Representing Corporate Violence: The Media, the Politics of Truth and the Denial of Crime

John L. McMullan, St. Mary's University, Halifax

ABSTRACT
This paper studies the exercise of power, the production of narrative, and the representation of violence in the aftermath of the Westray mine explosion in Canada which claimed twenty-six lives. It examines twenty-six hundred news stories written between 1992 and 2002, and analyzes how the press constructed and reconstructed "truth" about the explosion and its aftermath. I argue that the news media was a site of discursive contestation where various social groups registered claims about the causes, character and consequences of the mining disaster. Several "regimes of truth" were produced by the press: Westray was initially constituted as a natural tragedy, then a legal disaster, and eventually a political scandal. While there were discursive challenges and transformations over time and movements between uncontested and contested realms of media discourse, the press did not register the deaths of the Westray explosion in a discourse of corporate, workplace violence. They disqualified and denied crime in their news narratives and in the process contributed to the invisibility of corporate homicide in public culture.

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Updated 05/20/2006