Tabloid Geopolitics

2000px-Crime.svgBy Matthew Rech

Last month, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling gave a keynote speech to an audience in Westminster on crime and broken communities. In which, he suggested that Labour, throughout their “decade of neglect”, had failed to rise to specific social challenges relating to the growing “culture of lawlessness in many parts of our country”.

Interestingly, in his speech, and in several follow-up debates, Mr Grayling has compared communities like Manchester’s Moss Side to the hit television series, The Wire. “A horrendous portrayal of the collapse of civilised life and of human despair” (Grayling), The Wire dramatises the exploits of “murderous villains, cynical politicians, and corrupt, lazy detectives” (Yates) in Baltimore, U.S.

As one might expect, opposition to Mr Grayling’s comments has been widespread. However, and going beyond Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s retort, the use of popular referents in this context is more than merely ‘glib’. Writing in Geography Compass, Francois Debrix provides a compelling insight into instances where intellectuals of statecraft often choose “to turn to popular culture to establish certain claims to knowledge among members of the public, and sometimes to convince them of the necessity of adopting particular policies as a response to such popularly envisioned geopolitical realities” (933).

The significance of “tabloid discursive truth telling” (932) lies firstly in the fact that politics is often reliant on cultural and spatial imaginaries. Secondly, and as we see with the reactions of Moss Side residents to Mr Grayling’s speech, the application of fictional interpretations of reality to real-world situations often has real political effect.

60% world Read Mark Yates’ report at BBC online

60% world Read Chris Grayling’s speech on crime and broken communities

60% world Read Francois Debrix (2007) Tabloid Imperialism: American Geopolitical Anxieties and the War on Terror

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About matthewrech

Matthew Rech is a doctoral student in Geography at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His current research focuses on military recruitment practices associated with the Royal Air Force. Whilst primarily rooted in the sub-discipline of Critical Geopolitics, the project draws heavily upon key conceptual debates in cultural geography, cultural studies and aesthetic theory. The methodological approach emphasises the more-than-representational qualities of military recruitment, and the particular ways of seeing that make recruitment effective. Matthew attained his BA in Geography in 2007 and his MA in Human Geography Research in 2008, both at the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Previous dissertations have focused on systems theory and environmental policy, and the social effects of natural disaster.

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