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Media Consequences of Activism: The American Indian Movement and the United Farm Workers in Television News

Sat, August 11, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 13

Abstract

This article examines why, in response to their similarly disadvantageous citizenship arrangements, indigenous and racial/ethnic social movements in the U.S. have historically responded to ensuing marginalization in different ways and to different effects. Applying a two-pronged research design, I first employ a comparative historical strategy to evaluate why two social movement organizations – the American Indian Movement and the United Farmworkers Movement – who represented constituents that stemmed from pre-existent U.S. colonial groups, such as the American Indians and Mexicans in the Southwest, engaged in varying forms of protest against policies of incorporation, by leveraging the media, through divergent approaches. Movements, like the American Indian Movement and the United Farm Workers aspired to draw the attention of the media in order to bring attention to their cause. I argue that that variance in chosen protest approaches, and consequent media coverage, can be explained by what I refer to as a process of “captive legalities,” where three factors: 1.) the legal statuses of the SMO actors, 2.) the institutional target to which the SMO seeks to leverage change, and 3.) the nature of the specific grievance - interact to limit or bind options for mobilization and potential media-based impacts. Contrary to extant literature, I find that regardless of the deployment of disruptive movement strategies, activists can effectively garner favorable media coverage through the use of both disruptive and non-disruptive strategies.

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