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Session Overview
RN18_01c_IC: Migration Flows as Moral Panic
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Roy Panagiotopoulou, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Location: Intercontinental - Aphrodite II
Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Syngrou Avenue 89-93 Athens, Greece Floor: Lobby Level

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The Political Economy of Moral Panics: A Computational Social Science Analysis

Pasko Bilic1, Ivo Furman2, Savas Yildirim2

1Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia; 2Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey

The purpose of this paper is to test how ownership and ideological leaning influence textual and linguistic output in the production of media narratives during the refugee crisis. We focus on media reports in Croatia, a country which experienced the highest influx of refugees in late 2015. Ten media organisations were selected to capture various ownership types (commercial, public, non-profit) and ideological positions (right-wing, public service, left-wing). We collected all articles published by these organisations (N = 352) in the period of two weeks before the sexual attacks that occurred in the German city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve, and all articles published two weeks after the attacks. The dataset was analysed by using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Correspondence Analysis.

The most noticeable change between the analysed time periods is the relative diversity of concepts used in the sample before the event, and an evident clustering of most media actors in the period after the event. The prominence of concepts such as “us” and “we” in the period after the attacks points towards a newly constructed line between “us” and “them” as “refugee sex offenders” and “refugee terrorists”. Overall, there is a noticeable change from a humanitarian discourse to a security oriented discourse which mobilises fear to impose stronger control of national borders. We argue that our empirical data confirms the moral panic theory (Cohen 1972), and in particular the political economy of moral panic approach which calls for the exploration of the relations between power, material interests and culture (Critcher 2011).

Communication in Europe: the representation of migrants “translated” into moral panics

Emanuela Pece, Emiliana Mangone

University of Salerno, Italy

This paper will highlight how between the different European territories there is a lack of communication on a range of social phenomenon – primarily with regard to the phenomenon of migrants – something that not only determines the definition of the political agendas of different countries – creating disparities on the basis of proximity to the problem – but also by promoting public opinion stereotypes that lead to value orientations that do not always translate into positive action towards the other.

Social representations of “diversity” appear to be mainly influenced by the information conveyed by the mass media in their dual role as mediators of reality and opinion leaders, often becoming a “distorted reflection” of reality. News about arrivals of migrants in the Mediterranean can be a few examples through which the public opinion constructs a specific image of the Other. At the same time, using words such as illegal immigrant, refugee, emigrant, may help in reinforcing an image able to reduce socio-cultural distances – or, conversely, to expand them. In this sense, public opinion will tend to juxtapose their own frames of interpretation to those proposed by the media, re-building a specific kind of reality filtered by the media. In support of the above, the present paper aims at illustrating, as an example, a comparison of the “representations” offered by some of the main European national newspapers of some events associated with the phenomenon of migration.

An invisible communication. How the Belgian Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers and open centres communicate with migrants?

Amandine Van Neste-Gottignies

Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium

Press analysis shows that editorial processing volume on migration issues continues to increase. It attracts constant, complex media coverage. These questions – beyond being topical – are essential to the constitution of public opinion and public policy. The issue of migration, or more specifically “the refugee crisis”, is an important matter of speech and communication (Rea, 2016), hence it is essential to analyse communication in this area.

So far, researchers in media and communication have taken an interest mostly in the analysis of media content and the representations of migrants. The perspective I have taken is different: I believe that, beyond what the media, politicians or people are saying about migrants, it is important to question what bodies that daily manage asylum are saying to migrants – such bodies are no less producers of representations and content.

As a case study, this paper analyses how the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers and open centres communicate with asylum seekers. An important preliminary result turns out to be that communication to migrants is hardly visible. This finding leads me to explore the potential reasons behind this lack: is it a question of shortfall of resources? Are we talking about an unmediated channel of communication, in a way that leaves no trace? Is communication to migrants deliberately invisible?

From a socio-historical approach (Noiriel, 2006), I incorporate both corporate communication and discourse analysis (Charaudeau, 2011). Studying such practices implies field survey methods including interviews, life story approach and participant observation in reception centres (Goffman, 1968).

Media frames and the tone of news coverage on the migrant crisis: A quantitative content analysis

Nicoleta Corbu, Alina Bârgăoanu, Raluca Buturoiu, Flavia Durach

National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Romania

The European Union is under severe pressure due to the multiple crises it has to manage. Among them, the migrant crisis is remarkable, since it is shaking both the individual member states and the EU as a whole. The media coverage of the migrant crisis is relevant as media still are the main means of information concerning distant issues (migrant crisis included), facilitating people’s access to social reality. We aim to (1) identify the most prominent frames media employ with reference to the migrant crisis and (2) reveal the tone of voice media use when portraying issues related to this crisis. Thus, we content analyzed 1511 online news articles, published during April 15, 2015 and February 29, 2016.

Findings show that online media outlets mainly refer to the migrant crisis in responsibility terms, while the second most used frame is the conflict one. At the same time, online media portals prefer using neutral or negative perspectives when portraying the migrants. These results might be interpreted from two interconnected perspectives: (a) from an optimistic perspective, the fact that the responsibility and conflict frames dominate media’s discourse could be signs for an imperative need to find those responsible for the crisis, as a first step towards finding possible solutions to overcome it; while (b) from a pessimistic perspective, responsibility and conflict frames, doubled by the negative tone of coverage might be signs of an immature crisis, which could easily escalate, putting the EU on an even more difficult position.

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