Actually, there is no scandal, or the « Affaire Pechiney » as apprehended by the press
Camille HAMIDI

pp. 91-121


This article studies how the written press handled the Affaire Pechiney, an insider trading scandal involving high-level state functionaries/businessmen with close ties to the state that broke during François Mitterrand’s second term as President. The affair marked a turning point in public handling of white-collar crime, long tolerated but on this occasion severely sanctioned. A pragmatic sociology approach to scandal is adopted, focusing on how the media contributed to the scandalization process. A statistical study of a large body of press material published from 1988 to 1993, conducted using the Alceste computer program, reveals a process in which the accusation was gradually diluted and the grounds for the scandal shifted : at the beginning of the affair, the press repeatedly denounced collusion between the political and financial worlds, but over time these accusations vanished, replaced by initially timid denunciation of tax havens. Comparative study of how the affair was handled at different periods and in different newspapers allows for better understanding media construction of scandals and justifies making hypotheses for interpreting the recurrent observation that scandals follow a gradual disintegration process.



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