Repertoires of Contention and New Media: The Case of a Hungarian Anti-billboard Campaign
AbstractThe so-called refugee crisis has had a profound effect on discourses all over Europe. While the issue of migration is a contested one everywhere, discourses are quite different in Central Eastern Europe than in the ‘old’ EU countries. A sharp increase in the number of refugees crossing Hungary during 2015, coupled with the Hungarian government’s agenda-setting strategy, led to a powerful and public anti-migrant campaign which sought to frame asylum-seekers as external threats to the country. While this campaign was by and large unchallenged by the Hungarian parliamentary opposition, the Two-Tailed Dog Party, a mock Hungarian political party, launched a counter-billboard campaign, attacking the governmental discourse. Taking the latter as a case of digitally supported civic action, the paper first discusses two theoretical problems related to digitally enabled social movements: the problem of voice, and the problem of participation. In both areas techno-pessimist authors have made strong claims: namely, that the internet creates ‘echo chambers’ that function as discursive enclaves, and that it leads to ‘slacktivism’ – a form of feel-good activism without significant impact. Afterwards, the paper presents the case of the Hungarian counter-billboard campaign and through the examination of its repertoire of activities reevaluates the above claims. It argues that the campaign’s action repertoire innovatively connected acts of feel-good activism in order to address wider audiences. With the help of the counter-billboard campaign, people with minority opinions were given a platform and visibility in the public. It also challenged official statements about the governments’ campaign through revealing inconsistencies in government communication. Through a process of mimetic engineering the original messages were altered and mocked in a satirical manner and the outcomes were brought back to the streets of Hungary. The campaign used an innovative combination of several low-cost activities, which proved to be a successful strategy. On a deeper level, the counter-campaign challenged hegemonic views about public discourse. The campaign effectively contrasted the government’s one-to-many, top-down approach to political communication with one that relied on many-to-many communication and a bottom-up approach.
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication, with the work three months after publication simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. This acknowledgement is not automatic, it should be asked from the editors and can usually be obtained one year after its first publication in the journal.