
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractTrade union endorsed strike action is systematically demonised in reports in the popular mainstream UK press (see for example Davies 2014), despite public opinion not reflecting this level of antagonism towards industrial action. One consistent strategy used to (mis)represent strikers is to habitually relate this form of protest to threats of intimidation and violence by using militarised discourse. We assert that a key word in the discursive construction of strikes is ‘militant’ and its variant forms (e.g. ‘militants’ and ‘militancy’) which is routinely used to express a negative attitude towards strikes in an attempt to smear them as a legitimate form of protest. We draw on the theory of semantic prosody to show that the sense of ‘militant’ is tarnished through its repeated use in reports of terrorism, often in the same edition used to report on strike action (for instance, the junior doctors’ strike in the UK). We use the WMatrix corpus tool to show that in the 21st Century, ‘militant’ unequivocally appears in semantic domains of violence and aggression in a 274,122 word corpus of news articles from 2000-2015, and therefore this sense is carried over to trade activity when used to report on strike action. This strategy contributes to a neoliberal ideology which promotes individualism, competition and the free market, at the expense of collective action and protection of workers’ rights.
CitationDavies, M., & Nophakhun, R. (2018). Media ‘militant’ tendencies: how strike action in the news press is discursively constructed as inherently violent. In C. Hart, & D. Kelsey (Eds.), Discourses of Disorder: Representations of Riots, Strikes and Protests in Language and Image. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Edinburgh University Press.
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
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