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"Activism in Paradise": A Critical Discourse Analysis of a Public Relations Campaign against Genetic Engineering
Unformatted Document Text:  “Activism in paradise”: A critical discourse analysis of a public Tracking number relations campaign against genetic engineering. ICA-15-10063 10 Cheney (1998). As Heath (1997) concludes, "The challenge is to maintain a single theme tailored to the interests of each audience" (p. 225). Public opinion and the Public Sphere The GE Free coalition campaign attempts to influence public opinion by extending public knowledge and increasing debate about genetic modification issues in the public sphere, in an attempt to foster democratic participation in decision-making about public policy. Habermas’ conception of the public sphere is explained by Dahlgren (1995) as “that realm of social life where the exchange of information and views on questions of common concern can take place so that public opinion can be formed” (p. 7). Public opinion, then, may also represent an expression of public knowledge about public issues. Yet, public opinion is increasingly conceptualized as an artifact of measurement techniques: a static measurement rather than a reflection of dynamic debate (Herbst, 1991). Herbst (1996) later critiques the dominant construct of public opinion as an artefact of polls, an aggregation of individual opinions, arguing that there is a dominant public sphere shaped by high-profile media, policy makers and interest groups, but that multiple public spheres also exist. Noelle-Neumann’s (1984) concept of a “spiral of silence” may provide an explanation. In a spiralling process, she suggests that when one view dominates the public scene another disappears from public awareness; its adherents become mute, often preferring to be silent rather than to risk isolation. Noelle-Neumann believes opinion can be experienced from two viewpoints: the individual’s own experience, and the collective event commented on by others. Both aspects of opinion exist simultaneously such that public opinion is likened to a social skin, both protecting the sensitivity of individuals and holding society together (ibid.). Normalized

Authors: Henderson, Alison.
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background image
“Activism in paradise”: A critical discourse analysis of a public
Tracking number
relations campaign against genetic engineering.
ICA-15-10063
10
Cheney (1998). As Heath (1997) concludes, "The challenge is to maintain a single theme
tailored to the interests of each audience" (p. 225).
Public opinion and the Public Sphere
The GE Free coalition campaign attempts to influence public opinion by extending public
knowledge and increasing debate about genetic modification issues in the public sphere, in an
attempt to foster democratic participation in decision-making about public policy.
Habermas’ conception of the public sphere is explained by Dahlgren (1995) as “that realm of
social life where the exchange of information and views on questions of common concern can
take place so that public opinion can be formed” (p. 7). Public opinion, then, may also
represent an expression of public knowledge about public issues. Yet, public opinion is
increasingly conceptualized as an artifact of measurement techniques: a static measurement
rather than a reflection of dynamic debate (Herbst, 1991). Herbst (1996) later critiques the
dominant construct of public opinion as an artefact of polls, an aggregation of individual
opinions, arguing that there is a dominant public sphere shaped by high-profile media, policy
makers and interest groups, but that multiple public spheres also exist. Noelle-Neumann’s
(1984) concept of a “spiral of silence” may provide an explanation. In a spiralling process,
she suggests that when one view dominates the public scene another disappears from public
awareness; its adherents become mute, often preferring to be silent rather than to risk
isolation. Noelle-Neumann believes opinion can be experienced from two viewpoints: the
individual’s own experience, and the collective event commented on by others. Both aspects
of opinion exist simultaneously such that public opinion is likened to a social skin, both
protecting the sensitivity of individuals and holding society together (ibid.). Normalized


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