The Challenges of Emergency Risk Regulation
Edited by Alberto Alemanno
Chapter 5: Representing Emergency Risks: Media, Risks and ‘Acts of God’ in the Volcanic Ash Cloud
JOBNAME: Alermanno PAGE: 1 SESS: 5 OUTPUT: Tue Sep 6 13:22:57 2011 5. Representing emergency risks: media, risk and ‘acts of God’ in the volcanic ash cloud Adam Burgess 5.1 CRISIS MANAGEMENT, MEDIA AND RISK AMPLIFICATION To an extent, at least, we live in a precautionary era whose imagination is exercised by the possibility of remote threats. As the example of international air travel security indicates, we are even prepared to reorganize aspects of everyday life around them and suffer routine inconvenience without question. Such responses often originate in demands following dramatic incidents, intensiﬁed by revelations and accusations articulated through the media. ‘Something must be done!’ is the common cry, with the underlying message that public health and safety must be paramount, and not compromised by politics or proﬁteering. This chapter is a preliminary consideration of media coverage around the volcanic ash cloud in the context of the distinctive late modern discourse of risk that has been inﬂuential in framing unforeseen events in the UK, the country, alongside Ireland, most affected by the unprecedented ‘cloud of unknowing’ in April 2010 (Marley, 2010). Here was a new and unpredictable threat – apparently able to bring down airliners, according to the implication of the ﬂight ban put in place following the appearance of the cloud. Might the ash cloud also evoke the kind of media ‘ampliﬁcation of risk’ (Pidgeon, Kasperson and Slovic, 2003) and political over-reaction seen in the UK around issues from genetically modiﬁed...
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