Managing public outrage. Power, scandal, and new media in
In: New Media & Society, Vol. 13, No. 8: pp. 1301-1319
Over the past three decades, scholars studying the phenomenon of political scandal have mostly based their works on the premise that scandals can only occur in liberal democracies. Contradictory to this assumption, however, some of the most heavily discussed phenomena in contemporary semi-authoritarian Russia are scandals emanating from the new, vibrant sphere of social media thriving on a largely unfiltered internet. How are these ‘internet scandals’ impacting politics in the semi-authoritarian political environment? To address this and related questions, I juxtapose two case studies of police corruption scandals that erupted in the social media sphere in 2009/2010. Drawing on the findings, I argue that Russia’s ruling elites are presently very much capable of managing these outbursts of public outrage. Mainly with the help of the powerful state-controlled television, public anger is very swiftly redirected towards lower-level authorities and foreign, supposedly hostile powers.