The Eyewitness Texture of Conflict: Contributions of Amateur Videos in News Coverage of the Arab Spring
Michael Lithgow & Michèle Martin | PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: Our paper uses the events of the Arab Spring to examine amateur videos as a discourse of conflict produced by untrained and unpaid individuals, often at great personal risk, and which is taken up by, and incorporated into, news outcomes by professional news networks. The different semiotic elements comprising amateur images used in news coverage create what we call an “eyewitness texture” that reflects not only the generally low quality technologies in use and non-professional camera skills, but the sensibilities of a public desire for proximity and immediacy, which is sometimes utilised by news organisations as a means to authenticate their coverage with affective and narrative features.
The corpus of our study includes the amateur footage used in news coverage of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya during the first 100 days of the Arab Spring uprisings (December 17th 2010 to March 31st 2011) by France 24 and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Our paper uses a multi-pronged discourse analysis to reveal a range of priorities at work in the selection and use of amateur images. We notice that the inclusion of the eyewitness textures of amateur produced images in some cases implied meanings that tied news narratives to larger and largely ideological forms of discursive significance.
“Germany’s Victory over Brazil was like the Blitzkrieg”: The Sport-Politics Nexus in Israel During the 2014 World Cup
Tal Samuel-Azran, Yair Galily, Amit Lavie-Dinur & Yuval Karniel | PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: Various voices assert that the sport-politics nexus that characterized international sport events during the Cold War era is irrelevant in the current age of globalization. This study examines the validity of this argument via a case study of Jewish-Israelis’ fandom tendencies during the 2014 World Cup. A survey conducted during the World Cup games among a representative sample of the Jewish-Israeli population revealed that the Dutch team, whose popularity in Israel has been attributed to the Netherland’s perceived support of Jews during the Holocaust, was the most supported team. The teams most rooted against were Iran, Germany, and Algeria, indicating the potential role of the Holocaust and contemporary Jewish-Islamic relations on fandom tendencies. To better understand the animosity towards the German team, which is surprising in light of current improved Israel-Germany relations and the strength of the German team, we analyzed user comments on Israel’s main online newspaper following the German team’s glorious 7-1 victory against Brazil. The analysis revealed that 51 of the 287 user comments made direct or indirect references to the Holocaust, further highlighting the centrality of nationalism in contemporary sport fandom.
Investigating Malaise and Mobilization Effects of Media Use on European Identity before and after the Eurozone Crisis
Waqas Ejaz |PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: Research on European integration posits that people support and identify with the European Union (EU) by considering its economic benefits. Thus, it is argued that people’s sense of identity and their degree of political support for the EU can be explained by estimating the economic prosperity it yields. However, the current paper illustrates that in addition to utilitarian factors, media use can also explain political support for the EU. Thus, to examine this relationship between political support and the media, the study uses the political support framework by David Easton along with the theoretical underpinnings of the media malaise and media mobilization effects. The empirical analysis is conducted on the basis of secondary data obtained through Eurobarometer surveys. Furthermore, to test if the economic factors are a strong predictor of political support, the study assumes that the recent Eurozone crisis has caused a sharp decline in political support. Therefore, it investigates the role of different economic factors and media on political support before and after the crisis. The results indicate that consuming information from the television (TV) does not lead to malaise but rather, that it has a mobilization effect. Furthermore, the results reveal that the respondents’ informed-ness and their TV usage for getting information predict political support better than the economic indicators.
Mellor, Noha (2018): Voice of the Muslim Brotherhood. Da’wa, Discourse, and Political Communication. London and New York: Routledge. 240 pages. ISBN 9781138078659.
The current political polarization in Egypt has also its effects on academia. It seems as if everyone feels the need to take sides when interpreting the events in the country, even scholars. Since 2013, the public discussion of issues and topics that are considered sensitive – which is somehow everything related to politics, media, military and culture – has often resulted in heated controversy. The polarization reaches its climax when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood – a movement that had won the first democratic parliamentary and presidential elections after the fall of Mubarak in 2012 and thus governed Egypt for one year before being ousted by a military coup (as some see it) or a new people’s revolution (as others see it) in July 2013. In the aftermath, on the one hand, Western observers often condemned the coup without necessarily praising the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule. On the other hand, secular-oriented Egyptian scholars seemed to be very relieved about the end of what they interpreted as an Islamist threat to the country. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood has provoked scholarship that is often as biased as the Egyptian public opinion about it.
In her recent book, Noha Mellor, a professor of media at the Universities of Bedfordshire and Stockholm and of Egyptian origin, sets out to trace the political discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) since its foundation in 1928 and to analyze its strategic communication tools. Although there had been several attempts to do this before (in German: Richter 2011, in English: Munson 2001, Breuer 2014), this book is indeed the most comprehensive compilation. While the first half of the book provides a conceptual understanding of the MB, its vast network and its media, the latter half is divided into six chronological chapters, such as “1928-1938 Branding the movement” or “1996-2010 Soul-searching stage,” in which she describes in detail the development of the MB’s discourses and communication in the context of specific political circumstances. Thus, the book should provide a valuable source for those who want to know more about the history of the MB’s political communication. However, what limits the validity of the book are its specific ideological perspective and its methodological approach. Mellor relies mostly on secondary literature to reconstruct the development of the MB’s political communication. In her own text, she then tends to reproduce only those parts of the literature that fit into her distinctive perspective of the MB. This somewhat arbitrary selection of topics and arguments supports the impression of a rather biased portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, she also investigates the content of selected MB media, but there is no transparency of why she chose respective articles to take quotes from and not others. Surprisingly, she has not carried out one single interview with a MB member although there would have been plenty of people available to shed light on the developments, in particular in the 1990s and 2000s.
Mellor describes the MB as an “interpretive community” (p. 5) and applies a theoretical social movement-approach that helps to make a distinction between their inward communication to ensure a collective identity and their outward communication to attract followers. She explains that the MB seized political opportunities to build an (international) network that is characterized by a clear hierarchy. Accordingly, political opportunities and available resources shape the discourses employed by the MB. This perspective is typical of the literature investigating the MB in the past decade, such as Wickham, Munson or Richter. Obviously, the MB has from the very beginning succeeded in creating a unique way of communicating through rituals and stories in order to form a collective identity. Mellor’s description is helpful in understanding how internal cohesion was generated. But how did this translate into strategic external communication? Mellor rightly points out that “MB activities cross over several fields (political, religious, social, and even economic)” (p. 7). It is clear that such diverse activities also need an adaptation of discourses and themes by the MB, thus not in every field the same strategies and themes can be applied.
Mellor, however, argues that the MB mainly positioned themselves as fighters against the West or Western influences, thus building a discursive wall against the alleged intruders – and that this discourse was constitutive of all their various activities (p. 210). This actually fails to reflect the heterogeneity of the MB and its adaptability to different circumstances. The author excludes a variety of other narratives that were actually adopted by the MB and helped them become a successful political and social actor in Egypt. In particular in her review of the periods of 1996-2010 and 2011-2013 she excludes several crucial aspects, such as the “Knocking on doors” initiative in which the MB discussed their draft political program with societal opinion leaders in 2007 as well as their attempts to reach out to different kinds of societal groups such as workers or peasants. Very surprisingly, we find not one word about the Rabi’a Massacre in August 2013, in which hundreds of MB members were killed by the military, and likewise none about the extremely important discursive struggle before and after this date.
The selectiveness of what is included and not included in the portrayal of this movement is indeed problematic and thus portrays the MB as resembling the Islamic State or other radical Salafists, which it is definitely not. It thus fails to give credit to the political significance of the MB, in particular to the fact that it at several stages helped to pluralize the political discourse in Egypt – well beyond the religious lines of argumentation.
Those who know how to read this book against the background of the highly polarized opinions about the MB among Egyptians can still find interesting details in Mellor’s interpretation. Those who seek to read a more objective portrayal of the MB’s communicative strategies should look elsewhere.
Jasmina Schmidt | PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: Vor dem Hintergrund des partiellen Versagens journalistischer Medien in der Vermittlung gesellschaftlicher Andersartigkeit sowie der Kommerzialisierung humanitärer Kommunikation fragt dieser Artikel, inwiefern der emergente Trend ‚konstruktiver Journalismus’ zu einer kosmopolitischen Vermittlung fernen Leids in der medialen Berichterstattung beitragen kann. Mit Rückgriff auf die Theoriebildungen Becks und Chouliarakis zum Kosmopolitismus werden in einer konzeptionellen Literatursichtung diverse moralisch-ethische und politisch-kritische Ansprüche an einen normativ-kosmopolitisch gefärbten Journalismus formuliert. Diese werden mit dem Maßstab des konstruktiven Journalismus, sich neben Ursachen, Zusammenhängen und Hintergründen auch schlüssigen Lösungsansätzen für gesellschaftliche Probleme zu widmen, verknüpft. Die Analyse zeigt, dass ein konstruktiv orientierter Journalismus wichtige Impulse für eine Vermittlung fernen Leids im Sinne einer transnationalen Solidarität und Gerechtigkeit geben kann, wenn er sich als Kontinuum des klassischen Journalismus begreift.
Martha Kuhnhenn | PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: In this field report, I give an account of my research trip to the Farmworker Association of Florida in Central Florida near the area of Lake Apopka (U.S.). This non-governmental associ-ation works to empower and improve farmworkers’ living and working conditions. The field trip is embedded in my research on risk communication with a special focus on the risks of herbicides. This issue is closely linked to political, cultural and racial factors. Hence, I argue, risk communication must consider culture as a contextual key factor and should embrace a critical perspective. Such a perspective is culturally appropriate and addresses issues of race and language as well as socio-economic status.
Zu positive Berichterstattung? Die Studie des Kommunikationswissenschaftlers Michael Haller zur „Flüchtlingsberichterstattung“ in deutschen „Leitmedien“
Christine Horz | PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: Der Beitrag stellt eine Replik auf die Studie „Die Flüchtlingskrise in den Medien. Tagesaktueller Journalismus zwischen Meinung und Information“ des Kommunikationswissenschaftlers Michael Haller dar. In Teilen der akademischen Community sowie der post-migrantischen Öffentlichkeit hat die Studie für Aufsehen und Kritik gesorgt. Haller wird vorgeworfen, das Argument rechtsnationaler Kreise übernommen zu haben, die Medien hätten über die Fluchtmigration zu positiv berichtet und sich damit auf die Seite der Eliten gestellt. Der vorliegende Essay ordnet die Studie sowie die Kritik daran anhand vorliegender Befunde der internationalen und transkulturellen Kommunikationswissenschaft ein. Es wird herausgearbeitet, dass eine Kontextualisierung der Studienergebnisse in den bestehenden Forschungskorpus weitgehend unterbleibt. Es kann ein ahistorischer, journalismuskritischer Bias in der o.g. Studie ermittelt werden, welcher der Medienberichterstattung das Ausblenden migrationskritischer Stimmen attestiert, ohne jedoch diese Befunde sauber an die Forschung rückzubinden. Durch die verwendeten Begriffe und Termini wird der Bias verstärkt. Es wird belegt, dass die Studie gravierende konzeptionelle Schwächen aufweist.
Kai Hafez | PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: The current upswing of right-wing populism in the United States and in Europe is a challenge not only for policy makers, but also for journalism theory. If and how to report on right-wing politicians, movements and issues is a delicate question that various strands of theory answer differently. Functionalist systems theory is in favor of large-scale coverage due to the stimulating news values of populist debates, although the precise character of the political integration remains unclear. In contrast, rational democratic deliberation theory is to be interpreted as a complete rebuttal of the irrational character of populism. The argument here would be that we must not allow the media be dominated by irrational debates. At the same time, democratic media theory is all but uniform in dealing with the phenomenon. While traditional rational public sphere theory is clearly anti-populist, paradoxically left-liberal and postmodern public sphere theory, anti-elitist and radically post-modern as it is, can be used as an argument for better representation of marginalized voices, including right-wing populists.
Tal Samuel-Azran | PDF-Fulltext
Abstract: Some scholars argue that following 9/11, Al-Jazeera has promoted an Arab perspective of events in the US by exporting its news materials to the US news market. The study examines the validity of this argument through a review of the literature on the issue during three successive periods of US-Al-Jazeera interactions: (a) Al-Jazeera Arabic’s representation in US mainstream media following 9/11, specifically during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; (b) Al-Jazeera English television channel’s attempts to enter the US market since 2006; and (c) the reception of Al-Jazeera America in the US, where the paper also adds an original analysis of Al-Jazeera America’s Twitter followers’ profiles. Together, these analyses provide strong counterevidence to the argument that Al-Jazeera was able to promote an Arab perspective of events in the US.