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Tactics against injustice: the dynamics of backfire.

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Presentation on theme: "Tactics against injustice: the dynamics of backfire."— Presentation transcript:

1 Tactics against injustice: the dynamics of backfire

2 As an individual: think of an injustice you know a lot about. For example: a bullying boss homelessness treatment of refugees the Holocaust

3 Rodney King beating

4 Generated sympathy for Rodney King. Generated hostility to the police officers who did the beating. Generated adverse publicity for the Los Angeles Police Department.

5 Backfire An attack can be said to backfire when it creates more support for or attention to whatever is attacked.

6 Conditions for backfire An action that is perceived as unjust, unfair, excessive or disproportional — a violation of a social norm. Communication to receptive audiences.

7 Rodney King beating backfire The beating was perceived as unjust in itself or as disproportionate to anything King had done. The beating was recorded on video and broadcast on television.

8 How to inhibit outrage Cover up the action. Devalue the target. Reinterpret what happened. Use formal procedures. Intimidate or bribe people involved.

9 Rodney King beating: cover-up Resistance to accepting complaints Police code of silence “It consists of one simple rule: an officer does not provide adverse information against a fellow officer” — Christopher Commission, 1991, p. 168

10 Rodney King beating: devaluing the target Calling Rodney King a felony evader, a monster, an ex-convict Arrests of Rodney King, media on hand Rodney King: Once a Bum, Always a Bum By David Horowitz FrontPageMagazine.com | September 9, 2003

11 Rodney King beating: reinterpretation Rodney King was a threat to the police Police were doing their duty

12 The videotape proved that “Rodney King was always in control of the situation, not the officers” — Stacey Koon, Presumed Guilty, 1992, p. 182

13 Rodney King beating: formal channels Christopher Commission Court case 1 against four police officers Court case 2 against four police officers Civil case against city, officers and police officials

14 Rodney King beating: intimidation Witnesses did not come forward Police use-of-force experts refused to testify “We talked to any number of other force and policy experts, who told us the video showed excessive force … but none of them would go on the record. They said it would end careers.” — Alan Yochelson, quoted in Tom Owens, Lying Eyes, 1994, p. 266

15 Rodney King beating: inhibition of outrage failed Video did not subscribe to the police code of silence Video cut through media’s normal use of official sources and interpretations Video was not intimidated

16 First trial verdict did not conform to popular perceptions of justice

17 Conditions for backfire An action that is perceived as unjust, unfair, excessive or disproportional — a violation of a social norm. Communication to receptive audiences.

18 Attacks on protesters backfire Salt march, India, 1930

19 Attacks on protesters backfire Sharpeville, South Africa, 1960

20 Attacks on protesters backfire Santa Cruz cemetery, Dili, East Timor, 1991

21 Get into a group of 3 or 4 people — preferably people you didn’t know before. In your group: decide on one injustice for later discussion.

22 Conditions for backfire An action that is perceived as unjust, unfair, excessive or disproportional — a violation of a social norm. Communication to receptive audiences.

23 Unfair dismissal backfire People perceive dismissal as unjust in itself or as disproportionate to anything the worker has done. The treatment is exposed to the world.

24 How to inhibit outrage Cover up the action. Devalue the target. Reinterpret what happened. Use formal procedures. Intimidate or bribe people involved.

25 Dismissal outrage: inhibition by cover-up No announcement Reasons hidden Silencing clause Destruction of files

26 Dismissal outrage: inhibition by devaluing the target Derogatory labels: slacker, “difficult personality” Rumours, e.g. theft, bullying, sexual behaviour

27 Dismissal outrage: inhibition by reinterpretation Restructuring Change of duties Lack of money Worker’s inadequacies

28 Dismissal outrage: inhibition by official channels Lengthy, bureaucratic procedures: tribunals, courts, ombudsmen, etc.

29 Dismissal outrage: inhibition by intimidation/bribery Poor references No pay-out Legal action Support management and keep your job Me boss. You not.

30 For your group’s chosen injustice, discuss the 5 methods of inhibiting outrage. Write examples on a sheet of paper. Cover up the action. Devalue the target. Reinterpret what happened. Use formal procedures. Intimidate or bribe people involved.

31 The Mickelberg brothers Ray Peter

32 Avon Lovell

33 Conditions for backfire An action that is perceived as unjust, unfair, excessive or disproportional — a violation of a social norm. Communication to receptive audiences.

34 Defamation backfire People perceive defamation threats and actions as unjust in themselves or as disproportionate to anything a person has done. The treatment is exposed to the world.

35 How to inhibit outrage Cover up the action. Devalue the target. Reinterpret what happened. Use formal procedures. Intimidate or bribe people involved.

36 How to promote outrage Expose the action. Validate the target. Emphasise interpretation of the action as an injustice. Mobilise public concern (and avoid formal procedures). Resist and expose intimidation and bribery.

37 Promoting defamation outrage: exposure Leaflets, s, website Use a support group Refuse silencing clauses

38 Promoting defamation outrage: validate the target Present an honest, principled image Personalise the story Behave well

39 Promoting defamation outrage: explain the injustice Emphasise the frame of censorship and free speech

40 Promoting defamation outrage: Avoid courts Don’t countersue focus on campaigning

41 Promoting defamation outrage: resist intimidation Proceed with publicity Join with others

42 For your group’s chosen injustice, discuss options for promoting outrage and write them on a sheet of paper. Expose the action. Validate the target. Emphasise interpretation of injustice. Mobilise public concern (and avoid formal procedures). Resist and expose intimidation and bribery.

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