The Makings of a Public Controversy

Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 in RCL | 3 comments

An issue becomes a “public controversy” depending on how much people react to it. Nothing becomes controversial without people and their differing opinions and an issue doesn’t become public without a multitude of people with opinions pertaining to the topic. Determining if an issue is public has a lot to do with the media. Media plays an integral part in the lives of everyday people. Just watching the morning news, one can find out all of the hot topics currently circulating in the world. For this reason, the media is probably the biggest way an issue becomes a “public controversy”. Another way of determining what makes an issue “public” is how people react to them. Public controversy usually merit a certain level of outrage among people. The last component of a public controversy is its staying power. Most of these issues are things that someone remembers over a long period power of time. For instance, when I grow older I will still remember the issues of gay marriage, healthcare and so on.


  1. I think that it is interesting that you define controversy off of the definition of public. For example, you essentially say that in order for something to be a controversy, it affects a lot of peole. Yet, in order for that to happen, something has to be public. And, you list three differetn aspects of public: the media, the impact, and power. I think that this relates to our topic because the Westboro Baptist Church certainly affects a lot of people – mainly those people that the church targets (which is almost everyone, in some way or another). In addition, the only reason that people know about it is through the media, which is something that we should definitely talk about in our video. Furthermore, the WBC certainly has a power impact becuase this is an issue that will not go away any time soon. So, through your definition of public controversy, I think that WBC is certainly a high public controversy.

  2. Is it really a controversy based on *how* people react on it? It is -public- if lots of people react to it, but it also has to affect them. In order for it to be a controversy, there has to be an argument involved. I think we have to keep these things in mind when we analyze the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s a controversy if people “react” to it, but there have to be at least two different sides. In our case, the two sides have to do with the first amendment and whether or not they are taking their freedom too far by possible hurting others.

  3. While I agree that media is a strong indicator of whether something is controversial and public, I think it’s more of a result than a cause. In other words, the media seldom makes an issue controversial; rather, they pick up already controversial and public topics and inform people. In the case of our project, for example, I think most people can agree the Westboro Baptist Church is both public and controversial. However, this isn’t a result of the media; instead, the WBC attracted attention by causing anger — controversy — in a very open manner — public.

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