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  • 1. “Symbolically annihilate” appears in George Gerbner, “Violence in Television Drama: Trends and Symbolic Functions,” in Media Content and Controls, ed. George Comstock and Eli A. Rubenstein, vol. 1, Television and Social Behavior (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1972), 44.
  • 2. Sean MacBride, Many Voices, One World: Report by the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems (Paris: UNESCO, 1980).
  • 3. “The right to communicate” movement has been active since 1974, when UNESCO launched its formal work in this area. UNESCO has no means of enforcing this right, but several international organizations have passed nonbinding resolutions that have established a “common understanding of the rights to communicate,” which often includes a course of action. For a summary of these resolutions, see the Right to Communicate Group, “The Right to Communicate,” http://www.nght See also Cees Hamelink, this volume; Hamelink has been one of the leaders of this initiative.
  • 4. Sen’s effort both builds on and departs from John Rawls’s theory of justice. Sen’s approach could be accurately described as a theory of social justice because his approach is nontranscendental and comparative, focusing on how people actually behave, rather than justice as an abstract ideal, with a primary focus on meeting basic human needs and human rights: hunger, medical neglect, poverty, torture, injustices based on race and gender exclusions, and so on. Sen’s approach seeks more justice than currently exists rather than perfect justice. Despite only brief attention to media and media freedom, Sen’s approach incorporates many communication-related ideas and assumptions, including communication competence (“capability”), criteria for public reasoning (which overtly recognizes some kinship with Habermas’s work), and more, all of which warrant unpacking—so much so that I dare to read it as a communication theory as well as an approach to justice. Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009), 336—37.
  • 5. Max Weber, From Max Weber, ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946). Weber’s contemporaries, Wilhelm Dilthey and Georg Simmel, pushed the concept of sympathetic understanding even further than Weber; still, Weber is cited here because his concept has much broader currency in contemporary social science discourse.
  • 6. Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).
  • 7. After the March on Montgomery in 1966, King, who was deeply impressed by the diversity of the marchers, described their solidarity: “As I stood with them and saw white and Negro, nuns and priests, ministers and rabbis, labor organizers, lawyers, doctors, housemaids and shopworkers brimming with vitality and enjoying a comradeship, I knew I was seeing a microcosm of the mankind of the future in this luminous and genuine brotherhood.” Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 9, quoted in Kenneth L. Smith and Ira G. Zepp Jr., “Martin Luther King’s Vision of the Beloved Community,” Christian Century, April 3, 1974, 361—63, http://www
  • 8. Elizabeth Barret offers a profound exploration of the moral dilemmas involved in representing the lives of others in her film, Stranger with a Camera, a film produced by Appalshop and KET Public Television, 2000.
  • 9. Robert Coles, Doing Documentary Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
  • 10. At the most basic level, value commitments violate the normative ideal of objectivity. Add advocacy for social justice, and controversy is, and perhaps should be, inevitable. See Ronald L. Cohen’s introduction to Justice: Views from the Social Sciences (New York: Plenum Press, 1986), 1—10, for a brief but informative discussion of social justice as a contested concept.
  • 11. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970).
  • 12. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971). It is impossible to identify all the activists and scholars associated with social justice studies, but in addition to Rawls and Sen, some prominent contributors are Bruce Ackerman, Brian Barry, Seyla Benhabib, Joe Feagin, Andrew Kuper, Martha Nuss- baum, Thomas Nagel, Thomas Pogge, and Thomas Scanlon.
  • 13. Naomi Klein, No Logo: Taking Aim At the Brand Bullies (New York: Picador, 2000).
  • 14. For an eloquent, thought-provoking discussion of this educational movement, see Marilynne Robinson, “A Great Amnesia,” Harpers, May 2008, 17—21. While many Protestant denominations were involved in this movement, of special interest from a social justice perspective were the liberal Protestant sects who sought to improve life on earth as opposed to promising the poor that they will reap their rewards in the next life. They preached a social gospel that supported settlement houses for immigrants, social services, and good works.
  • 15. Sociology, for example, was largely conceived in the United States as a form of applied Christianity; in the view of the social gospelers, theology attended to the first commandment while sociology addressed the second, focusing on labor injustices and the other pathologies of industrialization and urbanization. Similarly, historical economics was posited as counter to classical economics and laissez-faire and exposed the inequitable distribution of surplus value produced by labor. To our ears, this may sound like vintage Marxism, but it was largely a homegrown response to the rapid development and national expansion of capitalism in the post—Civil War era. See Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865—1915 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1940); and Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  • 16. For an exhaustive statistical analysis of escalating social inequality in the United States, see Larry M. Bartels, Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age (New York: Russell Sage Foundation and Princeton University Press, 2008). See also Joe E. Feagin, “Social Justice and Sociology: Agendas for the Twenty-First Century: Presidential Address,” American Sociological Review 66, no. 1 (2001): 1-20.
  • 17. J. T. Rajaratnam et al., “Neonatal, Postneonatal, Childhood, and Under-5 Mortality for 187 Countries, 1970-2010: A Systematic Analysis of Progress Towards Millennium Development Goal 4,” Lancet 375, no. 9730 (2010): 1988-2008.
  • 18. In 1980, the gap was 2.8 years; by 2008, the gap had increased to 4.5 years. Robert Pear, “Gap in Life Expectancy Widens for the Nation,” The New York Times, March 23, 2008,
  • 19. The concept of “life chances,” originally coined by Weber, is used by Brian Barry to illustrate the way that deliberate policy choices—what he calls “the machinery of social injustice”—made by rich countries and international institutions like the International Monetary Fund can have devastating effects on the life chances of people in poor countries. See Barry, Why Social Justice Matters (Cambridge: Polity, 2005); and Feagin, “Social Justice and Sociology.”
  • 20. A notable exception is the New York Times s Nicholas Kristof, who apparently has carte blanche to cover stories of his own choice and focuses primarily on social justice issues. See Reporter, directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar (HBO Documentary Films, 2008).
  • 21. Barry, Why SocialJustice Matters.
  • 22. Nicholas Johnson, quoted in Robert W. McChesney, Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media (New York: New Press, 2007), 149.
  • 23. McChesney, Communication Revolution, 158, 220. McChesney’s entire book presents a compelling argument for the interdependence of critical media scholarship, media reform, and social justice.
  • 24. The media reform movement has had greater success in some other nations, such as Canada. See Robert A. Hackett and William Carroll, Remaking Media: The Struggle to Democratize Public Communication (New York: Routledge, 2006).
  • 25. Hackett and Carroll, Remaking Media, 79.
  • 26. Ibid.
  • 27. Philip M. Napoli, “Public Interest Media Activism and Advocacy as a Social Movement: A Review of the Literature,” McGannon Center Working Paper Series, Fordham University, 2007,
  • 28. Aliza Dichter, quoted in Hackett and Carroll, Remaking Media, 79.
  • 29. Robert A. Hackett, “Taking Back the Media: Notes on the Potential for a Communicative Democracy Movement,” Studies in Political Economy 63 (2000): 61-86, cited in Napoli, “Public Interest Media Activism.”
  • 30. Napoli, “Public Interest Media Activism.”
  • 31. That is, we salute Habermas’s quest but recognize the limits of its idealism in a mediatized world.
  • 32. Robert B. Horwitz, “Broadcast Reform Revisited: Reverend Everett C. Parker and the ‘Standing Case’ (Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ v. the Federal Communication Commission),” The Communication Review 2, no. 3 (1997): 311—48.
  • 33. Horwitz, “Broadcast Reform Revisited”; and Robert W McChesney, Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928—1935 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).
  • 34. Dan Schiller, “Social Movement in Telecommunications: Rethinking the Public Service History of U.S. Telecommunications, 1804—1919,” in Communication, Citizenship, and Social Policy, ed. Andrew Calabrese and Jean-Claude Burgelman (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999), 137—55.
  • 35. Sue Curry Jansen, “International Public Relations: Neo-1 iberal Fixer and Diplomat without Portfolio,” in Propaganda and Public Persuasion in Liberal Democracies: Political Economy and Culture, ed. Gerald Sussman (New York: Peter Lang, forthcoming).
  • 36. Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, Waves of Opposition: Labor and the Struggle for Democratic Radio (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006).
  • 37. George Gerbner, communication with the author.
  • 38. Lawrence R. Frey et al., “Looking for Justice in all the Wrong Places: On a Communication Approach to Social Justice,” Communication Studies 47, nos. 1—2 (1996): 110—27; and Mark A. Pollock et al., “Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis: Continuing the Dialogue on Communication and Social Justice,” Communication Studies 47, nos. 1—2 (1996): 142—51. Frey coedited, with Kevin Carragee, two large volumes of reports of social justice studies undertaken by speech communication scholars and activists: Communication for Social Change, vol. 1, Communication Activism (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2007); and Media and Performative Activism, vol. 2, Communication Activism (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2007).
  • 39. Sue Curry Jansen, “Rethinking Social Justice Scholarship in Media and Communication,” Communication, Culture and Critique 1, no. 3 (2008): 329—34. The review also included a third collection, also written from a speech communication (rhetorical) perspective, Omar Swartz, ed., Social Justice and Communication Scholarship (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006).
  • 40. Within Sen’s comparative approach, the “impartial stranger”—one who has no vested interest in the outcome of a particular problem—1s posited as a mediator. She or he (perhaps most often, they) is not posited to be completely objective nor a transcendent judicious ideal but rather more-or-less the best we fallible humans can hope for in the kind of social worlds we actually inhabit. He borrows the concept from Adam Smith and points out that, unlike contemporary market fundamentalists who claim Smith’s legacy, Smith never argued that the market could deliver justice. To the contrary, Smith believed that market theory needed to be accompanied by moral theory. Sen, The Idea of Justice, 125.
  • 41. Science itself, it should be noted, is also a normative practice, with established procedures for assessing appropriate observational practices, forms of measurement, standards for assessing validity and statistical significance, and so on. Recent human rights scholarship has articulated public norms for assessing the objectivity of social justice claims within a comparative framework, including the ability of such claims to survive critical scrutiny by “impartial spectators” and the capacity to meet tests of public reasoning. See Sen, The Idea of Justice.
  • 42. W. B. Gallie, “Essentially Contested Concepts,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 (1956): 167-98.
  • 43. This does not mean, of course, that all communication scholars have lived up to the demands of these norms. To the contrary, we know that some of the founders of the field paid lip service to them in public even as they were deeply involved in secret Cold War-era government-sponsored research on techniques to advance the effectiveness of propaganda and psychological warfare. See Christopher Simpson, Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945—1960 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). See also Jefferson Pooley, “The New History of Mass Communication Research,” in The History of Media and Communication Research: Contested Memories, ed. David W. Park and Jefferson Pooley (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 43-69.
  • 44. Sen, The Idea of Justice; see also Ronald Dworkin, Is Democracy Possible Here?Principles for a New Political Debate (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).
  • 45. See the Center for Communication Rights, http://www.centerforcommunication
  • 46. We believe that our rationale meets Stanley Fish’s well-known objections to social activism in academe on two grounds. First, liberal arts colleges, especially private colleges, with social justice or religious histories are, by definition, value-oriented; Fish specifically excuses them from his indictment. Second, even Fish presumably does not object to scholarship based on the First Amendment or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the classroom, especially when it is secured, as Sen requires, by public reasoning. See Stanley Fish, Save the World on Your Own Time (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
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