Abstracts

28. November 2019

Spies, Murder and the Mafia: Exposing a Scandalous Cold War Conspiracy

Mark Feldstein discusses a political (non-)scandal that has become somewhat of a historical afterwit. Feldstein investigates the CIA’s countless (failed) attempts to assassinate Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and discusses why this plot, despite journalistic exposés, never caused major public outrage and had little political consequences. Feldstein’s case study is not only an entertaining read about spies, murders and the mafia but also makes interesting observations on how changes in journalistic culture can affect media coverage of potentially confrontative issues. The Castro murder-plot is a lesson what happens if the press covers relevant issues extensively but belatedly, i.e....

Media Coverage of Corruption:

Scandalogy Challenges of the Analysis of Corruption Based on Media Reporting and Selected Corruption Cases

The collection closes with a paper by Andrej Školkay who discusses fundamental methodological challenges in our academic culture. Školkay rightly observes that what attracts the attention of scandal researchers may only be ›the top of the iceberg‹ because such research is overwhelmingly based on case studies. Case study research has – mostly unacknowledged – deficits both with respect to the selection of cases and in the understanding of overall scientific outcomes and goals of analyses. Especially the imbalanced case selection may lead to wrong generalizations about the nature, frequency of occurrences, types, causes and consequences of scandals, thus problematizing future research...

Dress to Oppress: Performing Blasphemy on the Red Carpet – Scandalogy

Anna Kleiman analyzes the ›Jerusalem Dress‹ scandal, regarded as a seemingly harmless fashion gesture by some, which received massive media attention in Israel but less so in international news. The ›Jerusalem Dress‹ is an example for a scandal in culture. Social outrage was provoked by a bold dress worn by the Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports at the Cannes Film Festival red carpet event in 2017. The author argues that this reflected how a very refined balance in Israeli culture was roughly undermined. Kleiman offers a thorough media and discourse analysis of the case and illustrates how scandals in culture can result from the overlapping of several social sub-fields. The dynamics...

Politicians’ private lives and scandals: how the law and journalistic cultures offer protection of politicians’ private lives during scandals

Gemma Horton addresses legal questions of media coverage in scandalization processes. Horton evaluates privacy rules in France and the USA in a comparative study by examining the most prominent political scandals in both countries. The paper is also a study on media ethics, which are often based on legal restrictions. Her results show that French law has historically protected politicians’ private sphere, while in the US privacy rules have been rather weak until today. Horton argues that these legal differences are changing in the French context right now due to cultural transformations of public conceptions of politics, which she demonstrates with an analysis of the scandalizing media reporting...

Reversed Arguments: Transformation of an Issue on Human Rights into a Scandalous one

Adriana Montanaro-Mena focuses on scandals in the context of human rights and social movements and discusses a case in Brazilian media and politics: the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant. The author analyzes the dominant narratives behind the construction of the plant and illustrates how political and corporate public relations managed to frame social movements and the violation of human rights in Brazilian media. Montanaro-Mena argues that the case of Belo Monte was not a scandal because it became clear that institutions that were responsible for licensing the hydroelectric plant had exploited indigenous communities, as one would expect. Rather, the scandalization revolved around...

Political scandals in the age of pop-politics: the glamourization of corruption

Roberto Mincigrucci ventures further into his analysis of the Italian media system and the prevalence of political scandals. The study focuses on the coverage of corruption in major Italian newspapers. The author argues that the journalist’s tendency to cover corruption through mediated scandals originates from the process of political popularization. The analysis shows that scandals are so widespread in Italian political news because they transform corruption into an attractive product for a wide range of audiences. Thereby, Mincigrucci improves our understanding of cultures of scandal because his research highlights the connection between the commercialization of media systems and effects...

How Scandal Varies by Industry: The Effect of Industry Culture on Scandalization of Behaviors

In addition to these historical analyses, W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay give empirical insights into two very recent issues that could cause scandalization in the United States: cases of domestic violence by NFL players and enduring misogynistic behavior in the tech-industry. Coombs’ and Holladay’s main argument is that specific industry cultures in both sectors are fundamentally influencing decision-making and determine whether misbehavior is scandalized in an organization or in the industry. Such industry cultures affect whether specific actions are sanctioned or not. The authors show that deficits in organizational communication, particularly crisis prevention and management,...

Character Assassination and Scandalogy: How and why Character Attacks cause Scandals

Martijn Icks and Eric Shiraev further discuss the phenomenon of character assassination as part of scandalization. Their research sheds light on how and why character attacks cause scandals. By comparing four historical cases of (attempted) character assassination, Shiraev and Icks substantiate the argument that phenomena of scandalization underlie certain transcultural and transhistorical discursive practices and social figurations. In order to rationally argue why and how character attacks cause possible scandals, the researchers pose their own model. This model helps to differentiate the quantity and quality of rhetorical practices that constitute character attacks on the one hand and the...

Modern Scandal Theory and the Case of Clodia and Cicero in Ancient Rome

Annika Klein and Muriel Moser transfer contemporary scandal theory to a historico-cultural setting. Their study analyzes the trial of Caelius in ancient Rome and shows how Cicero used compromising information to scandalize Clodia Metelli, a witness of the trial. Klein and Moser demonstrate how the Roman public assembly was turned into a muckraking confrontation. Their study offers fruitful findings for interpersonal communication research as well as for scandal research in general. The historic analysis also reveals that negative campaigning and techniques of litigation in public relations have been part of judicial and political confrontations since ancient times. [PDF herunterladen]

Evoking Forgiveness Without Apology: Emotional Anatomy of the Political Resignation

Monika Verbalyte provides further research on the micro-level. Verbalyte presents a deep analysis of the prominent German scandal case of former Minister of Defense, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. The study uses a discursive analysis of zu Guttenberg’s resignation speech and guided interviews with supporters of zu Guttenberg during the scandal. Her empirical findings suggest that his supporters internalized the fallen hero narrative. The methodologically ambitious qualitative study shows how scandalization processes create and substantiate deeper maintained relationship between the scandalized politician and ordinary citizens. This methodological framework could be used for the study of further...