Net Neutrality| Wonkish Populism in Media Advocacy and Net Neutrality Policy Making

Danny Kimball


This article identifies a discursive tactic in media policy advocacy it calls wonkish populism and describes some of its features and operations as evident in the net neutrality debates. Wonkish populism is an advocacy technique that entails public participation in arcane regulatory procedures, with rhetoric antagonistic to establishment structures but steeped in policy minutia. Media policy advocates have used wonkish populism to stimulate mass participation in bureaucratic processes like rulemaking proceedings with language and practices that connect collective opposition to concentrated power with regulatory specificity that gains traction in the policy sphere. This article critically examines the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet policy-making process to illustrate wonkish populism in net neutrality advocates’ linkage of the terms and processes of policy insiders with the values and actions of political outsiders.


Federal Communications Commission, media advocacy, media policy, net neutrality, populism

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