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Living with scandal, rumour, and gossip

This book illuminates the personal experience of being at the centre of a media scandal. The existential level of that experience is highlighted by means of the application of ethnological and phenomenological perspectives to extensive empirical material drawn from a Swedish context. The questions raised and answered in this book include the following: How does the experience of being the protagonist in a media scandal affect a person’s everyday life? What happens to routines, trust, and self-confidence? How does it change the basic settings of his or her lifeworld?

The analysis also contributes new perspectives on the fusion between interpersonal communication that takes place face to face, such as gossip and rumours, and traditional news media in the course of a scandal. A scandal derives its momentum from the audiences, whose engagement in the moral story determines its dissemination and duration. The nature of that engagement also affects the protagonist in specific ways. Members of the public participate through traditional oral communication, one vital aspect of which is activity in digital, social forums.

The author argues that gossip and rumour must be included in the idea of the media system if we are to be able to understand the formation and power of a media scandal, a contention which entails critiques of earlier research. Oral interpersonal communication does not disappear when new communication possibilities arise. Indeed, it may be invigorated by them. The term news legend is introduced, to capture the entanglement between traditional news-media storytelling and oral narrative.

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3 Floorball Dad This chapter is different from the others. This is partly because the main figure in the case that is described in detail here is an anonymous private individual, partly because the story can be included in the concept of public shaming,1 with some folkloristic elements, rather than in that of a media scandal, although the two are related. Even so, the material is suitable for illustrating enduring relations between the local and the mediated, between text and talk, and between journalism and gossip. The phenomenon of public shaming is growing

in Exposed
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acceptable from the unacceptable, at a given point in time and in a certain context, is rarely crystal-clear from the start. If it had been, and the boundaries had been beyond dispute, there would have been very little need for degradation rituals in the form of mediated scandals and public shaming. The scandal serves as a point of support in everyday life, a foothold from which we can push off and look at vital questions together. Emotions are both individual and shared, and they shape our understanding of ourselves and our travelling companions in the continuously

in Exposed
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throughout the war.60 By the liberation, 6,200 women ‘coming from all walks of life’ had been treated for venereal disease in the four clinics of Lille. Although not all were necessarily prostitutes, the Commissaire de Police of Lille nevertheless provided these statistics in a paragraph about prostitution, which had ‘taken considerable proportions since the arrival of the Germans’.61 Prostitution and attendant controls therefore existed on a large scale, especially in urban centres. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many ‘contaminated’ women risked public shame, so the practice of

in The experience of occupation in the Nord, 1914– 18

Kirsten) This personal testimony points again to the central role of humiliation in such displays: even when the exercise of authority is mistaken (‘oh we are sorry, we made a mistake’), the processes of public shaming remain. As other chapters discuss, those subject to border enforcement were painfully conscious of the many techniques being deployed to link migration and criminality in popular discourse

in Go home?

out of its original frame of reference and through reporting made available to an indefinite number of recipients, who are given the opportunity to examine the life and personality of the guilty party closely in consequence of the media’s generous conveyance of compromising intimate details (Lull & Hinerman 1997:26).7 Let us pause for a moment at the ritual element of these occasions of public shame. In his book Communication as Culture, mentioned in the introduction and originally published in 1989, communication theoretician James Carey opposes the then prevailing

in Exposed
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War, Debt, and Colonial Power

debt to the sovereign authorities. Forstater (2005: 60–61), Marks (in Oliver and Sanderson 1985: 456), Killingray (1986),1 and others have documented punishments including: the burning of huts, shooting, the seizure of cattle and goods, fines, prison labor, and public shaming. For example, tax debtors in Burkina Faso who refused payment were forced to chant the prayer Puennam co mam ligidi or translated— “God, give me money”—throughout the day under the scathing heat of the tropical sun. Others would be forced to run around the administrative building while carrying

in Debt as Power