Divide to Conquer

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” – Seth Godin

Linguistically, tribes are defined as, a group of people, often related, who live together, sharing the same language, culture, and history, or informally, as a large family or other group that people belong to (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tribe). Here, we consider the latter definition to be more relevant to contemporary, and arguably more negative connotations of the term. The linking of people due to religious affiliation or race, however, falls directly into the former definition. Both definitions are therefore needed to fully understand the way we perceive tribal connection in contemporary culture.

In the 2008 paper, ‘Bad News For Refugees, it is argued that common misconceptions perpetuated by the media around refugees and migrant workers create a sense of “moral panic” (Majavu) and that “media coverage of such issues in the United Kingdom corresponds to public fears and anxieties which are themselves featured in and also generated by the popular press and other media.” (Majavu) This media constructed creation and subsequent manipulation of a group of individuals connected by nationalist ideals may be driven by perpetuation of suspicious attitudes towards outsiders. A suspicion of outsiders alongside a yearning for community can be the connecting factor and the impetus for the formation of groups which engender specific, often far-right ideologies (Blee). The combination of a sense of lack of community combined with false media constructs, could in turn be creating a feeling of “us” versus “them”, which serves only to further divide people on the “tribal” basis of race and religion, and could be pushing people towards more extreme political affiliations in the search for a tribe.

This raises important questions about the responsibility, motivation, financial impetus and objectivity of the press. If public perception can be so easily swayed, then the uncomfortable question of how “free” the media actually is simply cannot be ignored.


Blee, Kathleen M., ‘Ethnographies of the Far Right’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 36 (2007), 119–28 <https://doi.org/10.1177/0891241606298815>

Majavu, Mandisi. “Bad News For Refugees. By Greg Philo, Emma Briant and Pauline Donald.” Journal of Refugee Studies 27.2 (2014): 309–310. jrs.oxfordjournals.org. Web.

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