Resistance up in smoke: Analyzing the limitations of deliberation on youtube

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67 Scopus citations


In September of 2006, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) appeared on the popular video website, YouTube, posting eight of its television commercials. YouTube members responded with a variety of video posts and comments that challenged both the content and structure of the message offered by the ONDCP. Using this controversy as a focal point, this essay is a dual analysis of the discursive content and structural features of YouTube. The response from the YouTube community is characterized in terms of vernacular and outlaw discourse, following Sloop and Ono (1997). Through strategies of re-posting and parodying the original videos and discussions on comment boards between members, select YouTubers dispute the logic of prohibition in America's war on drugs, resisting the ONDCP message. However, the structural limitations of the medium of YouTube and the overwhelming use of YouTube for entertainment diminish the response. Ultimately, YouTube's dismissive and playful atmosphere does not prove to be a viable location for democratic deliberation about serious political issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-434
Number of pages24
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Deliberation
  • Democracy
  • Vernacular discourse
  • War on drugs
  • YouTube

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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