Wartime Images, Peacetime Wounds

Wartime Images, Peacetime Wounds: The Media and the Gustafsen Lake Standoff

Sandra Lambertus
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442683242
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Wartime Images, Peacetime Wounds
    Book Description:

    What does the media coverage of a crisis situation reveal about the nature of dominant-minority relations locally, regionally, and nationally? Sandra Lambertus asks this question of the media coverage of the largest RCMP operation in Canadian history - the 1995 Gustafsen Lake Native Indian standoff.

    Drawing from extensive newspaper, television, and radio news products, legal and law enforcement documents, ethnographic interviews with 26 journalists, as well as RCMP, and Native leaders, Lambertus examines the construction and national dissemination of vilifying stereotyped portrayals of Native people. The ethnographic component pushes the standard of media analysis, bringing to light previously unconsidered aspects of media representations of minorities: media and law enforcement processes, frameworks of the news makers, face presentation strategies, information control, and exchange relations in news-gathering. The investigation shows how the values and perspectives of local communities, media, and law enforcement became overshadowed by 'outsiders' during the course of the event and the serious effects of the media coverage on specific audiences and ultimately, Canadian society. The study culminates with an assessment of the structural elements that contributed to the damaging media portrayals: media bias, competition, cooperation, empowerment, and cultural misperceptions.Wartime Images, Peacetime Woundsopens new avenues for studies of minorities in the news and for the study of news media in general.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8324-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Prologue
    (pp. xvii-xx)

    The following is a vignette taken from the recollections of one journalist who covered several Native blockades in British Columbia. This particular narrative concerned the Douglas Lake blockade, which occurred a few months before the Gustafsen Lake standoff.

    There was an incident up in Douglas Lake ... So, we get up to Douglas Lake ... and all the media was lined up on the road outside the church — And of course, where the Natives had blocked this road. And — it was kind of the D-day before the potential riot the next morning, where the RCMP were going to...

  7. Map of Gustafsen Lake, British Columbia, and Surrounding Area
    (pp. xxi-2)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    The 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff was the largest and most expensive Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) operation in Canadian history. The standoff involved Natives and non-Native supporters camped on a small parcel of ranch land, which they defended as unceded Aboriginal territory. They refused to leave the location, and the RCMP were called in to assist in mediation. After a series of shooting incidents and a seizure of weapons associated with the camp, however, the RCMP declared the situation a criminal investigation. Over the next month, more than 400 RCMP from across Canada were called in, and with them came...

  9. CHAPTER ONE Serious Red Alert
    (pp. 23-46)

    The conflict at Gustafsen Lake wasnotan isolated event. Similarly, the media coverage wasnota one-time phenomenon without precedent. Both the standoff and its media characterization connect in various ways to the history of Aboriginal people in Canada, previous instances of Native disputes, and the recent history of the relations between the media, the RCMP, and others who participated as media sources.

    In this chapter, we will first examine the pre-existing contexts for the central players in the conflict. The RCMP Media Relations Program, which is guided by the nationalMedia/RCMP Operational Manual(in effect in 1995), provides...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Media Circus
    (pp. 47-72)

    The focus in chapters 2 through 7 is on the media coverage at the time of the 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff, primarily from the perspectives of the journalists. The emphasis on the recollections of the journalists is not to suggest that they suffered any worse than the other groups (thereby trivializing the conditions endured by others). Indeed, some of the details of the adaptations and inconveniences for the reporters covering the event seem trivial compared with the living conditions of many of the other people involved. Nor is the choice of this dominant frame intended to imply that the journalists’...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Show of Force
    (pp. 73-103)

    The negotiation of information and the outcomes in the news accounts is the central analytical focus of chapter 3. The news-gathering process invariably requires some form of exchange. When people provide information or a perspective about some element to the media, it gives them (aside from other rewards) an opportunity to take a more distinctive role in the construction of the news. News sources with power, status, or news appeal have a greater potential to influence the dominant frame in news stories and a chance to sway public opinion. The media, in turn, benefit by having needs such as information,...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Out of Control
    (pp. 104-128)

    The firefight of 11 September 1995 and the shooting episode of 12 September 1995 offered the greatest contrasts of media coverage during the standoff: saturation – and silence. The firefight was the most violent episode of the standoff. It was also the occasion for the most damaging media portrayals of the people in the camp. In contrast, the RCMP never reported the shooting episode of 12 September 1995 to the media. The two incidents illustrate how the RCMP operational plan and their internal network of communication had a direct impact on the media coverage of the standoff.

    Information control takes...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Surrender
    (pp. 129-148)

    In the final phase of the standoff, the media and their sources adapted to a reduction in the stress of the situation as well as a reduction in the action. The media’s dependence on the RCMP for news was easing, with more of a shift in focus to a ‘Native solution’ to end the standoff. For the journalists, the range of news stories about the camp expanded with the availability of Native spokespersons, who provided information about the camp, and of press conferences with Native spiritual leaders, who arrived to assist in the resolution.

    Except for the occasional person voluntarily...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Terms of Engagement
    (pp. 149-179)

    In this chapter different aspects of stereotyping in the news coverage of the Gustafsen Lake standoff are analysed. First is a discussion of the media’s construction and dissemination of stereotyped characterizations. Next is an examination of select audience responses to the media coverage. This is followed by a look at how the local Native and non- Native communities responded to the media stereotypes of their communities. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the social repercussions of the media stereotypes.

    Several factors contributed to the construction and dissemination of media stereotypes of the people in the camp. During the standoff,...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Wartime Images, Peacetime Wounds
    (pp. 180-202)

    The Gustafsen Lake standoff was an anomaly among other Native conflicts in Canada. Unlike the 1990 Oka and 1995 Ipperwash standoffs, there were no changes in ownership of contested land. Instead, those people from the camp whom the RCMP arrested were tried in a criminal court and convicted of a variety of offences. In retrospect, the dispute itself was insignificant. The ideological beliefs and the radical demands for terms of settlement by the camp spokespersons, the massive police operation launched to contain the situation, and the extensive media coverage inflated the conflict’s importance in the press. In many ways, the...

  16. APPENDIX 1 Chronology of the 1995 Gustafsen Lake Standoff
    (pp. 203-218)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 219-250)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-262)
  19. Author Index
    (pp. 263-264)
  20. Topic Index
    (pp. 265-277)