Social Movements

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Blurring the lines: the evolution of social movements and political parties

First published: March 14, 2005

In McLuhan’s Children: The Greenpeace Message and the Media, author Stephen Dale sets out a fundamental tension between the demands of media, as exemplified in the quintessential sound bite, and its effective use by Greenpeace to capture public attention and empathy, and the desire to move the organization toward resolving deeper issues within the environmental movement. In the reading, Mike Affleck, a former Notre Dame theology professor and anti-nuclear activist and a Greenpeace International member since 1990, says the organization is trapped by the conventions of its own publicity strategy of waging a public relations war based on short, focused slogans, material suitable for bumper stickers, for gaining mass support for initiatives. Greenpeace was able to pierce the numbing mindset of a public swamped by information and television, mobilizing them to support campaigns. Yet, as Dale shows, Greenpeace knows the roots of the environmental crisis are beyond this simplistic debate, involving more intricate tensions between economic interests and damaging environmental consequences. The result of this conundrum is the group’s continuous skirting of the central issues and never getting to the heart of the problem, Dale writes. Continue Reading →

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