Issue April 2014; 7 (1)

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Simon Cottle

Rethinking media and disasters in a global age: What’s changed and why it matters

Today’s media ecology and communication flows circumscribe the globe, extending beyond and intensifying earlier spatial–temporal communication trends. New and old media increasingly enter into disasters shaping them from the inside out, and outside in, reconfiguring disaster social relations, channelling forms of political control and projects for change, and circulating deep-seated cultural views and sentiments. Approached in global context, disasters can also no longer be presumed to be territorially bounded or nationally confined events, seemingly erupting without warning to disrupt routines, established norms and social order. Many disasters are now increasingly best reconceptualised and theorised as endemic to, enmeshed within and potentially encompassing in today’s globally interconnected (dis)order. This article elaborates on these twin propositions about the changing ontology of disasters in a globalizing world and their epistemological constitution through media and communications and provides theoretical and conceptual coordinates for improved understanding and future research.


James Rodgers

From Stalingrad to Grozny: Patriotism, political pressure, and literature in the war reporting of Vassily Grossman and Anna Politkovskaya

Comparing the work of the 20th-century Soviet journalist and writer, Vassily Grossman, with that of his compatriot, Anna Politkovskaya, almost half a century later, this article examines the two journalists’ writing for what it tells us about the changing nature of Russian journalism, and reporter involvement in the coverage of war. Grossman was reporting on his country’s fight for survival in a war with Nazi Germany; Politkovskaya had no peer in her coverage of the bloodiest consequence of the collapse of that country, the Soviet Union: the wars in Chechnya. It also considers the literary nature of Grossman and Politkovskaya’s reporting. The article argues that the two journalists’ work has significance far beyond the time when they were reporting, and should therefore be more widely read and studied for what it tells us about covering conflict, and especially civilian suffering and, in the case of Politkovskaya, counter-insurgency.


Nelson Ribeiro

Using a new medium for propaganda: The role of transborder broadcasts during the Spanish Civil War

This article presents an analysis of the role of transborder broadcasts during the Spanish Civil War. As a new medium at that time, radio had a strong impact not only on increasing the morale of the Franquist forces, but also on influencing military operations through the dissemination of strategic information concerning the progress of military operations. Mostly focusing on the role of Portuguese broadcasters, which clearly took the lead in supporting Franco during the first year of his revolt against the Spanish Republic, the author discusses the strategies used by the Lisbon dictatorship to support the Nationalists through radio despite never abandoning its official neutral position in the war. Finally, the article discusses how radio propaganda during the Spanish Civil War was used as a testing ground for its use in World War II.


Stig Hjarvard and Nete Nørgaard Kristensen

When media of a small nation argue for war

In this comparative analysis of editorial columns in Danish newspapers, we analyze how news media can act as a political voice during times of war. Whereas most studies of media coverage of war focus on one specific war, this analysis provides empirically and theoretically grounded conclusions across three wars: Afghanistan 2001–, Iraq 2003–2007, and Libya 2011. The analysis focuses on the interpretative frames that are mobilized concerning the cause of conflict, the legitimacy of war, and the rationales for deploying Danish troops. Various models of elite–media relationships are considered and modified from a theoretical perspective in order to take into account the particular problems involved for a small nation going to war. The analysis largely confirms the influence of elite consensus or dissensus on media coverage. Other influential factors include the media system and the semi-autonomous status of newspapers as an elite voice competing with other opinion-making elites.


Laura Roselle, Alister Miskimmon and Ben O’Loughlin

Strategic narrative: A new means to understand soft power

Soft power in its current, widely understood form has become a straitjacket for those trying to understand power and communication in international affairs. Analyses of soft power overwhelmingly focus on soft power ‘assets’ or capabilities and how to wield them, not how influence does or does not take place. It has become a catch-all term that has lost explanatory power, just as hard power once did. The authors argue that the concept of strategic narrative gives us intellectual purchase on the complexities of international politics today, especially in regard to how influence works in a new media environment. They believe that the study of media and war would benefit from more attention being paid to strategic narratives.


Yakubu Ozohu-Suleiman

War journalism on Israel/Palestine: Does contra-flow really make a difference?

Apart from giving voices to the voiceless, the coming of Aljazeera English and Press TV as an alternative perspective in the global news sphere was thought to herald an important departure from the war journalism that describes the attitude of the dominant media to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. To track this expectation, this study adopted the peace journalism model to examine how Aljazeera English and Press TV have responded to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in the recent past compared to BBC World and CNN International. Findings show that similar patterns of war journalism are reproduced in the alternative perspective with counter-demonizing language and disagreements on the identity of terrorists. Peace journalism contents in the alternative perspective, as in the dominant perspective, are engendered more by events of the peace process and peace propaganda than by the much ideated conciliatory media.


Dan Arav and David Gurevitz

Trauma, guilt, forgiveness: The victimizer as witness in the cinematic and televisual representations of conflict in Israel

This article deals with the cinematic and televised representations of the Israeli victimizer. The authors seek to examine the political and cultural meanings of these representations in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. They consider the evolving changes in the testimony of the victimizer as they have emerged in major works produced by and broadcast on Israeli television during the past two decades. This change has been expressed primarily in the transition from direct testimony about horrors or atrocities to a reflective process that takes into consideration the testimony’s validity, its evasiveness, its aesthetic nature and perhaps even whether the testimony itself is a matter of aesthetics. The article focuses on a number of case studies through which the authors seek to examine the boundaries of the witness’s trauma and the possibilities for the forgiveness he seeks. These cases offer an in-depth look at the collective Israeli psyche, which is haunted not only by the desire to glorify the victim but also includes a narrow space in which the victimizer is able to maneuver. Documentary and semi-documentary works such as these portray the naked Israeli psyche, revealing its repression, its ethical self-flagellation and its strong desire to build a humanistic discourse that takes into account the inability to achieve complete absolution and atonement.




Nicolette Barsdorf-Liebchen
Book review: Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images

Mark Pope
Book review: Torture, Intelligence and Sousveillance in the War on Terror