Racist, Classist or 'just' ignorant: media constructions of problematic language

Bethan Lyn Davies

University of Leeds, United Kingdom


In January 2007, a media storm erupted after language used in the UK TV reality show Big Brother was alleged to be racist. An ideological debate quickly arose around what ‘counts’ as racist language, and this became the focus of both reportage and feature articles in quality and red-top UK newspapers. Using a small corpus of these articles from a range of newspapers, this research will use a critical discourse analytic approach to examine how different representations of the alleged ‘racist language’ constructed the same event as racist, classist or ignorant bullying. In particular it will examine:

• The admission or denial of racism, and whether or not evidence

was offered to support the view given;

• The reduction of racism to ‘only’ issues of class or ignorance;

• The reduction of racism to issues of colour, rather than a broader

view of ethnicity.

The implications of the discursive struggle played out in this media debate will then be linked to wider debates about discriminatory language, ‘moral panics’ and political correctness.

Session: Paper session
Various Topics
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 05