Reconstructing the migration communication discourse

The call for contextual and narrative-based evidence in the deconstruction of fear

Authored by: Pedro Góis , Maria Faraone

The Routledge Companion to Migration, Communication, and Politics

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138058149
eBook ISBN: 9781315164472
Adobe ISBN:


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The style of communication with the public about people and events related to migration is a key factor impacting on the possibilities for two-way social integration. Communication is a political tool in any subject area but now, during the largest migration movement in Europe of recent eras, we see a direct correlation between mainstream media and the rise of far-right ideals, through the impact on public sentiment. There is often a lack of evidence available and, even when it does exist and is well communicated, it may be ineffective because of cognitive dissonance. However, herein lies hope; scientists can improve their communication skills to make their analysis more accessible to the general public. The question is not why some forms of journalism approximate to, while others skew, the truth; they all emanate from facts filtered through self-interest and inherent bias. Rather, the question for society at large is how private newspapers and social media are losing the capacity to tell the truth in context; a protectionist stance to maintain their own wealth and power is going unnoticed or unchallenged. We argue that “easy read” versions of academic reporting should be delivered in accessible language outside of subscription-based journals via contemporary platforms such as social media or printed news media. While journalists use academic research, it is also the role of a greater number of academics to write for the public directly. For example, academics Noam Chomsky, Josef Stiglitz, and Amartya Sen regularly engage with this variety of media and impact social thought and awareness. But these are the exception and not the norm. This is evidenced by attitudes towards recent (2015–2017) migration movements into Europe where we are missing, in part, this kind of impact. This chapter compares reporting across critical events in the migration movement from 2015 onwards to showcase differences between a first-hand account attached to a human face with reporting in a dehumanised way, which in turn facilitates an approach underpinned by fear of change. The refugee narrative voice and the use of evidence-based information provide examples of how the public could be informed through a shift from writing for fellow academics to public writing. This chapter is about encouraging academics to write for the public in order to balance access to information on critical issues where public sentiment has an important effect, such as in the refugee movement. Influencing public sentiment is about using academic research to inspire involvement in debates that seek to find reason and justice. What we refer to here as scientific facts are really also social science. Being evidence-based is being committed not to developing a version of the “truth” and doggedly sticking to it but rather to being committed to a process of what Karl Popper described as “conjectures and refutations,” where there are no universal truths, only the application of scientific measures in the pursuit of truth through dialogue, considering evidence and theories and perspectives of other academics in the field. The chapter includes strategies for academics on writing for the general public.

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