Campaigning and Mass Self-Communication

Maarten Rikken

The University of Adelaide - Australia


This article explores the effects of the public’s capacity to create, distribute, and selectively consume content and information (termed mass self-communication) on non-governmental campaigns (NGC). These effects are explored using two campaigns from different communication environments: the 2011 Australian Ban Live Export campaign (BLEC) that targeted live animal exports to Indonesia and the 1997 International Campaign to Ban Landmines’ (ICBL). The ICBL's five key campaign techniques will be used as a platform to analyse how mass self-communication effects NGC. This analysis offers general insight into the effects of this new communication environment on NGC. It is found that NGC must harness the public’s propensity to participate, relinquish control, hold credibility, and formulate a clear and concise message.

Keywords: Campaign, Ban Live Exports, Indonesia, Mass self-communication, ICBL, Animal welfare & Australia


This article explores the effects of the public’s capacity to create, distribute, and selectively consume content and information (termed mass self-communication) on non-governmental campaigns (NGC). Two campaigns will be used as comparative case studies throughout the article: the 2011 Ban Live Export campaign (BLEC) in Australia and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines’ (ICBL) in 1997.

First; the BLEC was run by two organisations; Animals Australia (AA) and RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Australia. By challenging Australia’s economic imperatives and its relationship with its biggest neighbour, Indonesia, the BLEC provides a unique insight into a non-governmental campaign’s (NGC) influence on the nation state.

The BLEC operated in an information communication environment characterised by the concept of mass self-communication, in which content is self-generated, emission is self-directed, and reception is self-selected (2007; M Castells, 2008; 2009). It is mass communication because user generated content can be accessed by a potentially global audience through the internet (many-to-many) and peer-to-peer (p2p) distribution networks (M. Castells, 2009). Blurring the traditional distinction between the role of the creator, consumer and distributor complicates the information landscape and affects campaigns. Difficulties in reaching the public arise from an environment in which there exists an overabundance of information and individuals have an unprecedented level of control in their selection.

Second; the ICBL involved over one thousand NGOs from more than sixty countries all seeking to form a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel (AP) landmines. The media and communication paradigm in which the ICBL operated was vastly different to that of today. During ICBL the proliferation of the internet was in its infancy; in 1996 internet users as a percentage of population for Australia was at 3.3%, the United States was at 16.7%, and the United Kingdom was at 4.1%[1]. These relatively low rates of internet use do not allow for mass engagement with the issue through interactive websites or information sources. Consequently, the internet was primarily used to facilitate communication between concerned supporters, provide instantaneous updates on governments and monitor landmine use. Instead the ICBL used traditional media sources to inform and engage the majority of the population and were assisted by newsworthy norm entrepreneurs like Diana, The Princess of Wales.

The ICBL used five campaign techniques to achieve their goals: (1) disseminating information to raise awareness and generate an issue, (2) shaming nations who did not sign, (3) establishing a network of organisations, (4) framing the issue and grafting the prospective landmine ban to other successful weapon prohibition norms (e.g. chemical weapons), and (5) reversing the burden of proof from proponents of the campaign to opponents. The techniques of the ICBL, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, were chosen because it is a particularly good example of a NGC that, like the BLEC, was able to influence state policy.

The five techniques used by the ICBL will serve as the article’s platform of analysis. The article will briefly explain how the ICBL used the technique and then examine how the BLEC used the same technique. This will provide valuable insight into how the media environment of mass self-communication affects modern campaigns.

Background of BLEC & ICBL


The devastation of AP landmines on post-war countries provoked a dynamic transnational campaign against AP landmines in the 1990s. The movement resulted in the ICBL and its coordinator Jody Williams receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for “helping to establish an international convention that bans antipersonnel landmines” (Mekata 2000, 143). The international treaty to ban landmines has resulted in the number of landmine causalities falling to between 15,000 and 20,000 and the number of nations producing them falling from 50 to 13 (Green 2008). This tremendous shift in sentiment towards the use of AP landmines, which nations once regarded as an “unavoidable component of the world’s armed forces, much like firearms and artillery shells”, (Price 1998a, 617) is a truly remarkable feat.

The ICBL demonstrated the process by which members of world society are able to alter the “security policies of states by generating international norms that shape and redefine state interests” (Price 1998a, 615). On face value state security policy is a particularly difficult issue to demonstrate the techniques of a successful world society campaign, as conventional wisdom dictates that it should be completely autonomous from civil society. Challenging governments to adopt norms that oppose their sovereign prerogatives is a truly remarkable feat for world society actors. The ICBL is one of a number of world society campaigns that illustrate their considerable strength and has seen them emerge as distinct actors within the international milieu.


Indonesia has imported over 6 million live cattle from Australia in the last 20 years. In 2010 live exports to Indonesia represented 60% (521,002 cattle) of all live cattle exports from Australia (Jones 2011). The export of live cattle to all countries in 2010 amounted to AU$684 million, while cattle exports to Indonesia alone were worth AU$437.4 million in the 2009/10 financial year (Ban Live Export 2011a). The cattle sent to Indonesia come from the north of Australia and are not accustomed to human handling. Indonesian abattoirs commonly employ rope casting to trip the animal onto its side before cutting its throat multiple times often while fully conscious. Indonesia has no enforceable animal welfare regulations or penalties (Jones 2011).

These conditions were documented by ABC1’s (Australia Broadcast Corporation) program Four Corners and the story 'A Bloody Business' (Ferguson & Doyle 2011) on the 30:th of May, 2011. The program was described as “an explosive exposé of the cruelty inflicted on Australian cattle exported to the slaughterhouses of Indonesia” and featured graphic footage from AA’s March 2011 investigation into Indonesian slaughterhouses (Ban Live Export 2011b). AA’s investigation visited 11 abattoirs in four Indonesian cities and documented the treatment of Australian cattle up to the point of slaughter.

The public outcry prompted calls from members of parliament (Coorey 2011; Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry 2011a; Siewert 2011) and the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) (Australian Veterinary Association 2011) to suspend live exports. On the 8:th of June, 2011 Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard responded to public demand and announced the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia.

On the 6:th of July 2011 the Australian government resumed live exports to Indonesia. However, it did so with strict limitations. In lifting the ban Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig ('Government lifts live cattle export ban' 2011a) implemented a "supply chain assurance regulatory model" to help meet animal welfare standards. However, the new standards failed to incorporate “upright restraint, pre-slaughter stunning nor do they prohibit traditional roping slaughter where animals are forcibly tripped onto their side for the throat cut" (RSPCA 2011a). These failures prompted additional political pressure but this also fell short. Nonetheless, live exports to Indonesia had continued unabated for many years. BLEC not only forced the live export trade to justify its operation but its very existence.

Establishing a Network


The ICBL is best seen as an instrument for coordination than as an organisation in a strict sense. Through the mass organisation of autonomous groups the ICBL sought to maintain and strengthen the autonomy of individual groups and movements while preserving strong information exchange. The ICBL used the network to promote transnational solidarity in a reactive fashion at times of peak importance, such as conferences and campaign activities.

The ICBL is a transnational advocacy network (Khagram, Riker & Sikkink 2002a), which maintains unity and achieves success through its “commitment to a constant exchange of information—both internally among members of the ICBL as well as with governments, the media, and the general public” (Williams & Goose 1998, 23). This constant flow of information enables them to efficiently wield their influence through strong coordination and the use of pedagogical techniques such as “information, persuasion, shame, and discipline” (Price 1998a, 617).


Comprising two organisations, AA and RSPCA Australia, the BLEC demonstrates that a network does not need an array of professional or staffed organisations to have influence. This is not to question the effectiveness of large-scale NGCs with thousands of staffed or professional member organisations. Instead, it suggests that the use of mass self-communication platforms (e.g. Facebook, forums & Twitter) enables smaller campaigns to wield surprising influence.

The BLEC operated on a national level with two professional and ideologically unified organisations, placing it at odds with massive transnational and ideologically diverse networks like ICBL. The absence of autonomous professional organisations working at local levels, as is seen in massive campaigns like the ICBL, means the relative importance of coordination between “hubs” drops significantly. Consequently, the focus shifts from communication between hubs towards an increased emphasis on interactivity and public participation. Interactivity is a core feature of mass self-communication and provides the campaign with legitimacy because of the public’s sense of involvement. This shift towards interactivity and participation enables the BLEC to harness the public’s desire to participate and engage with the issue through mass self-communication platforms.

Self-generation, self-selection, and self-direction are the characteristics of mass self-communication that lead to engagement among the public. The public’s desire to participate and contribute is particularly evident in morally charged issues like animal welfare. Mass self-communication provides the public with avenues, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Google+, with which to express their concern. Networking amongst individuals rather than staffed professional organisations means utilising communities of people who chose to participate out of interest or moral responsibility. Individuals and groups motivated by interest and moral responsibility are extremely active and effective campaigners; they really want to see change rather than a pay check or a promotion. The community run and its active forum in conjunction with the abundance of communities that formed on Facebook exemplify communities of individual participation. It is because the BLEC was only comprised of two organisations, AA and RSPCA, that the BLEC did not harness mass self-communication in the establishment of the network per se but rather in the establishment of support across Australia.

The BLEC encouraged people to participate through mass self-communication tools. These tools include writing letters, simple sharing mechanisms, Facebook profile pictures, virtual protests, video creation, and the dissemination of campaign information among a person’s social network. These tools will be discussed in detail in the following section “Disseminating Information”. Effectively utilising these communities means embracing the changing conceptions of leadership, as different individual motivations behind creating and joining these communities means that people cannot be led in a traditional manner and must instead be encouraged to participate through low cost and ease of access. These attributes are an important part of mass self-communication and the modern information communication environment more generally. Thus, while the majority of the BLEC’s network is devoid of traditional or hierarchal control it witnessed exponential growth in both size and influence. Substantiating this growth is the fact that GetUp, a not-for-profit and independent grass-roots community advocacy organisation, which supported the BLEC, registered its fastest growing petition ever at 248,465 signatures between June 2011 and April 2012 (GetUp! 2011).

Disseminating Information (Raising Awareness & Framing)


The ICBL and its member organisations disseminated information (including: statistics, photos & military reports) through: TV, radio, documentary films, comic books, international conferences, and articles within elite media outlets (Akashi 1996) written by humanitarians (Warkentin & Mingst 2000). As the proliferation of the internet remained in its infancy, the campaign understandably focused on traditional media sources. This included the famous image of Diana wearing a protective vest and mask in January 1997 when she was taken to Angola and other mine affected areas as a guest of British NGOs who were clearing landmines in the region. This garnered a great deal of attention, especially in Britain, for movement to ban landmines.

This use of Diana and traditional media in combination with the clear formulation of the norm and its universal characteristics (bodily harm against vulnerable civilians) were critical in attracting media attention/global support and attest to strong resources of ICBL that are not commonly available to individuals and smaller campaigns. In essence the ICBL’s goal was to disseminate information and illustrate the severity of the crisis. The primary catalyst for normative change is often informing people of the issue’s severity and that the issue warrants the moniker “crisis”.


After AA documented the cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs the footage could have just been given to government authorities. They instead opted to give it to the media for use in the ABC program Four Corners “A Bloody Business” and form the BLEC. The FAQ on offers insight into this decision. The need to engage with the public directly in order to successfully pressure the government is well understood by the BLEC: “The RSPCA’s and Animals Australia’s experience is that only when the public are made aware of the cruel treatment of Australian exported animals via the media, does the government take notice” (Ban Live Export 2011c).

Disseminating information in an environment characterised by low cost access and strict personalised control remains contingent upon possessing credibility, relinquishing aspects of control, and formulating a clear and concise message. The BLEC was no exception and possessed all four Cs (control, credibility, clear and concise). Nevertheless, my analysis will largely focus on the campaign’s role in maintaining public interest and making effective use of existing awareness.

This analytical focus comes from the fact that the award winning Four Corners report ‘A Bloody Business’ that aired on the 30:th of May, 2011 raised substantial awareness. While this initial awareness was critical it does not diminish the central role played by the BLEC. Even ignoring the fact that AA provided the crucial footage to Four Corners, it was the various websites of the BLE member organisations that formed the primary source of information regarding live exports. This claim is evidenced by the immense strain placed on each of the organisation's websites after the airing of the report, causing each website to crash (RSPCA 2011b).

Four Corners can only provide so much information on the problem itself, while the BLEC and its members were able to continue and update the flow of information, raise additional awareness, and push for solutions long after the Four Corner’s report had aired. Four Corners and the BLEC reveal the symbiotic nature of the relationship between traditional and new media. The nature of this relationship means the two are not mutually opposed but rather complementary. Traditional media programs like Four Corners may still hold a greater share of legitimacy but new media and mass self-communication platforms offer dynamic ways to interact with users and distribute information. Capitalising on the symbiotic relationship between mass self-communication and the initial awareness generated by Four Corners required the BLEC to formulate a clear and concise objective; to ban the practice of live exports and upgrade welfare standards. This unambiguous normative formulation enabled the campaign to effectively communicate its succinct message across a broad spectrum of communication platforms. Communicating the clear and concise message of ‘ban live export’ ran alongside the campaign’s focus on interaction and participation. The campaign was able to exploit the public’s propensity for interaction by encouraging people to spread the message across their social network. Simplicity assisted this process.

Nowhere is this simplicity more evident than in sending politicians an email or letter through the campaign’s website (Ban Live Export 2011d). This simplicity resulted in over 100,000 emails and letters being sent to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as early as the 8:th June 2011, just nine days after the airing of the Four Corners program “A Bloody Business” (Ban Live Export 2011e).

Image 1:

Image 2:

This simplicity was also evident in disseminating campaign information throughout a person’s social network. Images 3 and 4 are found in the “Share with Friends” (Ban Live Export 2011f) section of the BLE website and provide the visitor with a simple interface, encouraging participation through a straightforward ‘click and share’ model.

Image 3:

Image 4:

By facilitating simple interaction between people and their friends the BLEC is serving a social function that reciprocally spreads campaign information and awareness. This social process enabled some of the campaign’s videos, particularly “Brian's Story - Indonesian Live Export Investigation” (Animals Australia 2011f), to experience a “viral process of viewing and chain distribution via e-mail” (Powell 2010, 96) and social networking sites. The “viral” process means that people are encouraged to send the video via email, use the share function on the BLE website, or simply post the link to their Facebook profile because of the video’s appealing characteristics. The videoBrian’s story” was available on both YouTube (Animalsaustralia 2011), with 38,509 views by April 20:th 2012, and Vimeo (Animals Australia 2011f), with 218,121 views by April 20:th 2012. The video on Vimeo was actively promoted by both the BLEC’s website (Ban Live Export 2011i) and the organisation GetUp! (2011).

The success of the video (Brian’s story) actively promoted by the BLEC on its website reinforces the centrality of the campaign’s websites amid the video’s chain distribution on social networks. By posting a video to their Facebook “Wall” a person is recommending that video to their “Friends”. Once the video has been shared by a user, it has been legitimised by that person and is presented to the majority of that person’s contacts regardless of political predispositions. It is for this reason that the importance of social network sites (SNS) to the BLEC cannot be overstated. SNSs enable people to become an active link in the distribution of campaign information, empowering them with the ability to spread information that they deem notable throughout their social network. The BLEC’s information was certainly deemed notable, to which the creation of hundreds of Facebook “Pages” devoted to the issue of live exports attest.

Indeed, such was the strength of the campaign’s use of SNS that Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) begun to run workshops around Australia in 2011 “to train farmers and graziers to use social media, to defend their businesses against animal rights campaigns” (Trevaskis 2012). MLA chairman Don Heatley conceded that the MLA was ill prepared in dealing with social media during the BLEC, stating that "Social media drove this issue like you would not believe. We weren't ready.” (Courtney 2011). The impact of SNSs throughout the BLEC owes much to how the issue was framed by the campaign.

The BLEC framed the issue of live exports as cruel, urgent, and humanitarian by personifying the animals with names and stories. The website used names like Brian, Bill, Arthur, and Tommy to humanise the issue and individualise the animal’s “Story”. These named animals and their stories appear on all pages of the BLEC’s website and once the visitor has selected an image by clicking on it they are taken to a page with a video depicting the graphic “Story” of the animal in question. These pages exhibits the similar click and share characteristics used throughout the site.

The way in which the BLEC has framed the issue also helps in overcoming certain characteristics of the live export issue itself, namely that they are campaigning for the protection of animals not people. Scholars have found that there are a relatively small number of issue characteristics that have been particularly successful for NGCs. One of which is “issues involving bodily harm to vulnerable individuals” (Keck & Sikkink 1998, 27). Framing the issue as humanitarian, like the ICBL, seeks to dispel the perception of the animals as faceless and nameless “things” and instead seeks to humanise them as “Brian” or “Tommy”. This perception helps portray the animals used for live exports as “vulnerable individuals”, giving them a sense of individuality and ultimately presenting them as sentient beings that are able to feel pain and suffering.

Surviving in an environment characterised by a scarcity of attention is often dependent on the use of dramatic language and strong visual imagery that elevate the urgency of the issue and help create a sense of crisis. The swift suspension of live exports by the Gillard government on the 8:th of June, 2011 just 9 days after the story broke on Four Corners, owes much to the public perception that the issue was in need of immediate attention. The BLEC like the “case of AP land mines confirms the often argued thesis among international relations scholars that the perception of a crisis or shock is a crucial factor in precipitating ideational or normative change ” (Price 1998a, 622). In generating this perception of urgency the BLEC used dramatic language in website URLs,, and in their sample tweets available on the website (Ban Live Export 2011f).

Furthermore, the campaign’s “Judgement” (Ban Live Export 2011j) page (Image 5) is an effective combination of dramatic language and strong visual imagery in an effort to oppose restraint boxes. The page displays a graphic video and asks the visitor to assign the amount of time they need to deem the video ‘cruel’. The time is shown on a sliding graph below the video and ranges from one second to six months. Image 5 shows strong visual imagery, dramatic language, user interaction, and simple sharing tools. The Judgement page effectively uses mass self-communication by encouraging participation, attracting attention through strong visual imagery and language, and enabling simple sharing amongst the user’s social network.

Image 5:

Capturing the public’s attention through strong imagery and language on mass self-communication platforms not only helped create a sense of crisis and urgency, but also helped move the issue to the top of the government’s agenda. The effects of which can be seen in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s statements:

There were truly shocking images here, images of incredibly gross cruelty, and those images have shocked our nation and people rightly. (Office of the Prime Minister 2011).

Indeed, the use of disturbing images can almost be seen as mandatory in a visually saturated and attention scarce environment. However, even images as provocative and powerful as the ones used by the BLEC can falter as a consequence of credibility. The current information communication environment links the credibility of information with its source. In other words, the information’s credibility is estimated according to the credibility of the person or organisation that delivers it. This is a by-product of social media and the overwhelming amount of content and information that now confronts people.

Information has become a social process filtered by a person’s contacts. It is then fitting for campaigns to empower a person’s most trusted social allies, their friends and contacts, to spread information on their behalf. In facilitating the social dissemination of their information the BLEC incorporated social elements in their website and emphasised the use of SNSs like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Vimeo. The campaign’s emphasis on simplicity and the “social” runs alongside their high credibility (RSPCA and AA are both highly respect animal welfare organisations), their formulation of a clear and concise message, and their willingness to relinquish control over the form and continued dissemination of the information once it is in the hands of the network.

The BLEC saw the public as instrumental in the dissemination of information. The BLEC’s strong emphasis on social engagement and interaction in the process of information dissemination made the public instrumental to its success. Shifting the once passive role of the public in the dissemination of campaign information to that of an active role represents a profound change to campaigning in the era of mass self-communication.

Normative Grafting


AP landmines had long been the sole province of state security discourse and were framed around the long enduring norm of state sovereignty. AP landmines were seen as “a part of the war machine that served to preserve the state from its enemies” (Larrinaga & Sjolander 1998, 370). Therefore, the challenge for the ICBL was to generate counter-attitudinal messages and then frame them in a way that resonates with the target’s cultural context and any applicable pre-existing norms. Due to the indiscriminate nature of AP landmines they were framed as a weapon that cannot differentiate between civilian and combatant. Thereby linking the issue with a cornerstone principal of humanitarian law; the protection of civilians (Goodman & Jinks 2004).

As well as framing the issue in terms of humanitarian law, delegitimizing AP landmines—a long considered “conventional” weapon— required the new norm promoted by the ICBL to resonate with a pre-established norm. As success “hinged crucially on the grafting of moral opprobrium from other delegitimized practices of warfare” (Price 1998a, 628). Discrimination (or non-combatant immunity) was the normative framework targeted by proponents of the landmine ban. The protection of civilians in times of war (the norm of discrimination or unnecessary civilian suffering) is well established within humanitarian law. The indiscriminate nature of the AP landmine renders it particularly susceptible to association with other weapons that cause mass suffering and cannot determine civilian from combatant. A principal example of which is chemical weapons.

This association was invoked through repeated reference to other banned weapons in the IBCL’s dissemination of information through traditional media sources. A notable example was Kofi Annan in his speech at the Diplomatic Conference on Landmines, stating: “Now we must bring to the struggle against land-mines the same determination and the same sense of mission that brought an end to chemical weapons. We must make land-mines, too, a weapon of the past and a symbol of shame” (Annan 3 September 1997).


On the 14th of August, 2011 the BLEC was able to translate online interest into real world action when some 20,000 people took to the streets to protest live exports (Animals Australia 2011h; RSPCA 2012). Mobilising offline action is an impressive achievement when the task of joining or supporting a modern campaign has been rendered menial and its supporters have been characterised as fleeting and momentary (Bennett 2003; Tarrow & McAdam 2005). The principal catalyst for this offline action was the BLEC’s strong claim of adjacency (or normative graft) to animal cruelty. This catalyst was also one of the campaign’s strongest attributes.

Normative grafting describes a tactic employed by norm entrepreneurs, such as the BLEC, “to institutionalize a new norm by associating it with a pre-existing norm in the same issue area, which makes a similar prohibition or injunction” (Acharya 2004, 244). Consider the prospective success of the ban live export issue if it had been campaigned under the banner of ‘inferior meat quality due to stressful slaughter’ as opposed to the morally charged banner of ‘animal cruelty’. This consideration begs two questions. First, what is importance of the live export issue’s association with animal cruelty? Second, how did the BLEC achieve this association?

Animal cruelty is a particularly powerful and provocative element of the well-established animal welfare norm and any act of animal cruelty is confronted by an increasing lack of tolerance from the Australian people. The Australian public’s distaste for animal cruelty has seen all aspects of animal welfare, especially the slaughter of animals, come under scrutiny. This scrutiny comes with Australia’s already relatively harsh penalties for animal cruelty, ranging from one to five years in prison. The Australian public’s revulsion towards animal cruelty made grafting the prospective BLEC norm to animal cruelty particularly powerful. In other words, any effort to delegitimize live exports required the grafting of moral opprobrium from other acts of animal cruelty.

Successfully grafting the norm meant overcoming the difficulties of maintaining a coherent and consistent message in a volatile and often unpredictable information communication environment. Developing a clear and concise message is important in this regard as they are: (1) difficult to misinterpret, (2) easy to understand, (3) able to retain remnants of their core meaning as they pass through various recipients and disseminators, (4) easily disseminated and suit the 140 character environment of SNSs, and (5) able to convey strong meaning in limited words. Clear and concise message serve modern campaigns nicely in an attention scarce environment characterised by limited attention and a broad spectrum of messages and content.

“Ban Live Export”, “Cruel, immoral, indefensible” (Animals Australia 2011i), “Urge government to ban the cruel live export trade” (Animals Australia 2012), and example Tweets like “MLA calls Arthur's treatment 'best practice'. I call it cruelty.” (Ban Live Export 2011f) are all clear and concise messages disseminated by the BLEC that make an association with animal cruelty. It is in the dissemination of these messages that the many avenues afforded to campaigns by mass self-communication come to be indispensable. Flooding the public domain with clear and concise messages increases the public’s exposure to the campaign both as result of the messages’ direct dissemination to individuals and the public’s ability to then share messages throughout social networks. This along with clear and concise messages, strong visual imagery and graphic video footage via social media and BLEC websites all assisted in the creation of a public association between live exports and animal cruelty.



The ICBL’s capacity to shame increased exponentially as more and more states “tipped” towards the ban. States that had not yet agreed to the treaty become subject “to a normative process of shaming, and relegation to an out group, which they often resent” (Risse & Sikkink 1999, 27). The state’s relegation to an ‘out group’ is usually sufficiently disturbing to the state’s international image and or domestic legitimacy to warrant a concession to the agreement (Risse & Sikkink 1999). The ICBL used the cascade of state adoption to shame nations that had not yet agreed to the ban, making “it intolerable to be left outside the club of responsible international citizens once they judged that the balance had tipped such that resistance signalled outlier status” (Price 1998a, 635). Despite the risk of being singled out the US did not become a signatory to the treaty, making it a primary target for the shaming efforts of the ICBL. The shaming of the US not only centred on its decision to remain a treaty holdout but how this decision ran contrary to the US’s previous rhetorical support for the notion of a ban.

The ICBL capitalised on this by publically condemning the leadership of the US, with Jodie Williams stating on the CNN (CNN October 10, 1997): "Clinton just missed an opportunity to be a true world leader on this issue. You cannot be outside the Ottawa Process which has just negotiated a ban treaty and still call yourself a leader. You're either in the process or you're not. You can't lead from the rear" (Wexler 2003, 575). The ICBL also shamed the US by likening them to other treaty holdouts, like Iran, Iraq, and China. This technique was aimed at damaging the legitimacy of the U.S. by categorising it as a rogue state with weak humanitarian values. By 1997 the U.S. had agreed to make numerous concessions, regarding production and use, and appeared willing to accept the ban once it had developed alternatives, although as of 2014 the U.S. has still not joined the ban treaty.


For BLEC it was the delegitimisation of live exports following its normative association with animal cruelty increased the effectiveness of shaming. In other words, the period of time following a new normative graft is the optimal time in which to shame opposition, as newly deemed “perpetrators” find themselves in the precarious position of continuing to engage in an act that is now considered deplorable by normative association. BLEC was quick to capitalise on this new association through the dissemination of damning facts and figures via factsheets (Ban Live Export 2011c) on its website and SNSs. In addition, the campaign used traditional media such as television (Ban Live Export 2011k) and radio (Ban Live Export 2011m) advertisements to shame opposition.

But perhaps the campaign’s most deliberate shaming effort is the video “Industry Spin” (Ban Live Export 2011n) on the BLE website. The video features footage and audio from a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) promotional video. The majority of the video (2011n) features audio from MLA stating that they are “setting the benchmark for animal welfare” while the footage from the AA’s 2011 Indonesian investigation is being played to contradict the MLA audio. It is a powerful video that shames and condemns the industry by drawing attention to the negative aspects of their actions. In a continued theme all videos available on the website, including the television and radio advertisement, are easily shared and disseminated via SNSs. While sharing campaign content is important this is by no means the extent of the public’s participation in the shaming of the live export industry. Rather their involvement goes far beyond being an active link in the dissemination of campaign created material to the self-creation and self-dissemination of content.

The enhanced capacity for individuals to shame perpetrators through mass self-communication saw the creation of community based websites like and its active forum (Live Export Shame 2011). The campaign also spawned numerous videos on YouTube (Edgarsmission 2011; GranAmor2011 2011), some inspired by the campaign’s “Virtual Protest” (Ban Live Export 2011h) and others (KasliShelley 2011) in the absence of direct encouragement, as well as hundreds of Facebook “Pages”:created to spread awareness and shame the live export industry. Shaming live exports was not only socially sanctioned but socially encouraged, as the individual’s participation in the public discrediting of live exports places the individual in an “in” group with likeminded friends. This is especially prevalent on SNSs, like Facebook, in which the individual can publically support the campaign while simultaneously condemning the practices of the live export industry. This takes place through the sharing of videos and the “Liking/Sharing” of supportive content posted on Facebook by friends or the campaign itself.

Reversing the Burden of Proof


The ICBL was cautious in simply condemning the military utility of AP landmines and risk being portrayed as a utopian advocacy group that were seeking world disarmament. Instead, the ICBL sought legitimate and empirically grounded military reports in order to illustrate that the AP landmine’s military utility did not outweigh its humanitarian cost. The report “Military Use and Effectiveness of Anti-personnel Mines” (ICRC 1996) written by a retired member of the British Army examined the actual military utility of AP landmines employed in conflicts since 1940. The report found no cases “in which the use of anti-personnel mines played a major role in determining the outcome of a conflict” (ICRC 1996, 7).

The report’s conclusions “were drawn up by a meeting of active and retired senior military commanders from a variety of countries and were unanimously endorsed by all participants in their personal capacity” (ICRC 1996, 8). These conclusions were widely disseminated by the ICBL. Once the issue had achieved legitimate military backing the campaign had opened a “legitimized political space for entrepreneurs to shift the burden of proof from mine opponents to mine proponents, who in the new context must make the case that AP land mines are not only marginally useful but also irreplaceable or even decisive” (Price 1998a, 633). Legitimising anti-mine rhetoric opened a space for ban proponents to question the mines military utility and ultimately shift justification from “what previously required no justification: the assumption that mines have military utility and thus pass the test of military necessity” (Price 1998a). One of the ICBL’s greatest assets in the debate against the mine’s military utility was the inherent simplicity of their argument; AP mines are unable to discriminate between civilian and combatant.


Similar to processes of normative grafting and shaming, in which a previously acceptable act now carries shame as a result of association, reversing the burden of proof helps instigate a “shift” in which opponents of the norm are now placed on the defensive and claims against its validity are pushed to the margins. The BLEC was able to shift the burden of proof to an industry that has operated with near impunity over the past decade and in the process has exported more than 4.6 million live cattle to Indonesia with little or no ill repute.

This shift owes much to the graphic footage of animal cruelty revealed on the Four Corners report “A Bloody Business”. Exposing the industry’s dubious practices opened a legitimate space for the BLEC to shift the burden of proof to the live export industry, who in the new context must now prove that live exports are not only important but warrant such cruelty. The ensuing public outcry and government suspension unequivocally implied that the industry’s value did not outweigh the animal cruelty seen in the footage. As a result the industry must now guarantee the supply chain treats animals humanely all the way up to the point of slaughter. Exporters must now track their animals and show they are slaughtered in independently audited and approved Indonesian abattoirs (Scott 2011). While Four Corners was critical in forcing the industry to implement these changes it does not detract from self-created content disseminated via open platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The content disseminated through these means was important in sustaining awareness of the issue and satisfying the public’s desire for additional information.


The core difference between the ICBL and the BLEC, and by extension their respective media environments, is the instrumental role the public now plays in modern campaigning. Success has always required public engagement and the ICBL was no exception, with mass participation in protests and rallies. For the ICBL, public participation came principally at the request of the ICBL itself or at that of one of its member organisations. When called upon the public were used to strengthen the technique rather than to actually execute it. The ICBL’s use of traditional media to disseminate information means that information was disseminated to the public irrespective of their participation. In other words, placing an advertisement in an elite newspaper or on a popular television station sees the information disseminated to the public without their participation per se. The campaign’s information is disseminated to the public inadvertently by virtue of people watching their favourite television program or buying their favourite newspaper. On the other hand, if a campaign posts information to their website or to a SNS they require the public to share the information (e.g. “Liking” or “Favouriting”) for it to have any substantial reach.

The ICBL’s efforts to shame treaty holdouts through television appearances, graft landmines to chemical weapons through conference presentations, reverse the burden of proof through military reports or raise awareness and frame landmines as indiscriminate through International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) advertising campaigns, all occur irrespective of public participation. Instead, public participation in terms of people telling their friends about the campaign or at the very least seeing the advertisements serves to strengthen the technique but is not essential in actually executing it. Indeed, the ICBL’s massive network of NGOs and professional organisation’s attest to the campaign’s need to have thousands of autonomous centres of control that can organise and coordinate public activities. In contrast mass self-communication sees the public become instrumental in actually executing the techniques.

While the BLE campaign’s relationship with traditional media, like Four Corners, is certainly symbiotic, the campaign’s use of new media sees public participation as instrumental in actually executing the five techniques. Mass self-communication means the public is able to participate whenever and however they want as opposed to being called upon by the campaign. Campaigns going forward must understand this change and seek to seize it as opportunity rather than an impediment. In addition to relinquishing control, holding credibility and maintaining a clear and concise message, campaigns should provide the public with tools and direction through fan website construction packs, visually striking images, and quality videos to name but a few.

For the BLE campaign, information dissemination beyond the Four Corner’s report would never have achieved the necessary reach if people did not actively share the video on their respective social network. If the public does not share the information it is not disseminated. The public’s instrumental role in the dissemination of information can be seen in the BLE campaign’s focus on serving a social function by facilitating interaction while people reciprocally spread campaign information. Framing the issue as humanitarian through the personification of animals in videos, on the website, and through “suggested” tweets requires the public to participate and share this information or the frame has limited reach. Establishing a network of two core organisations only becomes viable through mass self-communication, as autonomous publics are able to independently raise awareness, share information and create content for the benefit of the campaign. People who chose to participate out of interest or moral responsibility are actively seeking and are motivated by the desire to see change. Shifting the once passive role of the public in world society campaigning to that of an active and essential role represents a profound change in the era of mass self-communication.

A consequence of this change is an increasing interdependence between campaigns and public participation. It can be difficult to achieve the goals of one’s campaign if the public does not feel the campaign merits its participation or its content merits sharing on social networks. For the ICBL this reliance on the public was largely circumnavigated through advertising on traditional media and celebrity endorsement


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About the Author

Maarten Rikken, PhD, was a lecturer/tutor in the Media Discipline at the University of Adelaide, Australia. He moved to Europe in 2013 to work with the Institute of Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) in The Hague and currently studies German in Berlin. His main areas of research include new communication platforms and non-governmental campaigns.

Author’s address

Maarten Rikken
(c/o Kley, Wienke, Gröning)
Neue Schönhauser Strasse 18
10178 Berlin

[1] To offer a comparison, in 2009 internet users as a percentage of population stood at 72%, 78.1%, and 83.2% for Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom respectively.