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Framing and Blaming: The Role of Media in the 2005 Parisian Riots

Learn more about Political Science and Media Culture at Middlebury College.

The media played a significant role in the riots of Paris in 2005. This study examines the French and American media’s role in the formation of the identity of the rioters. The study draws on media content analysis based on news sources from the political right and left in each country. The results suggest two things. First, media on the political left, in both France and the United States, tends to frame the cause of the riots as a structural issue of exclusion while the political right tends to characterize the source of conflict as an agency issue of integration based on social differences. This can be explained by differences in political influences and underlying goals. Second, American media uses national and religious terms to describe the rioters’ identity while French media portrays them as a frustrated suburban youth. This reflects the respective historical contexts and political traditions.

People

Zoe Hamilton
Researcher

Erik Bleich
Sponsor & Associate Professor of Political Science

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For thousands of years, the written word contained only streams of capital letters, with unseparated words and sentences. Punctuation appeared in only rudimentary forms in the early centuries A.D., and was invented specifically to prevent those who read aloud in church from misreading on misinterpreting a passage of the scriptures. Spaces between words did not appear until the 700s A.D., after the development of the Carolingian Miniscule and the establishment of Benedictine rule, and it was not until the 1100s that they became common place. Suddenly, readers no longer needed to mumble through passages to discern their meanings, and began to read as we do most commonly today: in silence. The new written form inspired the first alphabetized glossaries, made books more compact and personal, and made literacy a more widespread goal. But it also triggered a sense of independence and empowerment as yet unknown in medieval society, causing a rise of critical thinkers and skeptics, and, in turn, inciting fear of heresy in the church. Indeed, without punctuation and the space between words, would we have the same capacity for questioning that we do today?

People

Melissa Hirsch
Researcher

Louisa Burnham
Sponsor & Associate Professor of History

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