Open Conference Systems, RUC Sunrise Triple C Conference: Climate – Change – Communication

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Climate activism and the mass media – the possibility for a political challenging debate
Anders Danielsen Danielsen

Last modified: 2010-04-15


The paper presents a case study of the debate, which a civil disobedience climate action against a coal plant sparked in the Danish mass media. The paper examines, with a hermeneutic perspective, how the activists' critical messages concerning climate change got a voice in the debate in the mass media and how this debate could become political challenging to the topics raised.

I argue that the debate was a long way from becoming political challenging. Firstly the news coverage was to a great extent only focus on the form of the action, which meant that the voiced critique was almost not presented for other relevant debate actors as political representatives, experts, and ordinary citizens. Secondly the direct opponent to the critique - Vattenfall, did not accept a conflict of interests between the activists and themselves. They emphasized instead that it was only a matter of overcoming technological and administrative challenges.

Thirdly the activists were almost not able to combine an actor-focused critique with a broader structural/institutional based critique in the mass media. Finally when they manage to articulate this interlink, the critique demanded a rebellion against the economical repression of the political in climate policies.  Instead of this repression I argue, on the basis of the late Foucault, that the activists needed to accept economy as integrated governance tool in all political action and that critique is always a demand for another way of being governed. A more structural/institutional rooted critique should therefore be a demand for other political actions in Danish climate policies.

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