Issue August 2015; 8 (2)

mwc coverEDITORIAL

The permanent campaign (available to download)
Ben O’Loughlin

 

COMMENTARY

The Syrian data glut: Rethinking the role of information in conflict
Shawn Powers and Ben O’Loughlin 

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Visuality, photography, and media in international relations theory:
A review
Erika Kirkpatrick

The way we see war – its visuality – is ever changing and dynamic. Despite the theoretical variety in International Relations (IR) scholarship, the themes of visuality, photography, and media have not been considered in a systematic fashion. The positivist core of IR is limited in its capacity to consider these themes outside of a cause-and-effect framework. This results in media mainly discussed in terms of its influence on international politics via its impact on (primarily American) foreign policy. The media and foreign policy literature follows this legacy; it arose as a response to post Cold War events and technological shifts. Similarly, the Revolution in Military Affairs of the 1990s opened up a space for strategic studies to address media and visuality. Recent literature from strategic studies engages with cultural and social theory in a way that shows how such tools may be used for exploitation as well as emancipation. In opposition, the post-positivist research tradition of critical IR theory problematizes the world created by rationalist–objectivist social science and seeks answers to constitutive questions about the construction, production, and performance of actors and structures in International Politics. Flowing from this, the visual securitization program rejects the rationalism of the media and foreign policy literature, while still investigating the links between media and decision-makers. Overall, critical IR theory has carved a productive space for dealing with these themes by breaking away completely from the rationalist legacy and putting forward a more hermeneutic – as opposed to positivistic – approach to the subject. This review concludes that the way IR has so far dealt with these themes narrows our field of vision and prevents us from envisioning the broader regime of representation of war photography, a claim to be upheld in future research.

 

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The Anzac myth and the shaping of contemporary Australian war
reportage

Kasun Ubayasiri

Australia’s World War I veterans, particularly the Anzacs of Gallipoli, are a quintessential part of Australia’s cultural imagining. Mythologised by the war correspondents of the time, refined and embellished by generations of politicians and myth makers and stripped of their shortcomings and human foibles through repeated renditions, the diggers of the ‘Great War’ continue to define duty and courage in contemporary Australian society. This article focuses on contemporary media coverage of two controversial wars – Afghanistan and Iraq – and how the news media tasked with recording those wars subscribed willingly to the politically charged ‘digger’ trope, which effectively served both to shield soldiers from any political fallout and to perpetuate the myth itself.

 

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The Dixie Chicks 2001–2003: The dissonances of gender and
genre in war culture
Christian Griffiths

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US, the ideological undercurrents of America’s popular music culture were brought into sharp focus, with the music of the pop ‘mainstream’ revealed as being largely consistent with liberal stances, and the broadly defined ‘country’ genre as more naturally aligned to conservative views. Several critical discussions of this ideological divide have focused on the case of the Dixie Chicks, a country group who controversially declared their liberalism by opposing US foreign policy in the weeks preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, such studies have tended to dismiss the group’s repertoire in this period (which centres on their 2002 album Home) as securely conventional in its lyrical themes, and therefore as either implicitly conservative, or else apolitical. The author counters this view by arguing that the group’s use of the conventional ‘feminine’ themes of country music, which include images of motherhood, marriage and domesticity, provides an aesthetic framework for their enacting an ideological critique of country music from within. He also argues that the group’s use of these themes positions their repertoire within Kartomi’s ethnographic model of ‘war music’ genres, which observes a similar distinction between male and female repertoires. He concludes that the Dixie Chicks’ critique of genre may therefore be extended to country music’s explicit support of US foreign policy at this time, and ultimately demonstrates that apparently ‘apolitical’ songs may be interpreted as expressing positive political stances by their critical contexts.

 

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Silencing the agenda? Journalism practices and intelligence events:
A case study
Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler

This article is a response to theoretical and methodological gaps witnessed in both journalism and intelligence literature. The goal of this research is to better our understanding of journalistic practices when covering intelligence-related events. National and international news agencies’ coverage of the failed Mossad operation in Bern in 1998 serves as an empirical case. The article discusses the benefit of grounded theory as a bottom-up inductive qualitative coding method to address these methodological gaps, and provides an empirical study that traces the evolution of the news coverage of the Bern operation, rather than merely studying the content of the final news product. Results challenge three main theoretical areas: journalist–source relationships, agenda setting, and framing. Concerning the journalist–source relationship, the article shows that, in cases of intelligence events, newsworthiness criteria depend on what other media know about the story rather than publicizing new facts. Moreover, quantitative and qualitative analyses of sources show that, in cases of leaked information, the longer that time has passed, people, media, and officials are less willing to give sourced information. Regarding agenda setting theory, this study suggests that struggles between media, statecraft, and intelligence whilst covering leaks should be conceived as ‘agenda-silencing’, where the purpose of media coverage is also to communicate and legitimize silences orchestrated by security and intelligence censorship. Finally, the data suggest that the concept of framing is altered in case of intelligence-related events. In fact, the framing relies mostly on hypotheses of interpretation which media are not able to assert openly due to various types of censorship.

 

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The repertoire, not the archive: The 1950 Life and Time coverage
of the Korean War
Suhi Choi

Journalists plunge into a social drama in which they interact with other actors, witness an event, and translate their observations into sensible texts to communicate with audiences who are not ‘on location’. A journalist’s account is the partial representation of the very reality that he or she constructs at the moment of witnessing an event within a specific context. A journalistic text thus does not merely create the archive, but works as the repertoire that invites us to participate in a continuous meaning-making process during subsequent memory constructions. Based on media coverage of the Korean War in 1950 by Life and Time magazines, this article identifies five plausible scenarios of how US journalists performed acts of witnessing the unknown battlefield of Korea. This exploration prods readers to critically appreciate both the journalist’s role as memory agent and the journalistic text as the repertoire in our act of remembering.

 

Book reviews

Social Media at the BBC: The Re-Making of Crisis Reporting
Reviewed by Jared Ahmad

The Vietnam War: Topics in Contemporary North American Literature
Reviewed by Ross Griffin

 

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