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Über dieses Buch

This book explores different forms of mediated offence in the context of Trump's America, Brexit Britain, and the rise of far-right movements across the globe. In this political landscape, the so-called ‘right to offend’ is often seen as a legitimate weapon against a ‘political correctness gone mad’ that stifles ‘free speech’. Against the backdrop of these current developments, this book aims to generate a productive dialogue among scholars working in a variety of intellectual disciplines, geographical locations and methodological traditions. The contributors share a concern about the complex and ambiguous nature of offence as well as about the different ways in which this so-called ‘negative affect’ comes to matter in our everyday and socio-political lives. Through a series of instructive case studies of recent media provocations, the authors illustrate how being offended is more than an individual feeling and is, instead, closely tied to political structures and power relations.



Chapter 1. Introduction to Media and the Politics of Offence

This Introduction aims to provide an overview of the diverse traditions and approaches through which offence has been theorized and analysed. It highlights the slippery nature of offence as a subject that resists clear definitions, arguing that it is precisely this ‘affective messiness’ which makes offence such a fascinating site of exploration. The Introduction illustrates further how this book will unfold. Even though contributors draw on different schools of thought and use different methodologies, they all share a concern about the complex and ambiguous nature of offence as well as the different ways in which offence comes to matter in our everyday and socio-political lives.
Anne Graefer

Offence, Politics and Protest


Chapter 2. Political Offensiveness in the Mediated Public Sphere: The Performative Play of Alignments

In a discussion of political discussion on social media, this chapter argues that the production of offensive discourse in the political domain is enacted within definable “participation frameworks”. The structured performance of offence is constituted by such key components such Offence Giver, Offence Taker, Target of Offence and Audience. However, these are modulated in late modern societies, such that digitalisation and social media platforms allow resemiotisation to initiate differences in the terms within frameworks are activated in subsequent reiterations, especially in the transition between private or face-to-face offensiveness or between connected individuals and publicly oriented offensiveness. Moreover, while claims to authenticity dominate in the rationalisation of such offence, its direction against the groups and priorities associated with progressive politics has implications for the conditions of the contemporary public sphere.
Martin Montgomery, Michael Higgins, Angela Smith

Chapter 3. Creating an Emotional Community: The Negotiation of Anger and Resistance to Donald Trump

This chapter argues that Trump’s rise heralds a shift in the prevailing ‘emotional regime’ (Reddy 2001) towards an ‘angry populism’. Based on an analysis of the role of anger and offence in media coverage of Trump since his election victory, the chapter shows that the president and his supporters are constructed as essentially angry—often about nothing in particular. The widespread emphasis on Trump’s performative anger—and his appeal to an aggrieved public through this anger—has had significant consequences in shaping public debate over the presidency. It suggests the salience of angry populism, implying that anger is a viable interpretive framework for understanding political discourse and its performance.
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen

Chapter 4. Unruly Women and Carnivalesque Counter-Control: Offensive Humor in Mediated Social Protest

At the Women’s March in January 2018, many protest posters featured offensive jokes at the expense of Trump’s body and behaviour. Such posters were shared widely online, much to the amusement of the movement’s supporters. Through a close analysis of posts on Instagram and Twitter, we explore the role of “vulgar” and “offensive” humour in mediated social protest. By highlighting its radical and conservative tendencies, we demonstrate how we can understand these practices of offensive humour as a contemporary expression of “the carnivalesque” that is complexly intertwined with social change.
Anne Graefer, Allaina Kilby, Inger-Lise Kalviknes Bore

Chapter 5. Changing Visual Politics in South Africa: Old and New Modes of Exclusion, Protest and Offence

This Chapter considers the subversive potential of ‘offensive’ images in the cultural and political context of South Africa. It explores to what extent visual representations of white and black bodies have changed after the official end of apartheid in 1992. Whereas some photographers have long tried to move people with their photographs of suffering black bodies, this chapter argues that nowadays artist use different techniques to move their audiences and instigate political change. Through the artwork of Zanele Muholi and Dean Hutton, two queer artists in South Africa, the text asks how their ‘offensive’ image creations work here as a mode of protest, empowerment and provocation that is significantly different from during the struggle.
Marietta Kesting

Offence, Representations and Popular Culture


Chapter 6. Other Bodies Within Us: Shock, Affect and Reality Television Audiences

This chapter analyses qualitative interview data from a research project on audiences of Embarrassing Bodies (Channel 4, UK), paying particular attention to narratives from interviewees in which they spoke of or alluded to feeling offended and shocked. Drawing on psychoanalysis, the chapter argues that offence and specifically its articulation may in some instances function as a defence mechanism in order not to engage with functions or aspects of the body. And yet, viewers also took pleasure in what they saw. Thus, the interviewees in the sample were at once drawn to the bodies and rejected them through their narratives that spoke of offence and shock. Many such narratives were coupled with moments of joy, excitement and entertainment. In speaking of their excitement, viewers embraced the offensive material they had split off at the same time.
Jacob Johanssen

Chapter 7. ‘Period Sex’: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the Feminist Politics of Offence

This chapter untangles Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s (The CW 2015–2019) several strands of crudity and overall offensiveness to make the case for the show’s complex commentary on postfeminism and contemporary media culture. Rather than looking at its musical interludes or comic elements as clashing with the show’s exploration of feminist issues, the chapter positions these as essential to the biting critique that has made this portmanteau-hyphen television outlier—a female-lead dramedy-cringe-musical series—a critical, if not commercial success. It outlines the show’s critique of ‘abject postfeminism’, before tracing its rejection of the romanticizing of ‘crazy women’ in US-American popular culture. Exemplary readings of select scenes detail how the series employs different levels of offence to push the limits of female representation in contemporary television.
Katrin Horn

Chapter 8. Fans at Work: Offence as Motivation for Critical Vidding

This chapter explores offence as a creative force within media fandom and the way in which affect circulates and creates identity in fan culture. By examining fandom as a ‘feels culture’ and the particularities of critical fandom as expressed through vidding (the creation of short, remix music videos which present an argument), the chapter shows how love and offence can coexist and spark fannish creativity. An analysis of an example vid and its surrounding metatext and reception shows how this can look in praxis.
Sebastian F. K. Svegaard

Offence, Media Ethics and Regulation


Chapter 9. Blocked Access: When Pornographers Take Offence

Pornographers are traditionally assumed to cause, rather than to take offence, yet porn video aggregator sites, production studios and individual professionals regularly engage in protests against internet policies and legislative measures connected to sexual equality. In many instances, this has involved porn companies protecting their own financial interests whereas the economical rationale has remained less lucid in others. Focusing on moments of pornographers acting out in protest, this chapter examines the political economy of offence connected to contemporary pornography. It explores how porn companies make use of social media visibility to articulate their case, how their forms of protest function as PR, as well as how the shift of porn distribution to online platforms has changed the political stakes that all this involves.
Susanna Paasonen

Chapter 10. Regulatory Expectations of Offended Audiences: The Citizen Interest in Audience Discourse

This chapter analyses fieldwork with 90 people in the UK and Germany, exploring the expectations audiences articulate about regulatory processes behind television content they find offensive. First, mapping people’s responses on to the conceptual pairing of citizens and consumers, we find audiences aligning themselves with citizen interests, even when, often on the surface, they respond to media regulation and institutions with suspicion. Second, we find that complaints that make it to media regulators are just the tip of the iceberg. Third, in investigating people’s expectations of actors and institutions in their responses to television content that startles, upsets, or just offends them, we note that it is crucial to treat a conversation on free speech and censorship with caution.
Ranjana Das, Anne Graefer

Chapter 11. Negotiating Vulnerability in the Trigger Warning Debates

In the last few years, the language and politics of trigger warnings have spread all over the Internet and academic classrooms. The question of whether warnings should be given about content that may be upsetting, offensive or trigger post-traumatic stress responses has been heatedly debated in feminist, queer and anti-racist discussions online. This chapter examines and contextualises these debates, asking how they both negotiate and generate experiences of vulnerability and agency in relation to controversial media content. The chapter analyses the differences and overlaps between three key sites of the debate: feminist discussion groups where the use of warnings is a required and normalised practice; feminist critique of trigger warnings emphasising the value of negative affect; and anti-feminist online spaces where trigger warnings are ridiculed.
Katariina Kyrölä

Chapter 12. Gruesome Images in the Contemporary Israeli Mediated Public Sphere

The presentation and representation of death is a political matter, and it was always a means to establish and confirm power relations. This chapter reflects on the use of gruesome images for establishing hierarchies of belonging and utilising the visibility of death as a symbolic political weapon to give offence. The chapter explores the ambiguity of the offensiveness of gory images in Israeli mediated public sphere, and shows that the approach of news organisations to protect those who are dear to ‘us’ from the offensiveness of gruesome death images was gradually replaced by a non-journalistic approach that utilises such images in order to offend ‘the Other’. This contemporary practice challenges common perceptions about the offensiveness of death imagery and the ethics of its circulation.
Tal Morse


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