Part 1 of this blog post discussed some of the issues concerning how social movements are named. Catchy titles such as Arab Spring, the Umbrella Revolution, and the Fishball Revolution are part of journalistic practices that grab readers’ attention. However, these names also frame a movement through the development of its name. These names are more important than just grabbing viewer attention because these names actually frame the movement itself.
If I were to write a journal article on the Arab Spring but fail to use the term “Arab Spring”, my work would lack credibility – and/or – readers may not understand the event or topic I am discussing. This supports Gamson’s (1992) claim that once a frame is encoded into a term and becomes widely accepted, it becomes difficult to separate the two. We must refer to the series of movements in the MENA region as the Arab Spring.
When I saw headlines emerging on the “Democracy Spring” movement, I felt a sense of discomfort. It was hard to pinpoint where that feeling was coming from. Democracy Spring has no ties with the Arab Spring movement. While Arab Spring was a term derived from Western media, “Democracy Spring” was coined by the organizers of the movement itself. The movement aims to maintain and strengthen democracy in America to protest the “most billionaire-dominated, secret money-drenched, voter suppression-marred contest in modern American history”. How are they protesting? – Through a 10 day, 140-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington DC.
While I understand that at the core of Democracy Spring is the message that the current democratic process in America is not very democratic, the labelling of this movement as Democracy Spring has questionable associations to the more radical movements from the MENA region. Perhaps I’m not comfortable with its attempt to piggyback off of the success of buzzwords associated to Arab Spring. Perhaps I’m not comfortable with the idea that the Arab Spring is a term fit for the “Arab” region, while in the United States it is simply about Democracy – why isn’t it called the American Springs? Is this just another form of orientalism?
But what was your reaction to the Democracy Spring? Am I simply overthinking and making something out of nothing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.