Hegemony, the Media, and New Right Politics: Ontario in the Late 1990S Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This article discusses the issue of hegemony in relation to the 1995 election in Ontario, Canada's most populous and industrialized province, of a conservative government whose New Right policy platform combined a neoliberal emphasis on reducing the size and role of government with a neoconservative focus on taking a harder line toward deviant and socially disadvantaged groups, such as juvenile offenders and welfare recipients. The Conservative election strategy was redolent of the "authoritarian populism" characteristic of the New Right elsewhere, especially Thatcherism in the United Kingdom. Since the election, however, the limitations and contradictions of this strategy have become more evident, particularly vis-à-vis the role of the media. Despite being integrated into the structure of corporate capital, the media have given access to voices of opposition, especially outside the parliamentary process. Hegemony not only is secured by articulating a particular perspective to common sense, but by doing so in a way that fuses knowledge and understanding with lived experience in a way that is emotionally and normatively resonant—what Gramsci called "feeling-passion." In this respect, the division of discursive labor that the news media impose on their sources can have an inversion effect on the flow of power. The objects of real world actions, those adversely affected by New Right policies, become the subjects of discursive representation in their role as victims. The narrative emphasis of news on conflict, disruption, and harm gives moral and emotional power to victims whose voices become the principal expression of feeling-passion. In this way, the struggle over hegemony becomes a struggle over the identity and plight of worthy victims.

publication date

  • April 1998