Publication details

Transgressing the law : The criminal ‘other’ in populist discourse

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Year of publication 2018
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The topic of crime forms staple content of many news media channels, partly due to its connection with the news value of negativity. The attraction of this topic is particularly strong when crime is committed by various cultural and ethnic outsiders, i.e. “others”. In such situations, the ingroup may be represented as being under threat, particularly if such crime is targeted at the ingroup’s members. This paper deals with two aspects of media discourse: first, the media’s construction of the other, which has traditionally been achieved through linking the outgroup to various forms of illegality, as well as the topos of crime. The second dimension concerns the role of these topics in reader comments in online newspapers, i.e. in the post-media discourse space. Based on data from British and Czech online news discussion forums on various migrant others, the paper shows that while the discourse of the other’s “transgression of legality” is inevitably present, there are also some other discourses that feature prominently in reader comments. Three of those that appear to be particularly salient will be discussed and exemplified. They centre on the readers’ claims and allegations of (a) the media’s dubious coverage of crime-related issues, (b) the ingroup’s betrayal by mainstream politicians, and (c) the evidence of cultural incompatibility with the other. It appears that whatever the motivations of the media coverage, the readers’ comments indicate a preoccupation of some of the ingroup members with different issues, such as the ingroup’s collective confirmation of their stereotypes of the other.
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