Issue Dec 2013 6 (3)

mwc coverSarah Maltby, Ben O’Loughlin, Barry Richards, Laura Roselle, and Philip Seib
Editors’ note
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Ying Huang and Shahira Fahmy
Picturing a journey of protest or a journey of harmony? Comparing the visual framing of the 2008 Olympic torch relay in the US versus the Chinese press
In examining details of the international journey of the 2008 Olympic torch relay in the US and Chinese press, results revealed that US photos emphasized the protest frame by showing unsupported visuals of the torch relay and focusing on human rights/Tibetan independence. The Chinese dailies, on the other hand, emphasized the success of the torch relay while focusing on the harmony frame. These frames reflected each country’s news and societal values regarding the conflict under study, its policy towards Tibet, and its level of support for the Olympics in Beijing. In addition to these findings, the authors propose a framework of visual–textual consistency to access the relationship between visual and textual information. Therefore, this study not only adds to the body of work in visual communication by exploring the visual coverage of a controversial Olympic event in a cross-cultural context, offering a broader understanding of the intertwined relationship between media, conflict, and sports, but also contributes to framing theory by examining captions that build contrasting visual frames within a conflict setting.
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Marcus Schulzke
Being a terrorist: Video game simulations of the other side of the War on Terror
Some of the most theoretically significant moments of video games set in the War on Terror occur in the rare instances when these games allow players to assume a terrorist’s point of view. This perspectival shift raises the possibility that games might offer a humanizing look at the enemies in the War on Terror and that they might give players greater insight into terrorists’ motives and ideologies. This article examines three popular video games that allow players to become terrorists: America’s Army, Modern Warfare 2, and Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The author argues that the simulated experience of being a terrorist holds the potential to deepen players’ understanding of terrorism, but that popular games ultimately deliver experiences of terrorist subjectivities that have virtually no content and that leave terrorists almost indistinguishable from the games’ heroes. The terrorists whose viewpoints are shown are portrayed as people who engage in senseless acts of violence that are disconnected from motives or grievances. This leads the games to confirm the overarching War on Terror narrative that terrorists are irrational and evil enemies who are unworthy of respect.
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Delphine Letort
Looking back into Abu Ghraib: Standard Operating Procedure (Erroll Morris, 2008)
This article examines Errol Morris’s documentary Standard Operating Procedure(2008), which represents an attempt on the part of the filmmaker to demystify the media’s moralizing and dramatizing glance at the Abu Ghraib photographs that created a scandal when first broadcast on television in 2004. Through a forensic analysis of the digital prints used in counterpoint to the implicated soldiers’ testimonies, Morris strives to recontextualize the notorious snapshots. Although he reaches his goal and recovers the individual stories behind the iconic photos, he fails to humanize the soldiers – turned into monsters by the media. This study points to the limits of the participatory mode of documentary filmmaking, using the interrotron as the basis for an interviewing technique that undermines the power to self-representation.
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Jennifer Coates
Victims and bystanders: Women in the Japanese war-retro film
While war narratives on film generally focus on male characterisation, this article suggests that analysis of female images in the war film can reveal processes of commemoration and memorialisation at work within the war film genre. Taking examples from the ‘war-retro’ genre popular in 1950s–1970s Japan, the author argues that the female image functions as an emotional screen in the war-retro film, anchoring the sympathies and emotions of the viewer to the leading characters and their inherent political affiliations. The female victims and onlookers of the war-retro film draw the sympathies of the viewer and heighten emotional investment in the stakes of the narrative, emotions which are then transferred to the impassive heroes. This article demonstrates the powerful techniques at work within the imagistic structure of the war-retro film which effect a virtual re-writing of history by creating a new collective national memory of war.
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Mercy Ette
Gendered frontlines: British press coverage of women soldiers killed in Iraq
The press plays a crucial role in image formation and information provision about female soldiers who die on battlefields. This article demonstrates how the UK press coverage of the death of four British service women stripped them of their identity as soldiers and minimised their accomplishments and level of military participation. It analyses how media discourse of war and military practices converged to reinforce cultural assumptions of war. The article argues that the nuanced coverage of the four women who died in Iraq within one year was a result of gendered mediation, which accentuated the femininity and masculinity dichotomy associated with the military; and underscored the gendered nature of war. The study shows that the gendering of the death of the women reinforced the entrenched marginalisation of women in war narratives.
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Moran Yarchi, Gadi Wolfsfeld, Tamir Sheafer, and Shaul R Shenhav
Promoting stories about terrorism to the international news media: A study of public diplomacy
Antagonists’ images in the international news media can play a significant role in determining their level of political success in the international arena, which explains why so many political actors invest considerable resources in public diplomacy. The goal of the present study is to explain the level of success that various actors (countries and non-state actors) have in promoting their preferred frames about terror to the international news media. Four types of explanatory variables are proposed, divided into context and focal event factors. Context factors include the political values and policy proximity between the country attacked (the victimized country) and a country whose news media have been targeted for influence (the target country), as well as the target country’s experience in dealing with terror. Focal event factors refer to the nature of the trigger events that generate news coverage of terrorism. Apart from one exception (the policy proximity), all of the hypotheses were confirmed. The findings indicated that focal event factors have the most significant effect on the way foreign media covers conflicts and that, when it comes to coverage of terrorism, journalists are more interested in constructing a dramatic story than putting the events into a more general political context.
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Nicole Stremlau
Towards a diagnostic approach to media in fragile states: Examples from the Somali territories
Media interventions by international organizations and NGOs in conflict and post-conflict situations seek to develop and shape a media system to contribute to specific political and social ends. The analyses and assessments that inform these interventions are often based on an overview of the formal media and governance structures, such as mass media and state institutions, and overlook informal structures that may be instrumental for political and development goals. This article proposes a framework that can incorporate both the formal and informal modes of communication and participation that characterize a society. This framework encourages a ‘diagnostic’ approach centred around three areas: power, flows, and participation, and enables researchers to take into consideration features that are often overlooked such as customary law; a range of public authorities from politicians to Imams and local elders; information flows that may vary from poetry to mobile phones; and the culture of communication. Examples from the Somali territories, which are characterized by a weak central government, are employed to highlight how informal structures and actors intervene in shaping information flows and the importance of accounting for them.
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Jamie Matthews
News narratives of terrorism: Assessing source diversity and source use in UK news coverage of alleged Islamist plots
During the later years of Tony Blair’s premiership it was suggested that information provided by ‘well-placed sources’ to journalists concerning a series of alleged Islamist plots was unreliable, with this material leaked to the media in an attempt to maintain or accentuate public awareness of terrorism. This article seeks to assess these claims by identifying the prominence and role of official sources and elucidating the characteristics of source use in news reporting on alleged terrorist plots. Through a content analysis of UK national newspaper coverage, the article presents a complex picture of source use and influence. The findings reveal that anonymous sources and veiled references to public institutions were predominant within coverage. Contrary to ideological theories of political discourse, however, government sources were not influential in presenting details about a specific threat. The analysis shows that journalists’ use of sources was pragmatic and that source use was indicative of a broader shift in the media discourse of terrorism during the period of study, with more recent coverage addressing public concerns over the way official or government sources communicated information about the threat from terrorism.
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Shixin Ivy Zhang
The new breed of Chinese war correspondents: Their motivations and roles, and the impact of digital technology
The reporting of international news in China has changed significantly in recent years. Since the late 1990s, driven by the demands of the domestic market, the growing financial strengths of national and metropolitan news organizations, the availability of digital technology, and the state’s strategy of enhancing soft power and making China’s voice heard in the global arena, more and more Chinese correspondents travel to war and conflict zones abroad to report and file news coverage back home – a rare occurrence in the past. This study examines a new breed of Chinese war correspondents arising from this very new journalistic environment – how they negotiate their changing and challenging roles by questioning their identities, motivations and perceptions, and how they reflect on their roles, and the use and impact of digital technologies such as micro-blogging. This article uses semi-structured in-depth interviews with 16 Chinese correspondents who have been posted abroad to cover war zones. The author finds that this new breed is neither traditionally Chinese in their approach nor western in their perceptions but uniquely pragmatic in negotiating a complex mix of identities, motivations, corporate influences and state interests.
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Le Han
Book review: Access contested: Security, identity, and resistance in Asian cyberspace
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Stephanie Carvin
Book review: Evidence-based counterterrorism policy
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Ben O’Loughlin
Book review: New public diplomacy in the 21st century: A comparative study of policy and practice
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