The Great Awokening as a Global Phenomenon
The striking synchronicity with which Great Awokening terminology increased in news media worldwide
I have documented previously a post-2010 sharp increase of words used to denounce prejudice (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, etc) in US and UK news media content. Some have referred to these trends and related shifts in US public opinion about increasing perceptions of prejudice severity in society as the Great Awokening or wokeness.
In a recent Preprint, I extend previous analyses to the global media environment. To do so, I quantify the prevalence of prejudice-denouncing terms and social justice associated terminology (diversity, inclusion, equality, etc) in over 98 million news and opinion articles across 124 popular news media outlets from 36 countries representing 6 different world regions: English-speaking West, continental Europe, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Persian Gulf region and Asia.
Summary of results
Results show that increasing prominence in news media of so-called Great Awokening terminology is a global phenomenon starting early post-2010 in pioneering countries yet mostly worldwide ubiquitous post-2015. Note that the frequency of each prejudice-denoting term in the figure below has been normalized using min-max feature scaling to the range 0-1. This is done to neutralize differences in frequency ranges for different terms and thus obtain an overall estimate of when the aggregate set of terms signifying prejudice is being used, on average, at minimum, medium and maximum prevalence.
The previous figure aggregates all prejudice signifying terms into a single metric, thereby obscuring prejudice-specific dynamics globally as well as prevalence of prejudice-specific themes by country. To study prejudice-specific dynamics worldwide the next Figure shows the average global relative frequency across the different prejudice signifying terms studied. All terms display, on average, a global increase in prominence since at least 2010.
Different world regions and countries emphasize distinct types of prejudice with varying degrees of intensity. News media from Western countries, some gulf region countries and South Africa display the heaviest usages of ethnic prejudice denouncing terminology .
Gender prejudice is most prominent in Western countries as well as Latin America. The topic of gender prejudice is particularly salient in Spanish news media, with a prevalence that almost triples in size the prominence of this topic in any other country.
The topics of sexual orientation and gender identity are most prominent in Western countries and Latin American. The topic of islamophobia is most prominent in Gulf region countries, including Israel.
The United States news media uses references to prejudice above the worldwide average, but it is not always the heaviest user of prejudice-denouncing terminology among its Western peers.
To assess the temporal dynamics of how the increasing prevalence of prejudice-signifying terminology has come about in different world regions, the next figure shows the average min-max scaled frequencies of our sample prejudice-denoting terms in the six different world regions studied. The trend appears mostly moderately in sync across all of them. Plotting some of the countries that appear to peak first in their usage of prejudice signifying terminology plus the United States, shows that American news media, on average, was not a pioneer in the increasing deployment of references to terms that signify prejudice and that other countries such as Sweden, Canada or Australia began to increase the deployment of prejudice denouncing terminology earlier than news media from the United States. Similarly, when plotting some international news media outlets and the newspaper of record in the United States, the New York Times, we can also observe that the New York Times was not a pioneer in the increasing usage of prejudice signifying terminology.
Looking at prejudice-specific topics, we obtain additional evidence that the abrupt rise in the usage of prejudice specific terminology did not begin in the the United States.
Replicating the min-max scaled analysis of prejudice signifying terminology with an additional set of terms often associated with social justice discourse and positive connotations such as diversity, inclusion or fairness, see green trend in Figure below, shows that terms often associated with social justice discourse also display a marked increase in prevalence post-2010. Furthermore, their dynamics are highly correlated with the previously studied prejudice-denouncing terms in most of the studied countries (see the large Pearson correlation coefficient, r, between both time series).
The previous analysis presents a picture of global news media increasing usage of prejudice denouncing terminology and social justice discourse. However, are all countries using these lexicons for the same purpose or with the same intention? A preliminary qualitative analysis of Russia’s, Iran’s and China’s state media such as RT, Sputnik News, Tehran Times, Islamic Republic News Agency, People’s Daily or China Daily suggests that this is not the case. While in Western news media, most mentions of prejudice occur in a context of denouncing prejudice, mostly within Western nations, mentions of terms signifying prejudice in adversarial countries of the West are almost never used introspectively to denounce prejudice within their frontiers but rather they are used to criticize (or mock, in the case of some Russian state-controlled media) alleged prejudice in the West.
The strong association in news media content between prejudice signifying words and social justice terminology with positive connotations suggests that they are related to the same underlying phenomena. Yet their very different emotional valence (extremely negative in the case of prejudice signifying words and markedly positive in the case of positive social justice rhetoric) suggests the multifaceted nature of the so-called Great Awokening.
Future research should try to elucidate the causal factors responsible for the global massive increase in news media usage of terminology that references prejudice. Despite the potential for a multitude of causes driving the trend, the synchronicity of the phenomena worldwide is noteworthy and deserving of future investigation.
There has been some valid comments mentioning that min-max scaling can overstate mild trends. Hence, I plot next relative frequencies for comparisons of baseline rates and slopes across countries and prejudice types.
Sexual orientation prejudice:
Gender identity prejudice:
Antisemitism (probably the most heterogeneous trends of all prejudice types)