Ethan Zuckerman has a good post on gun control (What would it take to start a gun control debate in the US?). Gun control per se is a very US-specific interest, but he’s picked up some interesting information about the way in which mass shooting incidents cause public debate to spike on the topic. He writes:
If elected officials, advocacy organizations and media “gatekeepers” fought for control of agenda setting twenty years ago, the battle now includes individuals who produce and consume media, “the people formerly known as the audience”, to use Dan Gillmor’s term. Bloggers and other social media users have figured out that they can create media that questions ideas in the sphere of consensus, at advocates for ideas in the sphere of deviance. Most of the time, these ideas get ignored; sometimes they get amplified and end up influencing policy. Yochai Benkler uses the term “the network public sphere” to refer to the media environment that includes and is influenced by bloggers and others, and sees the successful fight against SOPA/PIPA as evidence that the general public can change political agendas despite a process that all too often appears captured by lobbyists and corporate interests.
The Brady Campaign, one of the US’s leading gun control organizations, has announced a campaign to pressure Presidential debate host Jim Lehrer to ask Obama and Romney a question about gun control.
In other words, with 97 dead or injured in mass shootings in 2012, the Brady Campaign recognizes that gun control is so far in the sphere of deviance thatit could take a petition campaign to get either Presidential candidate to address the topic. That’s the power of agenda setting.