CPRC Seminar

Blood libel rebooted: Traditional scapegoats, online media, and the H1N1 epidemic
11:30 am
12:45 pm
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Professor Laetitia Atlani-Duault
Research Professor in Social Anthropology, French
Center for Gender, Sexuality and Health
Columbia Population Research Center
Open to the Columbia Community

This study of comments posted on major French print and TV media websites during the H1N1 epidemic illustrates the relationship between the traditional media and social media in responding to an emerging disease. A disturbing "geography of blame" was observed suggesting the metamorphosis of the folk-devil phenomenon to the Internet. We discovered a subterranean discourse about the putative origins and "objectives" of the H1N1 virus, which was absent from the discussions in mainstream television channels and large-circulation print media. These online rumours attributed hidden motives to governments, pharmaceutical companies and figures of Otherness that were scapegoated in the social history of previous European epidemics, notably Freemasons and Jews.


Rachel Ferat