Few studies focus on the MOVE Organization (MOVE), let alone its presences in popular media during the years prior to the MOVE-Philadelphia Conflict (1978-1985), or pre-Conflict. To date, most information about MOVE derives from Conflict research which utilizes archival materials from the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (MOVE Commission) hearings. Generations of dominant representations about MOVE and its members, consequently, are mainly constructed by popular media from the MOVE Commission hearings, including video broadcasts of the proceeding. Using a Conflict documentary, I highlight concerns scholars face when heavily using archival materials from MOVE Commission hearings: (a) Archival materials from MOVE Commission hearings lack active MOVE members' voices and (b) Archival materials from MOVE Commission hearings include limited pre-Conflict information about MOVE members. Influenced by Kimberly Sanders and Judson Jeffries' (2013) work about the 1985 bombing newspaper reports' favorability, this project explores pre-Conflict popular media representations of MOVE to understand how the collective first got represented to Philadelphians and the ways which MOVE used popular media to respond to these dominant portrayals.
This mix-methods project utilizes 67-piece dataset materials of various popular media texts by MOVE members and non-MOVE members. It focuses on 48 Philadelphia Tribune newspaper entries as its main text dataset, with an emphasis on the 1975 "On the MOVE" editorial column space. This investigation employs a combination of Black feminist and critical discourse analysis (CDA) methods, with Sanders and Jeffries' (2013) favorability categorizations process, to explore the racialized, gendered, and classed aspects pre-Conflict representations of MOVE.
Quantitative findings suggest that MOVE got generally represented in favorable manners during the pre-Conflict years, with over 50 percent of pre-Conflict texts about MOVE portraying the collective in positive tones. Additionally, qualitative findings propose that MOVE members' authorship and presence in pre-Conflict texts within the Philadelphia Tribune functioned as a site of resistance against dominant portrayal of the collective. CDA findings propose that MOVE's racial attribute, beliefs, and culture, specifically related to self-determination, were central discussions within most pre-Conflict by MOVE members. Unlike Sanders and Jeffries (2013), this project concludes that overall pre-Conflict popular media depictions portrayed MOVE as a positive Philadelphia collective.