Home List of Titles 'Be alert, not alarmed': governmental communication of risk in an era of insecurity
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- 'Be alert, not alarmed': governmental communication of risk in an era of insecurity
- Bossio, Diana
- Part of the Australian government's domestic contribution to the global 'war on terror' is the ongoing 'Be Alert, Not Alarmed' campaign. The $15 million advertising and public relations initiative was intended to inform an increasingly insecure nation of how to report potential terrorist activities to appropriate authorities. The pervasive ambiguity that surrounds this campaign suggests much about the political benefits and effects associated with governmental communication of risk. Government communication often highlights state reliance on the oppositional discourse of threat and protection. The projection of fearful 'realities' are balanced with the state's evidence of its ability to control the unanticipated. Yet, in this constructed 'drama of the everyday', audiences receive no indication of what to 'be alert' for, nor why these advertisements are needed if there is nothing to be alarmed about. Risks are strategically deployed at politically beneficial times to legitimise the actions of incumbent authorities. Government communications strategies are produced to elicit social acceptance of these actions through the presentation of idealised narratives of individuals working within a collective national identity to defeat 'terror'. This paper will draw upon the 'Be Alert, Not Alarmed' campaign to theorise the effects of risk communication in an era of 'media-ted' global insecurity. The discourse of insecurity needs to be understood in light of its social constructed-ness. The control and strategic manipulation of the form, timing and valuing of information is a powerful method of creating a hegemonic discourse. The precarious balance between discourses of threat and control is an indispensable tool to a neo-conservative government intent on enhancing the justifiability of a 'war on terror'.
- Publication type
- Conference paper
- Proceedings of 'Communication at work: showcasing communication scholarship', the Annual Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association, Christchurch, New Zealand, 04-07 July 2005 / Colleen Mills and Donald Matheson (eds.)
- Publication year
- Australia; Fear; Government campaigns; Governmental communication; Howard Government; Mass panic; Media; Paranoia; Terrorism; War on terror
- ANZCA and The University of Canterbury
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2005 Diana Bossio, ANZCA and The University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Paper reproduced here with the kind permission of the conference organisers.
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