Work in progress

On January 4th, I had an afternoon to myself and took these pictures of my manual discourse analysis work-in-progress. I was excited to get back to my research after the long Christmas break—and then that night, the lockdown was announced and schools were closed. I haven’t touched my research since, and it’s been getting me down. I’m sharing this now, and the end of the month with no end to the lockdown in sight, because it’s a way to put some thoughts down on paper and share the research process, in all its slow, frustrating reality.

These little slips of paper are tweets from members of Congress about the Parkland shooting. The ones in this set are tweets that used “praying”, but not the exact phrase “thoughts and prayers.” They’re almost all initial reactions—the first tweet posted about Parkland, and posted on the day of the shooting. They’re also almost exclusively Republican members of Congress. I grouped them by common words and phrases, and found many similarities. Several seemed to fit into a template for crisis tweeting.

Please join me in praying for (insert victims here) and brave first responders at the tragic (insert event) today in (insert state here).
Devastating tragedy.
Horrible, saddening tragedy.
Horrific.
Terrible and terrifying.

When you assemble these reactions, it all seems so formulaic. I’m picking on the GOP in this example, but the Democrats were formulaic in their responses, too—most had some version of “Enough is enough,” “Congress needs to take real action,” “Thoughts and prayers are meaningless without action.” The difference is, after the formulaic initial reaction tweets on February 14th and 15th, the Democrats kept talking about gun violence and the Republicans stopped. For many Republican members of Congress, that initial tweet was the only one they posted all month, until the passage of the STOP Act on 14 March, a school security funding bill that did little to address school shootings. Republicans tweeted about the STOP act as evidence that they were “doing something,” that they were listening to constituents’ calls for action on gun control. I’m going to get more into this when I do the content analysis part of the study, but it’s very interesting to see partisan trends and differences.

For the discourse analysis here, I want to look at how they talk about the school shooting:

  • What do they call it? Shooting, attack, tragedy, event, etc. all have different connotations.
  • Do they call for action? If so, what kind? There’s a spectrum from passive “thoughts and prayers” to legislative actions.
  • Who are they referring to? The victims, survivors, first responders, etc. each reflect a different experience of the shooting.

Looking forward to getting back to work on it again soon!

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