The aesthetics of pity. Italian media representation of migrants and emotional audience
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Public debates on migration oscillate between two conflicting claims: on the one hand, compassion and protection, on the other hand, rejection and fear. Both representations are more focused on emotional reactions (Castells, 2009) than rational reflections (Habermas, 1962, 1992, 1996a,1996b, 1999). The media hyper-simplification concurs to a social representation of migration that is currently distorting real-life experiences to such an extent that the spectacularization of migrants brings about problems in terms of their negative self-representations. Furthermore, information about migrants reported by media is usually decontextualized (Marletti, 1995; Faso, 2008; Ghirelli, 2005; Maneri, 2001; Musarò, Parmiggiani, 2014), worsening this state of affairs. Media do not encourage the audience to give evaluations about specific topics, thus framing an agenda of issues to reflect on, so that the presentation of a topic does not cause prejudice or influence a course of action, but favour its contextualization (Shaw, 1979). Consequently, the complex phenomenon of migration is concealed in many degrees and ways by the Italian media system. Starting from this assumption, we argue that these kinds of representation do not allow the audience to understand the complexity of the question, indeed feeding populism and influencing European and national policies to manage migration. In particular, emotional representations conceal the central issue of the potential breaking of fundamental rights claimed in the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights (Ambrosini, 2015).