Nicolas Harvey
PhD student, Institut d'etudes politiques,
Rennes, France

Alternative Mass Media and Worldwide Mobilization: The difficult Crusade of Le Monde Diplomatique against Neoliberalism

The conceptualization of alternative media is not easy to make.  Most authors will give a negative definition of alternative media and will insist on the differences between mass and alternative media.  The distinctions can be made by the radicalism of the media's  opinions, by the opposition against mainstream beliefs or by the originality of the content.   Using only these three distinctions, it would be possible to imagine alternative mass media, e.g. an alternative newspaper with an important worldwide circulation.

My proposition is to study Le Monde diplomatique  created in 1954, which is one of the most important anti-capitalist newspapers around the world.  This newspaper is translated in 21 languages and has a total circulation of near 2 millions paper copies.  It also has the particularity to include articles written by external contributors from all around the world.

Following the big strikes that occurred in France in 1995, the Newspaper decided to jump in activism and gained importance in the creation of the World Social Forum.  Some of the journalists also became leaders of anti-globalization organizations.  Le Monde diplomatique has also  had a radical editorial line since the middle of the 1970's.  Furthermore, the newspaper adopted a Third-World position along with a critical view of the Occidental Bloc during the Cold War. 

Paradoxically, Le Monde diplomatique is an anti-capitalist capitalistic company who is subject to the laws of the free market.  The newspaper has to include publicities for guaranteed sufficient income.  Of course, having recourse to publicity will divide the editorial staff as well as readership on the question of ethics.  Another ethical problem that divides the editorial staff is its implication in the social movement.  Some journalists would like to keep the prestige of a reference newspaper and avoid conflicts of interests.

In other words, we can affirm that this newspaper is not a clear-cut position between alternative and mass media.  This ambiguous situation can create difficulties inherent to two different logical systems.  This research is mainly based on approximately forty semi-structured interviews and on direct observation during a period of 6 weeks. 


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