Political protest Italian-style: The blogosphere and mainstream media in the promotion and coverage of Beppe Grillo's V-day

  • Alberto Pepe University of California, Los Angeles
  • Corinna di Gennaro Harvard University
Keywords: Italian politics, political blogosphere, mainstream media coverage, social media, social movements, political organization and participation

Abstract

We analyze the organization, promotion and public perception of "V-day", a political rally that took place on 8 September 2007, to protest against corruption in the Italian Parliament. Launched by blogger Beppe Grillo, and promoted via a word of mouth mobilization on the Italian blogosphere, V-day brought close to one million Italians in the streets on a single day, but was mostly ignored by mainstream media. This article is divided into two parts. In the first part, we analyze the volume and content of online articles published by both bloggers and mainstream news sources from 14 June (the day V-day was announced) until 15 September 2007 (one week after it took place). We find that the success of V-day can be attributed to the coverage of bloggers and small-scale local news outlets only, suggesting a strong grassroots component in the organization of the rally. We also find a dissonant thematic relationship between content published by blogs and mainstream media: while the majority of blogs analyzed promote V-day, major mainstream media sources critique the methods of information production and dissemination employed by Grillo. Based on this finding, in the second part of the study, we explore the role of Grillo in the organization of the rally from a network analysis perspective. We study the interlinking structure of the V-day blogosphere network, to determine its structure, its levels of heterogeneity, and resilience. Our analysis contradicts the hypothesis that Grillo served as a top-down, broadcast-like source of information. Rather, we find that information about V-day was transferred across heterogeneous nodes in a moderately robust and resilient core network of blogs. We speculate that the organization of V-day represents the very first case, in Italian history, of a political demonstration developed and promoted primarily via the use of social media on the Web.

Author Biographies

Alberto Pepe, University of California, Los Angeles
Alberto Pepe is a Ph.D. candidate in Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and a researcher in the Statistics and Data practices group of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing. He is an information scientist interested in the study of socio-technical systems: networks of people, artifacts, data and ideas. Prior to starting his Ph.D., Alberto worked in the Information Technology Department of CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland, where he developed digital library software and promoted Open Access among particle physicists. He also worked in the Scientific Visualization Department of CINECA, the Italian Scientific Consortium, based at the University of Bologna. Alberto holds a M.Sc. in Computer Science and a B.Sc. in Astrophysics, both from University College London, UK. Alberto is from Manduria, a wine-making town in Puglia, Southern Italy. Email: apepe@ucla.edu Website: http://albertopepe.com/
Corinna di Gennaro, Harvard University
Corinna di Gennaro is a Research Associate at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. She is a sociologist working on the social implications of Internet adoption and use for civic and political engagement. Corinna holds a D.Phil in Sociology from the University of Oxford and a BSc. in Sociology from the London School of Economics (LSE). She was a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Communication and a Survey Research Officer at the Oxford Internet Institute. Her main expertise is in political sociology, survey analysis and quantitative methods of social research. She is from Milan, Italy. Email: corinna.digennaro@gmail.com Website: http://corinnadigennaro.com/
Published
2009-12-06
How to Cite
Pepe, A., & di Gennaro, C. (2009). Political protest Italian-style: The blogosphere and mainstream media in the promotion and coverage of Beppe Grillo’s V-day. First Monday, 14(12). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v14i12.2740