Whose side are we on?
Viewers’ reactions to the use of irony in news interviews
This research seeks to identify and analyze the reaction to irony in Israeli political news interviews, in view of the specific nature of this genre, which has been known to allow a certain level of adversarialness (Liebes et al. 2008; Blum-Kulka 1983; Weizman 2008; Clayman &Heritage 2002a and 2002b). Our intention was to examine whether the audience regards the use of irony as over-aggressive, and whether they believe interviewees regard it as such, in order to shed light on the potential consequences the use of indirect discourse patterns has for the interviewer. Based on Goffman’s (1981) notion of footing, and on the concept of positioning as defined by Weizman (2008: 16), we focused on the audience’s capacity to grasp the positioning and repositioning in the interaction as a possible influential factor in their reaction to the employment of irony. The research is based on two conceptual paradigms: Media studies and pragmatic studies of irony. The findings indicate that Israeli audiences tend to regard interviewers’ employment of irony in political interviews as slightly hostile, and as such it is viewed as a possible threat to interviewees’ face (Goffman 1967), but also as a legitimate and comprehensible tool, especially when the irony is accompanied by humor or mitigating non-verbal signs. Hence, the risk for the interviewer is not as great as we assumed. Accordingly, viewers also tended to judge interviewees’ conception of the employment of irony as only slightly adversarial, perhaps because they have assumed the interviewees’ attitude towards the interaction, identified with them and chosen their side.
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