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The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectuals and the Public Sphere

Columbia talk

Eleanor Townsley

on 12 October 2013

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Transcript of The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectuals and the Public Sphere

Newspaper op-eds (n=910)

12.5% sample of days from two 24-month periods: 1993-1994 & 2001-2002

Television transcripts (n=911)

50 random days to match print sample taken from Sunday morning and daily television (network, public, and cable).
the space of opinion
the space of opinion
Traditional formats
Face the Nation
New cable formats
Hannity and Colmes
Land mines
Questioning senators
dialogic closure
The space of opinion
1993-94, 2001-2002
Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed Page and continues as professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University.
David Brooks's Op-Ed column in The New York Times started in September 2003. He has been a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly, and he is currently a commentator on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer."
Narrative analysis
War on Terror narratives
(1) American unity and strength

(2) the Middle East and the Islamic world

(3) security, liberty, and Constitutional rights

(4) military strategy and the invasion of Iraq

(5) political polarization and cynicism
Career paths in the cultural beltway
how do different opinion formats organize discussions?

how open are different formats to diverse voices, narratives, and rhetorical styles?

how are narratives positioned in relation to the larger political field?

does opinionated speech attempt to assert new principles of journalistic distinction? i.e., new ideas about what constitutes good journalism or good opinion.
A discussion with Jody Williams about land mines (Hannity & Colmes, January 15, 2002)

A discussion with nuclear scientists about nuclear proliferation in India and Pakistan (Hannity & Colmes, December 31, 2001)

A debate about the diffusion of surveillance cameras in Washington D.C. (Crossfire, February 15, 2002)

A debate about the Geneva Convention and Guantanamo Bay (Crossfire, January 15, 2002)

An extended discussion about the Arab-Israeli conflict and its relationship to the War on Terror (Crossfire, April 17, 2002)
SCHIEFFER: When you said that, 'They know where he is,' you sound very certain of that. And how can you be so certain?

Sec. RUMSFELD: They know their country. They have been fighting against the Russians there, the Soviets there, for years. They have been fighting among themselves and the tribes. They--they have--they're hearty, tough people. They have networks throughout the country. And it is just not believable that the Taliban do not know where the network can be located and found and either turned over or expelled.
SCHIEFFER: You have been understandably reluctant to discuss any kind of troop movements. Certainly, that's understandable. Let me just ask you the general question: Is the United States now in a position to strike?
COLMES: Jody, I have a very basic question. What is a land mine?......

COLMES: Now, the U.S. Defense Department has recommended that our country abandon all efforts to join the mine ban treaty, the 1996 treaty that was forged in Oslo. Why is that?......

COLMES: Now, there is mine-detection technology, is there not? (Hannity & Colmes, January 15, 2002)
HANNITY: Well, maybe we should just ban war. Why don't we just ban war, then, Jody? Why don't we say all war ends tomorrow? Didn't they try and do that in 1928?....

HANNITY: Well, in 1928 they banned war. Ten short years later, Hitler annexed Austria. And the rest is history…..

HANNITY: Well, how do we overcome Adolf Hitler if we don't fight back harder than him and defeat his army by whatever means necessary? (Hannity & Colmes, January 15, 2002)
HANNITY: Hey, Jody, listen, I've read a lot about you. And I really believe your heart is in the right place. I really do.

The first question I have for you is, do you believe groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban, groups that have as their goal, their stated goal, to kill innocent men, women, and children that they disagree with, do you think they would abide by any such agreement?

WILLIAMS: I don't think that is the reason why laws are formed. Nobody believes that anybody should commit homicide, for example, and yet there are laws to stop people from killing each other.

HANNITY: So, they wouldn't honor any ban on land mines, would they?

WILLIAMS: I'm not sure that that's the case. I think, if you take all of the mines away from the fighting people of the world, you destroy the stockpiles, you make it anathema, you make it harder and harder.

HANNITY: You believe that the al Qaeda network wouldn't use mines against armed Marines? Do you really believe that? Because there's a so- called international ban? That's pretty naive, Jody. Come on.

WILLIAMS: I believe that they might, but that isn't the point here.

HANNITY: It is the point.

WILLIAMS: The point is that the international community believes that we can make the world a better place if we ban this weapon, if we destroy the stockpiles, if we destroy production. That doesn't mean that individuals cannot create a land mine, just as the individual took the plane...

HANNITY: No, that's not the point.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it is.

HANNITY: The point, in my view, is, as with gun control, the problem of banning mines is that the good guys will comply with the ban and the bad guys will never comply with the ban.

So you have a situation where, in war, where a lot is at stake -- and war is a very ugly thing, but sometimes it's a necessary evil -- where our men are put at an advantage. And I'll give you a scenario. If we have U.S. Marines that are under fire and they need to retreat to a safe haven and they need to slow down the opposition, land mines are an effective tool to stop troops from advancing that would ultimately kill U.S. soldiers in a war situation. That's the good use of a mine, in my view, as horrible as that sounds.

WILLIAMS: None of us in the campaign have ever said that mines don't have some utility. The point is that the long-term consequences to civilians and our own soldiers far outweighs the immediate benefit of that weapon. (Hannity & Colmes, January 15, 2002).
SCHIEFFER: The Taliban now says that Osama bin Laden--they're--they're seeking him to see if they can issue the request to tell him to leave. But they also say they don't know where he is. Should we take them at their word?

Sec. RUMSFELD: Of course not. They know where he is.

SCHIEFFER: And what should we do, or what should--what are we saying to them?

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, I think we have to think about Afghanistan in a--in a different context. First of all, there are many Afghan people who are repressed, who are starving, who are fleeing from the Taliban. There are any number of factions within the Taliban that don't agree with Omar, the man who contends that now they can't find the person they've been harboring for years. There are many in the Taliban who prefer that the Taliban not harbor Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network. So it is not as though there is a front, and that there are good guys and bad guys. There are many tribes. There is the northern alliance, there are tribes in the south. And it is a very different kind of a conflict and a problem. What we have to do is to see that those who have been harboring terrorists stop harboring terrorists.
The Space of Opinion
Ronald Jacobs and Eleanor Townsley
Oxford 2011 :)

Immediately after September 11
"In the recent Iraq War,however,the news was not all bad.The vast majority of stories on most American news networks,and Al Jazeera, were in fact objective."

Aday, Livingston and Hebert 2005, 18
Walter Cronkite
"Our job is only to hold up the mirror -- to tell and show the public what has happened."
journalism of consensus and solidarity
return to principles of objective journalism
by Spring 2003
journalistic tradition
Model 1
The rational information-processing citizen
socially independent
newspaper reader
a rational decision-maker, historically male,
white and educated
Media are (and should be) no more than a neutral vehicle for delivering facts to voters / consumers
Theory of the media:
Model 2
Small groups (two-step) model
of mediated deliberation
Theory of the media:
Media reflect and refract deliberation that occurs outside the media in civil society
The 2-step model of audience reception
Personal Influence
Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955).
People relate to characters in the media
People are more likely to participate if they find pleasure or other emotional connections in the media
Model 3
Deliberation occurs in and through the media
Media provides formats --
the narratives, frames and emotional styles of deliberation in official and informal publics
>> there is a recursive relationship between official and informal publics which occurs through the media and produces public opinion
>> people use media to inform small groups discussions
>> small groups are the locus of deliberation
Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist, writes every Wednesday about the influence of science and biology on modern life. She is the author of “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex.” Ms. Judson has been a reporter for The Economist and has written for a number of other publications, including Nature, The Financial Times, The Atlantic and Natural History. She is a research fellow in biology at Imperial College London.
Deliberation occurs across and between formats
BORGER: But from a military standpoint, does it worry you that we could get bogged down in Afghanistan in--in the same way, say, that we--that we did in Vietnam?...........
SCHIEFFER: Senator Graham, let me just begin with you. There are--there have now been report after report that the FBI, the CIA knew that there were followers of Osama bin Laden trying to get into flight schools, trying to take flight training, where they said, 'We don't need to know how to take off and land an airplane. We just need to know how to steer one.' These--these reports keep going around. H--what happened here? Why--why was not some action taken on this? (Face the Nation, September 23, 2001)
SCHIEFFER: We're back now with Senator John McCain, the chairman--or I should say now the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, but a very influential person on--in Congress on economics, the airline industry. The first thing I must say to you, Senator McCain, is: When I hear a government official say, 'Every option is on the table,' and he says, 'We've never ruled out the use of nuclear weapons,' that's a sobering thought. Your comment?......
Sec. RUMSFELD: What we have been doing since the day of the attack is getting our forces positioned in various places around the world. This is not an Afghan problem; this is a worldwide problem of--of terrorist networks. And let there be no doubt about it, the--the al Quaeda network is in at least 60 countries, and they are just one of many networks. And what we've been doing is getting our capabilities for--located, positioned, arranged around the world so that at that point where the president decides that--that he has a set of things he would like done, that we will be in a position to carry those things out. And second, the United States government, e--even more importantly, has been getting itself arranged across the government. The Department of Treasury and--and the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as the defense establishment, to help the world understand that it is a broad-based effort, not--not a military effort alone, but a--but it's going to have to go after political and diplomatic and--and economic interests, financial interests. (Face the Nation, September 23, 2001)
Questioning the executive branch
Ex. 1
Ex. 2
Ex. 3
Ex. 1
Ex. 2
Ex. 3
Ex. 1
Ex. 2
Ex. 3
Does the space of opinion permit rational democratic deliberation?
Metacommentary is a consequence of format proliferation
not only better and worse
...but better and worse
critical rationality requires identifying...
the ensemble of guests shapes
the level of critical discourse
Hannity and Colmes
Discursive quality
conditions of speech
of speech
claims to authority
form of audience address
argument styles
Chapter 1. Media Commentary and the Space of Opinion
Chapter 2. A History of Opinion in the U.S. Media
Chapter 3. Media and Opinion Formation
Chapter 4. Who Speaks in the Space of Opinion?
Chapter 5. Formats and Norms on the Space of Opinion
Chapter 6. Rhetorics in the Space of Opinion
Chapter 7. The Enron Scandal
Chapter 8. The War on Terror
Chapter 9. The Future of Opinion
political principals -> administration line

senators -> probe for evaluative response to map party lines; no suggestion that going to war is NOT an option

panel -> more nuance but not much more critical, limited range of guests
Invading Afghanistan
seg 3
seg 2
seg 1
dominated by hosts
greater diversity of speakers
greater narrative diversity
Full transcript