Battleground: Asymmetric Communication Ecologies and the Erosion of Civil Society in Wisconsin

Battleground models Wisconsin’s contentious political communication ecology: the way that politics, social life, and communication intersect and create conditions of polarization and democratic decline. Drawing from ten years of interviews, news and social media content, and statewide surveys, we combine qualitative and computational analysis with time-series and multilevel modeling to study this hybrid communication system – an approach that yields unique insights into nationalization, social structure, conventional discourses, and the lifeworld. We explore these concepts through case studies of immigration, healthcare, and economic development, concluding that despite nationalization, distinct state-level effects vary by issue as partisan actors exert their discursive power.

News Frames and National Security: Covering Big Brother

Did media coverage contribute to Americans’ tendency to favor national security over civil liberties following the 9/11 attacks? How did news framing of terrorist threats support the expanding surveillance state revealed by Edward Snowden? Douglas M. McLeod and Dhavan V. Shah explore the power of news coverage to render targeted groups suspicious and to spur support for government surveillance. They argue that the tendency of journalists to frame stories around individual targets of surveillance – personifying the domestic threat – shapes citizens’ judgments about tolerance and participation, leading them to limit the civil liberties of a range of groups under scrutiny and to support “Big Brother.”