Framing a Disaster in Multiple Media: Environmental Groups’ Response to the Gulf Oil

36 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 20 Jun 2014

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

This study develops two theoretical propositions regarding the ways that interest groups respond to focusing events and evaluates those propositions in the context of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Using content analysis of email communications, press releases, blog entries, and congressional testimony, I show that environmental groups responded to the disaster by offering preconceived causal stories, assigning blame to various parties before the full details of the event were known. I call this phenomenon blame-casting. Further, I show that groups used the oil spill to assign responsibility for a wide range of harms not directly related to the causes of the disaster itself. Both rhetorical strategies represent ways that interest groups seek to take full advantage of windows of opportunity following crises. These findings suggest a broader role of causal stories in the policy process than has been assumed in previous research.

Keywords: environmental groups, Gulf oil spill, framing, communication, Internet

Suggested Citation

Merry, Melissa K., Framing a Disaster in Multiple Media: Environmental Groups’ Response to the Gulf Oil (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2108668

Melissa K. Merry (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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