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The WikLeaks saga is perhaps one of the more interesting subjects in present day studies of crime, media and justice. However, research on this topic and within this discipline is limited, if not non-existent. The purpose of this research was to examine the content of various forms of media with the ongoing WikiLeaks story. We seek to identify the type of social actor frames used to present the story to the public and explore the differences in content and frames between “old” or established media sources (newspapers, magazines, etc.) and “new” media sources (blogs, more recent television sources). As a secondary concern, we ask if this content is framed in a manner consistent enough to result in the creation of a moral panic according to Cohen’s 1972 model. A quasi-content analysis of 360 media sources reveals that 77.2% did not represent WikiLeaks as a folk devil, although nearly half of the content examined depicted WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange in a negative manner. As such, an assumption is made that a moral panic is not present, nor was there a media-wide attempt at the creation of one.

Introduction

In the study of the intersection of crime and media studies, there is perhaps a no more fascinating subject than that of the ongoing WikiLeaks saga. WikiLeaks, a non-profit online publisher of leaked documents from anonymous whistleblowers, has found itself in the center of a highly divisive international debate about transparency in business and government versus corporate and government’s right to keep secrets. The controversy stems primarily from two highly controversial raw document caches published on the WikiLeaks website in 2010. One, a string of military intelligence reports from US troops in Afghanistan dubbed the “Afghan War Diary”, and the other, a series of highly sensitive diplomatic cables from various government embassies around the world. Fundamentally, WikiLeaks serves as an innovative, secure, and anonymous process for sources to leak information to the public. Its founder, Julian Assange, has said that WikiLeaks "creates a better society for all people ... [producing] reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations.” (WikiLeaks, 2011) The affected governments have predictably taken the opposite position, saying that the leaked documents have harmed international relations and compromised undercover agents. It is notable that Assange, shortly after the dust-up over the leaked cables, found himself facing charges of sexual assault and possible extradition from the U.K. to Switzerland to stand trial.

Currently, WikiLeaks is among the most preeminent issue in media studies. Its continued existence or eventual demise has the potential to change the landscape of media and internet publishing, the use of confidential sources, and the treatment of whistleblowers (and their facilitators) internationally. As a social issue, the case of WikiLeaks is complex with issues of moral ambiguity and individual perception of events, and is subject to ideological and political leanings. Therefore, a content analysis of WikiLeaks’ media coverage during this time of large-scale interest and coverage may reveal some of the reporting tendencies of media sources in regard to framing and tone, as well as ideological underpinnings. By examining the content of various forms of media with the ongoing WikiLeaks story, we seek to identify the type of frames used to present the story to the public. As a secondary concern, we ask if this content is framed in a manner consistent enough to result in the creation of a moral panic.

In analyzing the coverage of WikiLeaks, we wanted to explore the differences in content and frames between “old” or established media sources (newspapers, magazines, etc.) and “new” media sources (blogs, more recent television sources). As an expansion of the established media apparatus, new media sources are gaining credibility and viewership. By 2014, it is estimated that 150 million Americans, 60% of the U.S. internet population, will read blogs on a monthly basis (eMarketer, 2010). How these new media sources differ in their framing and coverage of the WikiLeaks story is of particular concern for this paper.

Central to our research question is the concept of news framing introduced by Tuchman (1978) to allude to media sources and the production of news stories. “Framing refers to the way an issue is presented to the public. Framing involves calling attention to certain aspects of an issue while ignoring or obscuring other elements” (Bonn, 2010: 23). Colloquially known as spin, framing can have a demonstrable effect on the contextual understanding of the exact same event, depending on which frames are placed within the story. In the case of Julian Assange, his sexual assault proceedings can be presented either as the man who leaked government secrets also turning out to be a sick, sexual deviant, or as the whistleblower transformed into a political target, resulting in trumped up charges at the behest of irate international leaders. The tone of the stories is of particular importance as well. Tone refers to the ideological leaning of a story’s coverage: in other words if the frame or presentation of the story is pro-WikiLeaks, anti-WikiLeaks, or is simply neutral. We are specifically concerned with identifying, counting, and analyzing the different frames of these stories to compare them between media sources for frequency and overall trend.

The media has the ability to shape public discourse through their coverage of particular news stories. Bonn (2010) argued that media outlets are core mechanisms in setting the agenda for public discourse. Specifically, they are able to transfer the salience of an issue from the press to the public based upon their coverage, or lack of coverage. Furthermore, Bonn wrote of a second level of agenda setting. This level refers to the influence of news media’s coverage of actors or issues and the public’s perception of these issues or individuals. It is these concepts that make the argument for the importance of a news content analysis, and the framing of that coverage. Singular news framing can shape or sway public opinion, and to a large degree create ideological consensus.

Framing can furthermore play a major role in the creation of what Cohen (1972) calls a moral panic. Moral panic can be defined as a "condition or situation in which public fears and state interventions greatly exceed the objective threat posed to society by a particular group that is claimed to be responsible for the condition” (Bonn, 2010, 5). In sum, an individual or group becomes socially defined as being responsible for creating a threat to society. This scapegoating is also known as manifesting a “folk devil” and is integral in the creation of moral panic. A folk devil is “stripped of all favorable characteristics and imparted with exclusively negative ones” (Goode & Ben-Yehuda, 1994, 28). The threat posed by the folk devil is greatly exaggerated or distorted by other actors, including the news media, to serve as the object of public scorn for the moral panic. Because moral panics cannot exist without a folk devil, it is, it is imperative that the WikiLeaks organization and/or Julian Assange be subjected to that role. This study will include an examination of news stories that vilify the WikiLeaks founder or the organization itself. Because of the powerful forces involved in the WikiLeaks saga, this research fits best into the context of the elite-engineered model of moral panic. An elite-engineered moral panic occurs when an elite group deliberately undertakes a campaign to generate and sustain concern or fear on the part of the public over an issue that is not as intensely threatening as it is presented (Bonn, 2010). Given that the goals of WikiLeaks are largely antithetical to those in power, and that its continued existence is a threat to secretive states, we feel it is worthwhile to explore this moral panic model. Through our analysis of the Wikileaks coverage, we aim to discover whether the framing of these stories is such that it is aimed at, or apt to, create moral panic amongst the public.

As an aside, there is a branch to the WikiLeaks story in the fate of Private First Class Bradley Manning, allegedly the leaker of the Afghan War Diary documents. In selecting articles for this analysis we chose not to include stories or articles primarily concerned with Manning. Since they most often did not concern WikiLeaks as an entity, we found them largely irrelevant to this study.

Methods

A content analysis was conducted to provide an overview of the media coverage of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. From November 2010 to February 2011, three hundred sixty articles/editorials, blogs, newsletters, and news videos were collected and analyzed from various media outlets. These media outlets included: New York Times, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Newsweek, US News and World Report, Washington Post, Liberal Blogs, Conservative Blogs, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, ACLU Online, and Lawfare Blog. The media collected was then separated into five categories based on the dominant social actor portrayed. The five social actors used were first identified by Cohen (1972) as:

1) Folk devils: those individuals who are socially defined or alleged to be responsible for creating a threat to society.

2) Rule or law enforcers: the police, the prosecutors and the military

3) The media: news media coverage, specifically those which exaggerate the threat of folk devils/ attempt to create a moral panic

4) Politicians: those who operate within the public sphere and act as the protectors of moral high ground

5) The public: public agitation, concern, and outrage over the actions of folk devils

(Bonn, 2010)

When multiple social actors were present, the most dominant actor was used for categorization. In addition to categorizing media by the dominant social actor, the media was also classified as having a Positive, Negative, or Neutral tone. Positive toned media took a pro-WikiLeaks and/or pro-Assange stance; negative, an anti-WikiLeaks and/or anti-Assange stance; and neutral, an informational, unbiased position.

 

Data Analysis and Summary

As previously discussed, the data was collected by applying a quasi-content analysis coding procedure. Overall, 16 media channels were examined for articles/editorials, blogs, newsletters, and news video with a relationship to WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange. The data sources (N=360) represent a broad range of web-based media providers, such as newspapers, magazines, blogs, and cable news. Even though the majority of the media channels are American based,; it is appropriate to consider the world-wide range and popularity of these outlets since the source material is web-based. The newspaper and cable news organizations were considered for their readership volume and geographic location, such that spatial influences could be reflected upon as well. Liberal and conservative cable news outlets and blogs were identified and analyzed as well. Additionally, the sources were categorized as old media (N=198) and new media (N=162) to determine if one form of media appeared more influential in promoting a moral panic and/or designating WikiLeaks/Julian Assange as a folk devil.

Tables 1 – 4 provide an overall interpretation of the collected data (respectively – overall group; new and old media; old media only; and new media only). The overall data reveals the media depicting WikiLeaks/Assange as a folk devil in 32.8% of the sources as well as framing him negatively in 48.3% of the sources. An assumption can be made that these two variables are related. Sources with neutral or positive tones do not present the information in such a way that would result in the folk devil label which characterizes the folk devil label as a dependent variable contingent on the use of frames. Only 14.2% of this body of media had ‘politician’ as a dominant social actor which diminishes the relevance of the ‘elite-engineered” model of moral panic to WikiLeaks.

The data analysis for old and new media provided interesting statistical trends (Table 2). Old media provided 55% of the data, in which 37.8% of the data sources categorized WikiLeaks/Julian Assange as a folk devil. Conversely, 26.5% of new media placed WikiLeaks/Julian Assange in the folk devil category. The most prevalent category for new media was the media category at just less than 40%. The cable news organizations dominated the media category with 57.8% of the source data within this category.


Table 1: Overall Data by Media Outlet, Social Actor and Tone

Media Outlet

Social Actor

Tone

 

Folk Devil

Politician

Rule/Law Enforcer

Media

Public

Totals

Positive

Negative

Neutral

Total

Old Media

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

(N)

(%)

NY Times

11

14.7%

8

26.7%

2

8.3%

4

7.4%

2

13.3%

27

13.6%

1

5.6%

24

22.6%

2

2.7%

27

13.6%

NY Post

29

38.7%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

1

6.7%

30

15.2%

1

5.6%

29

27.4%

0

0.0%

30

15.2%

LA Times

0

0.0%

2

6.7%

2

8.3%

8

14.8%

0

0.0%

12

6.1%

3

16.7%

3

2.8%

6

8.1%

12

6.1%

Chicago Tribune

3

4.0%

3

10.0%

2

8.3%

8

14.8%

2

13.3%

18

9.1%

2

11.1%

8

7.5%

8

10.8%

18

9.1%

Wall Street Journal

18

24.0%

7

23.3%

6

25.0%

15

27.8%

2

13.3%

48

24.2%

1

5.6%

16

15.1%

31

41.9%

48

24.2%

Time

2

2.7%

0

0.0%

2

8.3%

2

3.7%

1

6.7%

7

3.5%

2

11.1%

1

0.9%

4

5.4%

7

3.5%

Newsweek

3

4.0%

2

6.7%

0

0.0%

9

16.7%

4

26.7%

18

9.1%

5

27.8%

5

4.7%

8

10.8%

18

9.1%

US News and World Report

6

8.0%

5

16.7%

3

12.5%

8

14.8%

3

20.0%

25

12.6%

2

11.1%

14

13.2%

9

12.2%

25

12.6%

The Washington Post

3

4.0%

3

10.0%

7

29.2%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

13

6.6%

1

5.6%

6

5.7%

6

8.1%

13

6.6%

Total

75

37.9%

30

15.2%

24

12.1%

54

27.3%

15

7.6%

198

100.0%

18

9.1%

106

53.5%

74

37.4%

198

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Media

Folk Devil

Politician

Rule/Law Enforcer

Media

Public

Totals

Positive

Negative

Neutral

Total

Liberal Blogs

1

2.3%

11

52.4%

0

0.0%

10

15.6%

17

63.0%

39

24.1%

16

37.2%

10

14.7%

13

25.5%

39

24.1%

Conservative Blogs

18

41.9%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

2

3.1%

6

22.2%

26

16.0%

0

0.0%

23

33.8%

3

5.9%

26

16.0%

MSNBC

3

7.0%

5

23.8%

1

14.3%

20

31.3%

1

3.7%

30

18.5%

15

34.9%

6

8.8%

9

17.6%

30

18.5%

FOX

15

34.9%

1

4.8%

0

0.0%

14

21.9%

0

0.0%

30

18.5%

1

2.3%

20

29.4%

9

17.6%

30

18.5%

CNN

6

14.0%

3

14.3%

0

0.0%

18

28.1%

3

11.1%

30

18.5%

4

9.3%

9

13.2%

17

33.3%

30

18.5%

ACLU Website

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

3

42.9%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

3

1.9%

3

7.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

3

1.9%

Lawfare Blog

0

0.0%

1

4.8%

3

42.9%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

4

2.5%

4

9.3%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

4

2.5%

Total

43

26.5%

21

13.0%

7

4.3%

64

39.5%

27

16.7%

162

100.0%

43

26.5%

68

42.0%

51

31.5%

162

100.0%

Old & New Media Total

118

32.8%

51

14.2%

31

8.6%

118

32.8%

42

11.7%

360

100.0%

61

16.9%

174

48.3%

125

34.7%

360

100.0%

 

 

Table 2: Old and New Media – Social Actors and Tones

Media Outlet

Social Actor

 

Folk Devil

Politician

Rule/Law Enforcer

Media

Public

Total

Old & New Media Totals

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

Old Media

75

63.6%

30

58.8%

24

77.4%

54

27.3%

15

35.7%

198

55.0%

New Media

43

36.4%

21

41.2%

7

22.6%

64

39.5%

27

64.3%

162

45.0%

Total

118

32.8%

51

14.2%

31

8.6%

118

33.4%

42

11.7%

360

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tone

 

 

 

 

 

Positive

Negative

Neutral

Total

 

 

 

 

Old & New Media Totals

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

M (N)

M2 (%)

 

 

 

 

Old Media

18

29.5%

106

60.9%

74

59.2%

198

55.0%

 

 

 

 

New Media

43

70.5%

68

39.1%

51

40.8%

162

45.0%

 

 

 

 

Total

61

16.9%

174

48.3%

125

34.7%

360

100.0%

 

 

 

 

M = Media type

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M2 (%) = M (N) / Total (unweighted)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M2 (%) Total = M (N) Total / 360

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 3: Old Media by Outlet, Social Actor and Tone

Media Outlet

Social Actor

 

Folk Devil

Politician

Rule/Law Enforcer

Media

Public

Total

Old Media

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S2 (%)

NY Times

11

40.7%

8

29.6%

2

7.4%

4

14.8%

2

7.4%

27

13.6%

NY Post

29

96.7%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

1

3.3%

30

15.2%

LA Times

0

0.0%

2

16.7%

2

16.7%

8

66.7%

0

0.0%

12

6.1%

Chicago Tribune

3

16.7%

3

16.7%

2

11.1%

8

44.4%

2

11.1%

18

9.1%

Wall Street Journal

18

37.5%

7

14.6%

6

12.5%

15

31.3%

2

4.2%

48

24.2%

Time

2

28.6%

0

0.0%

2

28.6%

2

28.6%

1

14.3%

7

3.5%

Newsweek

3

16.7%

2

11.1%

0

0.0%

9

50.0%

4

22.2%

18

9.1%

US News and World Report

6

24.0%

5

20.0%

3

12.0%

8

32.0%

3

12.0%

25

12.6%

The Washington Post

3

23.1%

3

23.1%

7

53.8%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

13

6.6%

Total

75

37.9%

30

15.2%

24

12.1%

54

27.3%

15

7.6%

198

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media Source

Tone

 

 

 

 

 

Positive

Negative

Neutral

Total

 

 

 

 

Old Media

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 %)

S (N)

S2 (%)

 

 

 

 

NY Times

1

3.7%

24

88.9%

2

7.4%

27

13.6%

 

 

 

 

NY Post

1

3.3%

29

96.7%

0

0.0%

30

15.2%

 

 

 

 

LA Times

3

25.0%

3

25.0%

6

50.0%

12

6.1%

 

 

 

 

Chicago Tribune

2

11.1%

8

44.4%

8

44.4%

18

9.1%

 

 

 

 

Wall Street Journal

1

2.1%

16

33.3%

31

64.6%

48

24.2%

 

S = Source, Article, or Blog

 

S1 (%) = S (N) / S (N) Total (for individual media source)

S2 (%) = S (N) Total (by individual media source) / 198

 

 

 

 

Time

2

28.6%

1

14.3%

4

57.1%

7

3.5%

 

 

 

 

Newsweek

5

27.8%

5

27.8%

8

44.4%

18

9.1%

 

 

 

 

US News and World Report

2

8.0%

14

56.0%

9

36.0%

25

12.6%

 

 

 

 

The Washington Post

1

7.7%

6

46.2%

6

46.2%

13

6.6%

 

 

 

 

Total

18

9.1%

106

53.5%

74

37.4%

198

100.0%

 

 

 

 


Table 4: New Media by Outlet, Social Actor and Tone

Media Outlet

Social Actor

 

Folk Devil

Politician

Rule/Law Enforcer

Media

Public

Total

New Media

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

(N)

S2 (%)

Liberal Blogs

1

2.6%

11

28.2%

0

0.0%

10

25.6%

17

43.6%

39

24.1%

Conservative Blogs

18

69.2%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

2

7.7%

6

23.1%

26

16.0%

MSNBC

3

10.0%

5

16.7%

1

3.3%

20

66.7%

1

3.3%

30

18.5%

FOX

15

50.0%

1

3.3%

0

0.0%

14

46.7%

0

0.0%

30

18.5%

CNN

6

20.0%

3

10.0%

0

0.0%

18

60.0%

3

10.0%

30

18.5%

ACLU Website

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

3

100.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

3

1.9%

Lawfare Blog

0

0.0%

1

25.0%

3

75.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

4

2.5%

Total

43

26.5%

21

13.0%

7

4.3%

64

39.5%

27

16.7%

162

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tone

 

 

 

 

 

Positive

Negative

Neutral

Total

 

 

 

 

New Media

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S1 (%)

S (N)

S2 (%)

 

 

 

 

Liberal Blogs

16

41.0%

10

25.6%

13

33.3%

39

24.1%

 

 

 

 

Conservative Blogs

0

0.0%

23

88.5%

3

11.5%

26

16.0%

 

 

 

 

MSNBC

15

50.0%

6

20.0%

9

30.0%

30

18.5%

 

 

 

 

FOX

1

3.3%

20

66.7%

9

30.0%

30

18.5%

 

 

 

 

CNN

4

13.3%

9

30.0%

17

56.7%

30

18.5%

 

 

 

 

ACLU Website

3

100.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

3

1.9%

 

 

 

 

Lawfare Blog

4

100.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

4

2.5%

 

 

 

 

Total

43

26.5%

68

42.0%

51

31.5%

162

100.0%

 

 

 

 

S = Source, Article, or Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S1 (%) = (N) / S (N) Total for individual media source

 

 

 

 

 

 

S2 (%) = S (N)Ttotal (by individual media source) / N=162

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, when old and new media were combined, the folk devil category and media category were balanced at 118 sources each (Figure 1), or 32.8%. Several assumptions can be made about this observation. With the concepts of agenda setting in mind, it could be argued that the reason the folk devil category and the media category are equalized is because the media played a significant role in framing and constructing the social reality of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as a folk devil. Perhaps this argument could be further supported by exploring public opinion polls on WikiLeaks and Assange. Furthermore, WikiLeaks might be seen as an effort by older media outlets to preserve their own survival against the perceived threat posed by the new media.

This leads into the analysis of the tone expressed by the various media sources and social actors towards WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Overall, nearly half of the 360 data sources examined relayed a negative tone towards WikiLeaks and/or Assange (Figure 2). Seventeen percent had a positive tone and the remainder was neutral. Not surprisingly, the tone of the new media outlets reflected their conservative or liberal affiliation (Figure 3). Specifically, the liberal sources reflected a pro-WikiLeaks and/or Assange framing through the application of First and Fourth Amendment rights, what counts as journalism, and/ or how we recognize the costs and benefits of the end of more customary models of journalistic self-regulation in the age of the networked public sphere. The conservative sources generally portrayed WikiLeaks with negative frames associated with terrorism, anti-Americanism, and threatening to national security. These frames often support the position of the government applying laws and legislative measures, such as the Espionage Act of 1917, that criminalize the WikiLeaks organization and Julian Assange. Similarly, Assange has been depicted as a treasonous, hubristic or an arrogant individual. The difference in the specific negative frames between liberal and conservative sources is consistent with the differences in the depiction of WikiLeaks as a folk devil.

 

Figure 1: Old and New Media


Figure 2: Tones


 

Figure 3: Tone: New Media by Affiliation


 

Liberal = Liberal Blogs, MSNBC, ACLU Online & Lawfare Blog; N=76

Conservative = Conservative blogs & Fox News; N=56

Neither = CNN; N=30

 

Discussions

The goals of the content analysis were to determine:

  • If this body had depicted WikiLeaks as a folk devil,
  • If the framing was consistent enough to result in the creation of a moral panic,
  • To identify the kinds of frames and tones used to present the WikiLeaks story to the public

In view of the fact that a majority of the media content, 77.2%, did not represent WikiLeaks as a folk devil, it would be safe to assume that a moral panic is not present, nor was there a media-wide attempt at the creation of one. On the other hand, a few media outlets stood out in their almost completely negative depiction of WikiLeaks. Further analysis could be done in the future to study these outlets as well as other political motivations in the media.

This declaration only represents the limited information used in this research, and is dependent on the hypotheses and assumptions that have been made. A more complete understanding of the media requires more information and better methods of research. As a result of the limitations of our study, we emphasize the following improvements and critiques that could improve the validity of our study as well as future research:

1) Developing consistent data sampling methods

§       Is it representative of all media?

§       Right vs. Left discrepancies?

§       What media have we left out?

2) Examining the media sources’ influence over public opinion

§       For example: how many people read a certain article or watched a specific television program? If the public doesn’t watch it, they are not influenced; therefore, definitional dictated, moral panic is impossible. On the other hand, if the volume of viewers a program receives greatly exceeds other similar programs, the influence it has on the general public would be substantially heightened.

3) Comparing the coverage of WikiLeaks to other issues and topics

§       Our study may be composed of 360 different media sources, but how does that compare to other topics of interest? The influence a topic has on the public positively correlates with the amount of coverage it receives, otherwise, the theoretical foundations that a moral panic is built on crumble.

4) Identifying the dominate social actor

§       Who is depicting WikiLeaks as a social actor?

§       Where are the media sources getting their information?

§       Each article has potential to represent an aspect of every social actor. For example, MSNBC (Media) cites Joe Biden (Vice President - Politician) who claims WikiLeaks is a threat to the safety of our country (Folk Devil). As a result, Biden states that they are weighing the prospects criminal action. This is followed up with an interview of a prosecutor (Law Enforcer) who is questioned on the validity of criminalizing WikiLeaks for leaking the cables while a million people (public) watched the program. All of the social actors are present in this illustration, and they all need to be taken into account.

5) Lacking consistency with specific frames

§       Specific frames range from rapist to sexual deviant and treason to criminal. Inconsistency has required us to leave these specific frames out of the statistical analysis.

§       Setting these frames before an analysis is conducted is a key to success, just as Bonn examined how often Bush used certain phrases in Mass Deception Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq (2010).

6) Analyzing content differently

§       Six people analyzed the various media sources’ content (See Appendix). Inter-rater reliability was not verified and would have been complicated by the number researchers interpreting the content. Thus, developing a specific data coding instrument and utilizing fewer content analysts would add reliability to the empirical data.

 

Conclusion

Due to the power and collaboration that politicians and the media share, a truthful discussion about the content of WikiLeaks’ war logs and cables is restricted as this topic has been subjected to constant reframing. The WikiLeaks debate spawned many interconnected but separate issues. Was there collusion between the elite to portray WikiLeaks as an inherent evil, a cause to a future disaster, or more? Could it have been systematic or structural forces that led different media outlets to take such contradicting positions, or could the media actually just be voicing their legitimate opinions?   These questions, that could be seen to arise from the content analysis, validate the further study and investigation of WikiLeaks and the media, and give valuable direction as to where further research could lead.

As for the strengths presented in this research, the inconclusive results, at least, give us a fairly good idea of the media and their stance towards WikiLeaks. A moral panic includes more than the just media, but it specifically takes into account the public’s levels of concern and fear. The combination of the concept of framing and the institution of the media assessed in this study are one step toward a full illustration of the WikiLeaks narrative. There is guidance for future research of the media that can be derived from the different trends available in this study that promote the expansion of media studies, the understanding of frames, and the extent of the relationships between the media and other social actors.

Since the Afghanistan War Diary was first started in 2007, WikiLeaks may not have “cracked the world open,” (WikiLeaks, 2011) in the way the organization had wished, but it has had an immense impact on the global community and the inter-related study of criminology and the media. In a time and place where investigative journalism has almost vanished WikiLeaks has reenergized the trend. WikiLeaks has brought into question if the press is free and open. What’s needed is much more vigorous conversation of how the Internet can become a truly free public space and a global village where everybody can articulate their ideas and opinions. To be more clear-cut, we must transition to an Internet whose core design is really free of government or corporate power, as decentralized and uncontainable as life itself (Sifry, 2011).

References

Bonn, S. A. (2010). Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq. Rutgers University Press: New Jersey.

Cohen, S. (1972). Folk devils and moral panics: The creation of the mods and rockers. MacGibbon & Kee: London.

Goode, E., & Ben-Yehuda, N. (1994).Moral panics: the social construction of deviance. Blackwell: Cambridge, MA.

Philips, L. E. (2009). US Internet Users.eMarketer. Retrieved April 10, 2011 from http://www.emarketer.com/Reports/All/Emarketer_2000561.aspx

Sifry, M. L. (2011). In the Age of WikiLeaks, the End of Secrecy?.The Nation. Retrieved April 10, 2011 from http://www.thenation.com/article/158988/age-wikileaks-end-secrecy?

Tuchman, G. (1978). Making news: A study in the social construction of reality. Free Press: New York.

WikiLeaks. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.wikileaks.ch/About.html

A Final Reflection on Doing this Group Project

As globalization pushes us towards a more integrated criminology, this project provided us the opportunity to incorporate the different backgrounds and experiences of all the group members. While all of us are students of criminology, we bring different specialties to the table including, but not limited to: sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history, and both theoretical criminological and practical applications. Working on this project allowed us to gain knowledge and perspective of areas we otherwise would not have incorporated into our individual work. It is this importance of interaction and collaboration that fuels globalization and integrated criminology alike.

Steven Navarro, Chris Jenkins, Michele Kuzila, Robert Zaremba, Crystal Muthleb, Ryan Helms, and Michaelena Creamer

This paper is submitted as part of a graduate research group project for Dr. Gregg Barak’s Crime, Media and Justice course (CRM 650; Eastern Michigan University, Criminology Department).

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