National School of Political Science and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania
In the Clash of Civilisations Myth, the Goalposts Are Always Changing:
Deconstructing the Trope of Vilification
Abstract: The tendency of portraying the world through binary frameworks of reference has become a fixture in a mainstream media landscape based in the infotainment culture and more recently, adapting to the native advertisement phenomenon. This paper addresses the systemic problems affecting the contemporaneous media discourse on the Others by examining them through the lenses of the ideologically charged civilisational dyads. Moreover, the analysis assesses the media bias in reporting ‘the other side’ by looking at elite media coverage. In doing so, the research aims to reveal the flawed referential system under which ‘faux-centric objectivity’ operates. This being a practice that relies on cognitive dissonance necessary to justify deviations of Western behaviours from their own standard of civilisation, when dealing with ‘barbaric threats’.
Keywords: Clash of Civilisations; Political Myth; Binary Oppositions; Critical Discourse Analysis; Discourse of Alterity.
Rendering almost obsolete their role as the fourth estate, mainstream media outlets develop ʻpower / knowledge’ relations within a system that has assimilated them into its hegemonic framework. When the tendency is to disseminate information without critical engagement and to report selected ʻfacts’ through what Nicole Hemmer, describes as a “novel conservative postmodernism”, then the problem stops being that of the ʻwishful quest for psedo-objectivity’ and becomes that of “disassembl[ing] the structures, the ʻmoves’ and strategies of official discourse (whether the state, the party, or political movements and institutions that claim to speak for others)”. This phenomenon is not limited strictly to the American media landscape but it is here where in the absence of state funded broadcasting services, self-censorship and gatekeeping are tacitly endorsed. In this for profit, stifled environment, it is possible for Barthes’ view on myth to take hold of an entire narrative. Helen Fulton observes that this type of myth can be “reinterpreted simply as narativised ideology, the formulaic articulation and naturalisation of values, truths and beliefs”.
An example of ʻchange impaired’ mainstream outlets of power representation, can be identified in The New York Times long overdue acknowledgment of calling ʻtorture’, ʻtorture’. The Torture Memos started being leaked to the press as early as June 2004, on the hills of the Abu Ghraib scandal and The New York Times was at the forefrunt in covering these documents. Ten years later, Dean Baquet, the Executive Editor of The Times, wrote on August 7th, 2014, the following:
“Over the past few months, reporters and editors of The Times have debated a subject that has come up regularly ever since the world learned of the C.I.A.’s brutal questioning of terrorism suspects: whether to call the practices torture. […] So from now on, The Times will use the word ʻtorture’ to describe incidents in which we know for sure that interrogators inflicted pain on a prisoner in an effort to get information”.
Nevermind the zeal manifested by Baquet in stressing the efforts authorities went to “generat[e] useful information that the government could not otherwise have obtained from prisoners”, or that torture has been proven not be an effective means of securing realiable information under duress, this behavior underlies self-imposed limitations on press agency and a deferral to the beltway consensus.
The paper analyses the relation between media and myth by exploring the discourse on ʻbarbarism’, in order to identify the how the trope of vilification functions within the given conflictual paradigm. Though to a large extent, the chosen topic has been thoroughly researched and turned into a cottage industry, retracing the steps that lead us again and again to this bellicose narrative, is necessary. Critical discourse analysis shades light on how the power of mythmaking even in our current constituted hyper-reality, can be used in subverting aspects pertaining to knowledge and ethics. In the second part, the research examines to what extent is the myth of Alterity – as framed by political figures and conveyed by the media relays – actively generating a ʻwhite noise” consent in regards to the actions taken by the “fortress under asiege”?
The stranger troubles our everyday life, but as Henri Lefebvre observes, it is nothing more than a mirage and a mirror of ourselves:
[…], we need to think about what is happening around us, within us, each and every day. We live on familiar terms with the people in our own family, our own milieu, our own class. This constant impression of familiarity makes us think that we know them, that their outlines are defined for us, and that they see themselves as having those same outlines. We define them […] and we judge them. We can identify with them or exclude them from our world. But the familiar is not necessarily the known.
I. ʻThe Fairest of Them All’: The Banality of Discourse
This paper is not about extolling the virtues of a mythological Other, shrouded in layers upon layers of mysticism and exoticism. Kathleen Glenister Roberts posits that “alterity really has far more to do with the Self than the Other”. To this point, Barbara Czarniawska argues that alterity can be: “attributed (‘they are different and therefore not us’) or incorporated (‘they are actually very much like us’)”. A third instance – “the affirmation of difference (‘we are different’) [tends to be] omitted”. Whenever these alterities appear – the East, the Orient – they become “[t]he object of […] concentrated anxiety over the centuries”. Moreover, because of their cultural difference and affront to modern sensibilities, they inadvertently lead to the creation of an whitewashed landscape, barren of the West’s transgressions, excesses, history of abuse and malfeance, exploitation, servitude and slavery.
The discourse is narrowed down to the treasured Illuminist values and mythical revolutionary legacies from the 18th and 19th centuries. Except when it comes to the process of decolonisation in the heartland of the Third World, resisted directly by the liberal colonist powers. Just half a century or less separates us from the brutal colonial experience. France, the bastion of liberté, égalité, fraternité in Indochina and Algeria, and Great Britain with the Mau Mau Uprising or the Malayan Emergency – to give just a couple examples – compete in acts of ʻbarbarism’ by today’s civilisational standards. The problem is not one of moral relativism or even one of ignoring the crimes committed by some minorities within these Alterities. The dysfunctions appear when the state and the media – acting as its ʻspokesperson’ – do not hold the dominant identity to the same standards they hold everyone else. When ʻbad things’ happen, they are rarely attributed to a patriarchiacal system that is at its core, profoundly oppressive and exclusionary, but rather to exceptions: “a few bad apples”, “lack of supervision and ʻfailure of leadership’”, obsoleteness, etc.
In “Televising the ʻWar on Terrorism’: The Myths of Morality”, Daya Kishan Thussu perceives the myths conveyed to the consumers of mass-media as enabling the synthesis of a falsified worldview: “[I]n the long run [they] can make the consumers accept as being ʻnatural’ something which in fact is a manufactured reality, created to mask the real structures of global power”. In support of this, Dick Hebdige as quoted by Donald E. Pease in The New American Exceptionalism, investigated how the discourse of war can substitute “critical observation with the spectacle of consensus”:
but now more than ever vicarious contact with the front line via blanket news coverage fails to guarantee comprehensibility, still less access to the truth. The battlefield today is electronic. Wars are waged, as ever, over real territories and real spheres of influence. […] Meanwhile, hygienically edited highlights of the action get replayed nightly on the news through green ghostly shot through the night-sight viewfinders of airborne artillery. In this space anything can happen but little can be verified.
This being the status quo, when President George W. Bush, is quoted in Bob Woodward’s account on the first 100 days after 9/11, stating that: “I’m the commander – see, I don’t need to explain – I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation” – the reaction is more mirthless than outraged. It is treated as just another unconsequential ʻBushism’, mitigated and pacified through the cultivation effect of media narratives.
Because of this hypercontact with the overfamiliar, facilitated by social media networking on the basis of a real time input/output conveyer belt, whenever the individual is shown images of the Stranger, an ʻuncanny valley effect’ takes hold of its perspectives. The Stranger from one’s community, from a minority group – be it ethnic, religious, sexual or political – or from another country – always goes against the majority’s grain. Das Unheilmiche (that which is not familiar) is described by Nichols Royle in The Uncanny, as “ghostly”. It pressuposes and awakens “feelings of uncertainty, in particular regarding the reality of who one is and what is being experienced. The uncanny is a crisis of the proper”.
Moreover, Necati Polat in addressing Derrida’s view on differance, notes that: “Alterity precedes the self, for discourse via alterity is the ontological condition of the self. The self does not seem to be conceivable before or outside discourse”. Kathleen Roberts adds that “the way any person interprets the world is necessarily embedded in one’s own cultural constructs”, at the expense of the Other who can then be “dehumanize[d] and objectifie[d]” with impunity by large denominations of the public sphere.
The discourses which pit together the Self against the Other, always take place under the banner of binary oppositions. Once acknowledged, these dichotomies create hierarchies, which favour one term over the other. In spite of this openly unbalanced rapport, Jacques Derrida stresses that the favored side cannot exist in the latter’s absence, without its “shadow”. The first holds a meaning only in relation with its spectral counterpart. In other word, the secondary element must be excluded, in order to constitute the first. As problematic as this is, it becomes even more troublesome since as Richard Kearney explains: “Ever since early Western thought equated the divine Good with notions of self-identity, the experience of evil has often been linked with notions of exteriority or otherness”.
The myth as metanarrative has been referred to by Vergίlio Ferreira – Portuguese philosopher and writer – who defines it “as a foundation of thought and being that shapes the human subject but of which the subject remains unaware”. This is the case for example with ʻwhite privilege’ – of which individuals can passively benefit from but not necessarily be aware of due to the in-built mirroring identifiers towards which individuals respond to. As Michael Kimmel, sociologist specialising in gender studies, explains: “privilege is invisible to those who have it”. Which is why the Western identity as the “privileged term” is connected – as Derrida has documented in his works:
to culturally constructed prejudices about race, gender, ethnicity and nature. [Furthermore] [t]hese prejudices are so internalized by Western discourse that they create immense cultural anxieties about the same and the other, the closure of self-identity through the construction of an ʻother’ and a need to decide quickly who is friend and who is foe.
By disseminating the myth of civilisational clashes between agents of progress and chaos and by replaying Huntington’s thesis of “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards”, mainstream media risk devolving entirely into an ideologised and unquestioning tool of the state and in the state’s propaganda service. Put in context, the trope of vilification is even more striking, since courtesy of decades long honed reflexes of clashing with the ʻEmpire of Evil’, otherising and dehumanizing entire swaths of populations in the name of democracy, tend to go unquestioned. Hence why the contemporaneous media discourse is never shy of engaging, embedding and endorsing hegemonic “militaristic adventures”. Yet when media looks inside, talks of class warfare – for example – are so taboo, to point that even President Barack Obama, to quote John Oliver: “[a]fter promis[ing] to tackle the wealth gap, using the word ʻincome inequality’ 26 times in a speech, [has] quickly backed down when Democrats were split on the issue. […] [T]he president actually had to stop talking about the thing he describes as ʻa fundamental threat to the American Dream’”.
Aside from the aspersive quality of the discourse regarding internal and external others, another aspect underlined here concerns the media’s symbiotic relationship with the political. Whenever bipartisan consensus is achieved on a matter or another, the issue either disappears entirely or partially from the media landscape, or is brought to the forefront, with every possible occasion. This is the case with the American foreign policy media representation, sliding back and forth from the neoconservatives to the liberal interventionists appearing on prime-time mainstream talk-shows from CBS to Fox News to CNN and MSNBC.
Because ʻmajorities’ shape demand, mainstream media – instead of acting as agents of progress and spurn from the public debate, those issues that have been proven false or anachronistic – still cater to what can only be described as a conservative, parochial base. This can be referred to as the ou sont les neiges d’antan syndrome. By establishing a paternalistic rapport, media tend to fall in line with the government issued press releases, without much consideration or active engagement in reporting ʻfacts’. Being an all-encompassing, over-arching metanarrative, ʻthe truth’ is always at stake. Logocentric thinking revolves around the idea that ʻtruth’ and ‘knowledge’ can be attained in their entirety through logical, rational and other different forms of analysis. Utilising the binaries, mainstream media enable Us to be an agentic subject and relegate Them to a the passive object, upon which judgement is passed on. Thus, the clash of civilisations myth works as basis for diffusing internalised prejudices, assumptions, inferences, biases and selected ʻfacts’, in order to fit a certain worldview.
As Stuart Hall explains in “The Rediscovery of ʻIdeology’: Return of the Repressed in Media Studies”: “[c]hanging the terms of an argument is exceedingly difficult, since the dominant definition of the problem, acquires, by repetition, and by the weight and credibility of those who propose or subscribe it, the warrant of ʻcommon sense’”. Almost in a subversion of the trope, usage of the term ʻbarbarian’ or lack thereof, underlines in Tzvetan Todorov’s view, that “[b]arbarians are those who deny the full humanity of others. This does not mean that they are ignorant or forgetful of their human nature, but that they behave as if the others were not human, or entirely human”. And is it this not how the trope of vilification functions in the discursive reality? What does this say about those which “divide the world [by] notions such as: [on one side], civilisation, freedom, liberty, compassion, strength, courage, justice, humanity, morality and honour, [and] on the other side […]: evil, criminals, fear, cruelty, barbarism, cowardice and hatred”.
II. Under the Banner of Freedom and Liberty for All: Media Representation of Fallacies
As a communication interface, the Internet is an equal opportunity ancillary. It levels the playing field while at the same time being quite insularly. Because of this innate characteristic, the gap between mainstream institutions and citizen journalism, tends to widen, with the first replicating the same non-homogenous, non-intersectional patterns, pernicious to the traditional social environments. With the further advancement of short-term attention span Buzzfeed listicles and viral content, hyperbolic journalism manifests itself at every media strata and in doing so, reinforces and helps perpetuate beliefs, biases and value judgements. Concomitantly, Anthony Burke observes that contemporary politics are shaped by “the desire for certainty, a desire that has profoundly [influenced] post-Cartesian thought and modern statecraft, especially those […] which profess to be able to assemble and control practices of violence in a rational way for political ends”.
To conceal these deeper discursive layers, “two linguistic strategies [can be used]: nominalisation and presupposition”. David Machin and Andrea Mayr define the first as “typically replac[ing] verb processes with a noun construction, which can obscure agency and responsibility for an action, what exactly happened and when it took place”. In the case of presupposition, it “is one skilful way by which authors are able to imply meanings without overtly stating them, or present things as taken for granted and stable when in fact they may be contestable and ideological”. A cursory search of the headlinesfrom The New York Times, during Israeli Operation “Protective Edge” in the Gaza Strip, from July and August 2014, reveals the following:
- “In Rubble of GazaSeasideCafe, Hunt for Victims Who Had Come for Soccer” (Fares Akram, July 10th, 2014), (changed from “Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup”);
- “Boys Drawn to GazaBeach, and Into Centre of Mideast Strife” (Anne Barnard, July 16th, 2014), (changed from “Four Young Boys Killed Playing on aGazaBeach”);
- “Through Lens, 4 Boys Dead by GazaShore” (TylerHicks, July 16th, 2014);
- “A Push Into Gaza, but the Ground Has Shifted” (Jodi Rudoren, July 18th, 2014);
- “Neighbourhood Ravaged on Deadliest Day So Far for Both Sides in Gaza” (Anne Barnard and Isabel Kershner, July 20th, 2014);
- “Blasts Kill 16 Seeking Haven at GazaSchool” (Ben Hubbard and Jodi Rudoren, July 24th, 2014);
- “In Torn Gaza, if Roof Stands, It’s Now Home” (Jodi Rudoren, August 17th, 2014);
- “After Strike on Family, Fate of Hamas Commander Is Unknown” (Isabel Kershner and Fares Akram, August 20th, 2014).
By comparison, a similar search of headlines on Ukrainein The New York Times, over the same period of time, during the civil conflict in the eastern regions of the country, no longer finds anonymous causes nor any passive voices:
- “RussiaSteps Up Help for Rebels in UkraineWar” (David M. Herszenhorn and Peter Baker, July 25th, 2014);
- “Convoy Said to Pause at Russian Base as Questions Persist” (Neil MacFarquhar, August 13th, 2014);
- “Rebels Killed Dozen in Attack on Refugees, UkraineSays” (Andrew E. Kramer, Andrew Higgins and David M. Herszenhorn, August 18th, 2014);
- “Ukraine Leader Says ʻHuge Loads of Arms’ Pour in From Russia” (Neil MacFarquhar and Michael R. Gordon, August 28th, 2014);
- “Over 1000 Russian Soldiers Join Fight, NATO Says” (Michael R. Gordon, August 28th, 2014).
This is a reflection of the Friend / Foe dichotomy in the media, a template further validated in similar juxtaposed contexts, with Turkey / Venezuela being two other recent examples. Allies of strategic convenience and convenient enemies, these Others help confirm and consolidate one’s belief system through narrative practices, politically mapped and ideologically charged. The resulted myth, Hans Blumenberg would argue, “is not a single narrative that is given once and for all, but is a process, a process of continual work on a basic narrative pattern that changes according to the circumstances”. The contigency arises from the imbalanced rapport “between the dispositional and the discursive features of a society”. The dispositional feature – as James Kurth describes it – deals with what are perceived as “the actual institutions, processes and practices of the society”, while the discursive one refers “to its public ideologies, discourse, and rhetoric”. According to David Campbell – quoted by Jennifer Milliken – when the two are dissonant, the “mode of thinking” should follow “a logic of interpretation that acknowledges the improbability of cataloguing, calculating, and specifying ʻreal causes’, [and should] concern[…] itself instead with considering the manifest political consequences of adopting one mode of representation over another”.
The liberalisation of information brought on by the advancement of social media, should render media gatekeeping obsolete since everyone has access to all possible sources of information at their disposal. In other words, the onus is placed on the receivers to obtain, to sample it, to critically examine the data in order to assess if it meets all the textbook requirements on reporting and afterwards to form an opinion based on the filtered output. In practice, the output is a mix comprised of confirmation bias (“the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand”), bandwagon effect, framing effect and hindsight bias.
Consequently, the strength of the civilisational rifts reiterated in the media, rests on the implications of the nation as narration, theorised by Homi K. Bhabha:
Nations, like, narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realize their horizons in the mind’s eye. Such an image of the nation – or narration – might seem impossibly romantic and excessively metaphorical, but it is from those traditions of political thought and literary language that the nation emerges as a powerful historical idea in the West. An idea whose cultural compulsion lies in the impossible unity of the nation as a symbolic force. This is not to deny the attempt by nationalist discourses persistently to produce the idea of the nation as a continuous narrative of national progress, the narcissism of self-generation, the primeval present of the Volk.
Gerry Gable and Chana Moshenska in analysing the British media, note that the Far Right resort to the discourse of respectability in order “to participate in mainstream political life, while at the same time promoting an extremist programme of racially exclusive nationalism”. This is applies not only at the far end of the political spectrum but also in the case of the conservative discourse in general. In this case, the discourse varies from the promotion of mono-ethnocentrism and cultural purity and envisioning policies – both internal and external – whose purpose ultimately leads to further exclusions, alienations and radicalisations. As Stephen M. Walt argues in reviewing the arguments put forth in The Clash of Civilisations, such discourses pandered to by the media in the name of upholding objective, fair and balanced standards of information dissemination, once closely examined, “do not stand up to close scrutiny”. Aside from the central theme identified in the obvious Alterity, imbued with nefarious purposes and a fatalistic agenda, the media consumers are “not explain[ed] why loyalties are suddenly shifting from the level of nation-states to that of ‘civilisations’”.
This type of behaviour – aside from reoccurring especially during heightened moments of tension – is a feature of the contemporaneous culture marked by a rejection – at least temporarily – of the intersectionality paradigm. It reflects a gap between dominant and dominated groups of people, which is exploited through exclusionary discourses that further consolidate in-built prejudices perpetuated by media-policy partisanships. In researching these issues, one also has to acknowledge for example, the leftovers of a present day subverted scientific racist discourse, which propagandises the primate of the certain cultures over demonized others, for political purposes.
III. Through Rose-Tinted Lenses: Myth in the Making
The third and last part of this paper focuses on identifying those subjective attributes that shape one’s image of the world but which at the same time, hold no gnoseological value in of themselves and can be arbitrarily used. As we have argued earlier, the responsibility is placed on the receiver or media consumer to navigate the landscape riddled with facts, analogies, digressions, false equivalencies, straw-man arguments, hasty generalisations and other fallacies. A study conducted by Rebecca Ann Lind and James A. Danowski, entitled “The Representation of Arabs in U.S. Electronic Media”, researched “the transcripts of approximately 35.000 hours” – the equivalent of 136 million words – of television and radio content aired on ABC, CNN, PBS, and NPR from February 1993 to February 1996”, and found that:
The words “Arab/s” or “Arabian” co-occurred with words associated with barbarism a total of 1165 times. The most commonly occurring word pair was “Arab/s-massacre/d” (70 instances). “Arab/s-hate/red” appeared 49 times, and “Arab/s-violence” appeared 38 times. “Arab-fear” appeared 26 times, while “Arab-threat” and “Arab-enemies” each appeared 19 times. In all, 14,9% of Arab references contained some allusion to “barbarism”, which indicated the continued presence of the “Arab as barbarian” stereotype.
Since then the trend continued unperturbed, reaching a tipping point with the terrorist attacks from September 11, 2001. In this part, we look at the media portrayal of Otherness in order to assess the means by which the trope of vilification works in otherising entire communities. This type of media behaviour is allowed to function with impunity because as Ralph Miliband describes in The State in Capitalist Society, the media represent “the expression of a system of domination, and [the] means of reinforcing it”. Moreover, in Herbert Schiller’s view – as quoted by Nesbitt-Larking – “[m]yths are used to dominate people. When they are inserted unobtrusively into popular consciousness, as they are by the cultural-informational apparatus, their strength is great because most individuals remain unaware that they have been manipulated”. With the Western sphere of influence governed by homogenous civilisational patterns, segments of the media still operate under President’s Theodor Roosevelt, The Winning of the West’s Weltanschauung. Accordingly this states that even the most egregious crimes against humanity can be legitimated if the cause is just, because “the most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages”.
III.1. Managing Estrangement
As mentioned above, the otherising process is not as much about the Alterity, as it is about us and our point of view. When the Other slights us, kidnaps us, maims us and kills us, we take notice despite the fact, that most victims of terrorist acts are Others too. Or that perceived allies engage in similar “barbaric acts”. An Amnesty International report on Saudi Arabia shows that “at least 22 people were put to death between 4 and 22 August 2014, alone – more than one every day” and that “most executions are by beheading. Many take place is public. In some cases, decapitated bodies are left hanging in public squares as a ʻdeterrentʼ” to others. Human Rights Watch cite “local news reports [which] indicate that eight of those executed were convicted of nonviolent offenses, seven for drug smuggling and one for sorcery”. Until the Islamic Caliphate started beheading Westerners, a June article from The Washington Post regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the question of beheadings, cited perfunctorily and in a detached approached, Navi Pillay – the United Nations Human Rights chief – who declared that “the summary executions ʻmay run into the hundredsʼ”. The article reports almost aseptically and disengaged, how “in terms of impact, the acts of terror have been wildly successful. From beheading to summary executions to amputations and crucifixions, the terrorist group has become the most feared organization in the Middle East”. The reporting on the kidnappings and executions of American journalist, James Foley, American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff and British aid worker, David Haines, French tourist, Herve Gourdel, has profoundly changed in tone, as seen in the followingheadlines:
- “Savages: Islamic State executes American journalist” (Marisa Schultz, Aaron Short, Sophia Rosenbaum, New York Post, August 19th, 2014);
- “Journalist James Foley’s beheading epitomises evil of Islamic State” (***, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 21st, 2014);
- “Poll: Islamic State Beheading Get Significant Media Penetration” (Eric Wemple, The Washington Post, September 11th, 2014);
- “Another Unspeakable Act of Barbarism by ISISonly Deepens the Dilemma in the West” (Ian Birrell, The Independent, September 14th, 2014).
By comparison, when We commit questionable acts, the approach is almost fatherly, removed from any incendiary rethoric, such as follows:
- “Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha” (Tim McGirk, Time, March 19th, 2006, about the killing of 24 unarmed civilians – Iraqi men, women, elderly and children – by United States Marines, on November 19, 2005 in the city of Haditha, located in the western province of Al Anbar);
- “The Kill Team: How U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Murdered Innocent Civilians” (Mark Boal, Rolling Stone, March 27th, 2011, in reference to the Maywand District murders in 2010);
- “The U.S.Military Is Struggling to Police Itself in Afghanistan” (Yochi J. Dreazen, The Atlantic, April 19th, 2012, reporting on American soldiers posing with the body parts of Taliban suicide bombers).
The typical reaction in these cases is to claim that they are just “bad apples”, unlike with the other side, where frequently it is falsely inferred that: “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch”. Such abuses are seen as exceptions due in part to the American way of war. Air warfare is framed in very clinical terms and widely accepted by the public as inconsequential to their own wellbeing. Owing to its remoteness, media coverage of “surgical” precision airstrikes and the use of white phosphorous (the new napalm), depleted uranium munitions, cluster bombs, sees nothing barbaric in weapons that leave people, cities and infrastructures in pieces. Denise Dibattista highlights how “euphemisms are a typical strategy to manipulate meanings at a lexical level; they are used for rhetorical purposes and therefore commonly found in political [and media] discourse at large”. For our context, we identified the following titles:
- “Out of the Blue” (***, The Economist, Jule 30th, 2011, referring to drone strikes);
- “Secret ʻKill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will” (Jo Becker, Scott Shane, The New York Times, May 29th, 2012);
- “U.S. Drone Strike on Yemeni Wedding May Have Violated Laws of War” (Natasha Lennard, Salon, February 20th, 2014);
- “Do American Really Love Drone Strikes?” (Sarah Kreps, The Washington Post, June 6th, 2014).
Douglas Kellner considers that another aspect to be taken into account, is that of decades long proliferation by the U.S. corporate media, of “excessive presentation of murder and violence and dramatisation of a wide range of threats from foreign enemies and within everyday life” . This relates to the Us – Them dynamic, with Us as the agentic force driving such optics, especially since media maintain a culture of fear, in which moral panic is defined by Cohen quoted by Altheide as:
a condition, episode, person or group emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylised and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnosis and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then dissapears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes visible.
In support of this, Teun van Dijk has identified “four general processes of manipulation in discourse while transporting or addressing prejudices:
- Incomplete or lack of relevant knowledge, so that no counterarguments can be formulated against false, incomplete, or biased assertions;
- Fundamental norms, values, and ideologies that cannot be denied or ignored;
- Strong emotions, trauma, etc. that make people vulnerable;
- Social positions, professions, status, and so on that induce people into tending to accept the discourses and arguments of elite persons, groups, or organisations”.
This being said, Douglas Kellner emphasises the central role of “spectacle” in matters pertaining to “barbarians”. Terror spectacle takes hold in a culture of fear, curtesy of media construction, notwithstanding terror / barbaric acts in of themselves. In 2014, reminiscent of 2003, mainstream media lead the bandwagon of what Kellner sees as “war fever and retaliation rather than initiating public debate about wider issues of terrorism, […] priviledg[ing] [once more] the ʻclash of civilisations’ model (the meta-narrative of civilisation versus barbarism”. Moreover, John Cassidy argues, President Obama’s chosen course of action in regards to the Islamic Caliphate for example, reflects how “unleashing America’s mighty military is, by far, the easiest thing to do. To act cautiously, take the long-term view, and try to educate the public about the limits of American power – that is much harder and riskier”.
Instead of developing a coherent picture of the Other, the public is taken into the world of lurking sleeper cells, waiting for the signal to strike, while President Obama asks “the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al Qaeda and ISIL”. This type of assertion continues the already established pattern of binary oppositions since according to the State Department, the majority of those who are victims of terrorism are Muslims. A 2011 National Counterterrorism Center report read: “in case where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 per cent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years”. Moreover, since this is not consistent with the established narrative, mainstream media do not cover extensively the Muslims condemning terrorist organisations, but expect in turn, for them to recognise collective guilt as an useful instrument for fighting terror. Vatican Radio for example, reported that “the most explicit condemnation came from Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the group representing 57 countries and 1.4. billion Muslims”. Mehmet Gormez – Turkey’s top cleric – affirmed that: “an entity that lacks legal justification has no authority to declare war against a political gathering, any country or community”. He added that: “Muslims should not be hostile towards ʻpeople with different views, values and beliefs, and regard them as enemies’”, etc.
III.2. Manipulating Perspectives: Mediated Public and Threat Creation
The refuge in myth and stereotypes denotes in Karim H. Karim’s opinion, “the lack of knowledge and unease among many Northern journalists about religion in general”. Karim further cites Henry A. Grunwald – former editor-in-chief of the Time magazine – in whose view: “Not every Muslim fundamentalist wants to blow up New York City, and few Christian fundamentalists belong to cults ready for Armageddon. The press [and media] must discuss such distinctions knowledgeably and conscientiously”. If Grunwald’s recommendations would have been heeded to, then the public voice would not have to be “managed in countless ways”. Stephen Coleman and Karen Ross characterise this mediated public as “edited, cut off in its prime, reduced to polling numbers, confined to banal soundbites, marginalised as background noise, rendered unofficial”. With an ʻinfantilised’ general public, pauperised and living under constant threat, the three rules identified by Howard Davis with regards to “the relation between the hierarchy of access and the mediation of speech”, are all met as far as the treatment of “Them” is concerned:
- “the higher the status of the speaker, the greater the relative amount of media attention”;
- the higher the status of the speaker, the more direct the presentation;
- the higher the status of the speaker, the greater the tendency for media personnel to endors the speaker’s assumption”.
These arguments show how media hysteria combined with a culture of fear and a profoundly uninformed public, engineer consent and at the same time reaffirm an environment of alienation or in James Der Derian’s terms, “of Western estrangement”. Threat hyping has led to a public reversal in regards to bombing Syria for example. If in 2013, “voters were skeptical of President Barack Obama’s case for intervention” – with multiple polls showing opposition to airstrikes (Pew Research: 29% favor – 48% oppose; Washington Post/ ABC News: 36% favour – 59% oppose; NBC News: 42% favour – 50% oppose; Huffington Post / YouGov: 25% favour – 41% oppose), one year later, the polls show an 1800 reversal. According to data provided by Pew Research from September 15th, 2014: now, 53% approve – 29% disapprove; Huffington Post / YouGov from August 29th, 2014: 63% support – 16% oppose; Washington Post – ABC News from September 9th, 2014: 65% support expanding U.S. air strikes against Sunni insurgents into Syria – 32% oppose; or CNN / ORC International, from September 25th-28th, 2014: 73% favour – 24% oppose, with 56% considering that it is the best thing for U.S..
Unlike the Gulf War – which Jeff Lewis describes as – a “ʻstunning victory’ […] measured in terms of precision, brevity and intensity”, shrouded in the mythos surrounding “missile accuracy and the computerised representations of [United States’] assaults”, nothing about the present situation warrants such unquestioning support. Just looking at the mosaic of actors involved, ought to discourage the media from carelessley selling a war that has all the ingredients to soon transform itself into a quagmire, the potential to spill over into mission creep and the guarantee for blowback.
The “demonic portrayal” has become the norm in the media discourse surrounding the Islamist terror threat. Looking at how the media helped create and bury in the span of just a couple of days, an imminent threat to the homeland, further reinforces the ʻtrope as prop’, hollowed of any semblance of careful analysis. The speed with which the phantomatic Khorasan terror group took hold of the media attention, is reminiscent of the movie Wag the Dog, starring Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman. If in the latter, a war was fabricated in order to distract attention from a presidential scandal, in our case, in order to claim self-defense and thus legitimate a foreign intervention lacking Congressional approval or Security Council resolutions, anonymous government officials started leaking to the press the following claims:
- “U.S.Suspects More Direct Threats Beyond ISIS”, on September 20th, 2014, by Mark Mazzetti, Michael S. Schmidt, Ben Hubbard in The New York Times;
- “Source: Al Qaeda group in Syria plotted attack against U.S. with explosive clothes”, on September 23th, 2014, reported by CNN’s Josh Levs, Paul Cruickshank, and Tim Lister;
- “Officials say Khorasan is a threat to US because it aims to bring down airplanes with explosives”, on September 23th, 2014, reported by NBC’s Richard Engel;
- “Targeted by U.S. Airstrikes: The Secretive al-Qaeda Cell Was Plotting an ʻImminent Attack’”, on September 23th, 2014, by Terrence McCoy in The Washington Post;
- “Al Qaeda’s Quiet Plan to Outdo ISIS and hit U.S.”, on September 18th, 2014, news report on CBS’ The Morning.
After killing the alleged leader, the narrative switched from the Khorasan group being “perhaps in its final stages of planning its attack”, according to CNN on September 23rd, to “plotting as ʻaspirational’”, with “[no] concrete plan in the works”, according to The New York Times, on September 25th”:
“James Comey, the FBI director, and Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, each acknowledged that the U.S. did not have precise intelligence about where or when the cell, known as the Khorasan Group, would attempt to strike a Western target. […] ʻWe hit them. And I don’t think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes’”.
The point of contention is not that these groups are bad or that they do not pose a threat to indigenous and non-indigenous civilian populations. An evident problem with the presented narrative lies in the (ab)use of the word “imminence” as far as the actions of these “bad dudes” are concerned. A 2013 Department of Justice “White Paper on the Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”, obtained by NBC News, refers to “forces who pose[…] an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States. A use of force under such circumstances would be justified as an act of national self-defence”. “Imminent” is used 21 times, both in its literal and “doublespeak” sense, while “ʻimminent threat’ does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future. […] [The traditional] definition of imminence, which would require the United States to refrain from action until preparations for an attack are concluded, would not allow the United States sufficient time to defend itself”.
Operating under such vague and permissive legal frameworks, while continuously reaffirming the threat posed by Others, the state, the media and public find themselves in an unperturbed loop of self-victimisation which further normalises the culture of terror. Aside from this, basic civil rights are also affected. By looking at propaganda research, David Altheide concludes “that decision makers who serve as key news sources can shape perceptions of mass audiences and promote acquiescence to state control measures”. When terror as the politique de jour becomes institutionalised, it is consolidated through “public perceptions of threats and enemies”. Altheide also adds that “messages [about fear] also resonate moral panics, with the implication that action must be taken to not only defeat a specific enemy but also save civilisation” from James Comey’s “bad dudes”.
The clash of civilisations narrative serves as the background for the hegemonic worldview. Without underestimating the risk posed by external threats and their capacity for provoking widespread damage, in the United Statesfor example, the leading causes of death can be narrowed down to: heart disease and guns. Lee Clarke points out that the “overblown caricature of ʻrisk’ in American society today”, promoted by the media, leads people to believe that “they can have zero risk”, to the point that “they worry about anthrax more than smoking, toxic chemicals more than lack of exercise”. In 2013, according to the State Department, out of 17.891 deaths related to terrorism, only 16 were Americans. By comparison, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that “about 600.000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year (in 2011, there were 598.577 reported deaths) – that is one in every four deaths, with about 720.000 Americans having a heart attack every year, to which we add that the coronary heart disease alone (which kills 380.000 annually) costs the United States 108.9 billion dollars each year (this includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity). In the latter instance, Charlotte Childress and Harriet Childress have showcased how: “nearly all the mass shootings in [United States] in recent years – not just Newtown, Aurora, Forth Hood, Tucson and Columbine – have been committed by white men and boys. […] Unlike other groups, white men are not used to being singled out. So we expect that many of them will protest its unfair if we talk about them”.
In 2013 alone, there were 26 registered deaths related to school shootings, while so far in 2014, the count was up to 19 deaths, not counting all the other zero-fatalities incidents. This proves once more the discourse is always about Us since we are told so very little about the Others and what trickles down is “courtesy” of their radicalised fringe groups. In Chris Rumford’s analysis, the exacerbation of alterity – “the radical and threatening difference associated with the Other” – leads Us to live “in a world in which [W]e are encouraged to believe in more and more dangers”, while the “ʻprotections’ […] offered to help [U]s: […] installing CCTV, consuming training on how to survive terrorist attacks, living in gated communities, etc., […] increase our awareness of alterity”.
The media – as Simon Cottle observes – tends to succumb “to cheerleading and consensual support of government [policies]”. This can be attributed to the “powerful confluence of controls and constraints”, that is both a cause and a consequence of the “routine news deference to political and military elites”. Though alternative media have started to shape parallel counterbalancing factual narratives, mainstream outlets in the absence of checks and balances, will continue to proliferate the culture of terror tropes. With figures shrouded in black garments, wielding swords and butcher’s knives as the focal point, this decades long practice is admittedly finely tuned at sowing and reaping the seeds of discord and alienation for years to come.
***, “Report on Terrorism (2011)”, The National Counterterrorism Center, Washington, DC, 2012, fas.org.
***, “Department of Justice White Paper – Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”, February 5th, 2013, nbcnews.com.
***, “Map of School Shootings from 2013-14”, The Boston Globe, June 6th, 2014, www.bostonglobe.com.
***, “Saudi Arabia: Surge in Executions”, August 21st, 2014, www.hrw.org.
***, “Saudi-Arabia: Scheduled beheading reflects authorities’ callous disregard to human rights”, August 22nd, 2014, www.amnesty.org.
***, “Muslim Leaders Worldwide Condemn ISIS”, Washington’s Blog, August 23rd, 2014, www.washingtonsblog.com.
***, “Bipartisan Support for Obama’s Military Campaign Against ISIS”, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, September 15th, 2014, www.people-press.org.
***, “Heart Disease Facts”, page last reviewed on September 26th, 2014, www.cdc.gov.
Spencer Ackerman, “Global Terrorism Rose 43% in 2013 despite al-Qaida Splintering, US reports”, The Guardian, April 30th, 2014, www.theguardian.com.
David L. Altheide, Terrorism and the Politics of Fear, Oxford, AltaMira Press, 2006.
Idem, “Moral Panic: From Sociological Concept to Public Discourse”, Crime, Media, Culture, vol. 5, no. 1 (April 2009), p. 79-99.
Fernando Arenas, Utopias of Otherness. Nationhood and Subjectivity in Portugal and Brazil, Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
Dan Balz, Peython M. Craighill, “Poll: Public Supports Strikes in Iraq, Syria; Obama’s Ratings Hover Near His All-time Lows”, The Washington Post, September 9th, 2014, www.washingtonpost.com.
Dean Baquet, “The Executive Editor on the Word ʻTorture’”, The New York Times, August 7th, 2014, www.nytimes.com.
Homi K. Bhabha, “Introduction: Narrating the Nation”, in Homi K. Bhabha (ed.), Nation and Narration,London andNew York, Routledge, 1990, p. 1-7.
Maria Boletsi, Barbarism and Its Discontents,Stanford,California,StanfordUniversity Press, 2013.
Chiara Bottici, Benoît Challand, “Rethinking Political Myth. The Clash of Civilizations as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy”, European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 9, no. 3, August 2006, p. 315-336.
Anthony Burke, “Metaterror”, International Relations, vol. 23, no. 1, March 2009, p. 61-67.
John Cassidy, “The War Machine”, September 24th, 2014, The New Yorker, www.newyorker.com.
Charlotte Childress, Harriet Childress, “White Men Have Much to Discuss About Mass Shootings”, The Washington Post, March 29th, 2013, www.washingtonpost.com.
Lee Clarke, Worst Cases: Terror and Catastrophe in the Popular Imagination,Chicago andLondon, TheUniversity ofChicago Press, 2006.
Stephen Coleman, Karen Ross, The Media and the Public. “Them” and “Us” in Media Discourse,Malden, MA., Blackwell Publishing, 2010.
Simon Cottle, “Mediatizing the Global War on Terror: Television’s Public Eye”, in Anandam P. Kavoori, Todd Fraley (eds.), Media, Terrorism, and Theory. A Reader, Lanham, Maryland, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006, p. 19-48.
Barbara Czarniawska, “Alterity/Identity Interplay in Image Construction”, in Daved Barry, Hans Hansen (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of New Approaches in Management and Organization, London, SAGE Publications Ltd, 2008, p. 49-62.
Howard H. Davis, “Discourse and Media Influence”, in Teun A. van Dijk (ed.), Discourse and Communication. New Approaches to the Analysis of Mass Media Discourse and Communication,Berlin,New York, de Gruyter, 1985, p. 44-59.
Micharel X. Delli Carpini, “In Search of the Information Citizen: What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters”, The Communication Review, vol. 4, issue 1 (2000), p. 129-164.
Denise Dibattista, “Legitimising and Informative Discourse in the Kosovo Debates in the British House of Commons and the Italian Chamber of Deputies”, in Paul Bayley (ed.), Cross-Cultural Perspective on Parliamentary Discourse, Amsterdam, John Benjamins B.V., 2004, p. 151-184.
Ken Dilanizn, “US Offers More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat”, Associated Press, September 25th, 2014, ap.org.
James N. Druckman, “The Implications of Framing Effects for Citizen Competence”, Political Behavior, vol. 23, no. 3 (September 2001), p. 225-256.
Jenny Edkins, “Poststructuralism”, in Martin Griffiths (ed.), International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. An Introduction, Oxon and New Y ork, Routledge, 2007, p. 88-98.
Ariel Edwards-Levy, “The American People Really Don’t Want to Bomb Syria (Polls)”, The Huffington Post, September 3rd, 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com.
Helen Fulton, “Introduction: the Power of Narrative”, in Helen Fulton, Rosemary Huisman, Julian Murphet, Anne Dunn (eds.), Narrative and Media, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 1-7.
Gerry Gable, Chana Moshenska, “The British Media and the Far Right”, in Jan Herman Brinks, Stella Rock, Edward Timms (eds.), Nationalist Myths and Modern Media. Contested Identities in the Age of Globalization,London, Tauris Academic Studies, 2006, p. 83-96.
Glenn Greenwald, Murtaza Hussain, “The Fake Terror Threat Used to Justify Bombing Syria”, The Intercept, September 28th, 2014, firstlook.org/theintercept.
Stuart Hall, “The Rediscovery of ʻIdeology’: Return of the Repressed in Media Studies”, in Michael Gurevitch, Tony Bennett, James Curran, Janet Woollacott (eds.), Culture, Society and the Media,London and New York, Methuen & Co, 1982, p. 56-90.
Nicole Hemmer, “The Rise of Right-Wing Pseudo-History”, August 26th, 2014, www.usnews.com.
Krisadawan Hongladarom, “Discourse about Them. Construction of Ethnic Identities in Thai Print Media”, in Anna Duszak, Us and Others: Social Identities across Languages, Discourses and Cultures,Amsterdam andPhiladelphia, John Benjamins Publishing, 2002, p. 321-340.
Reid Hastie, Robyn M. Dawes, Rational Choice in an Uncertain World. The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making (Second Edition),London and Thousand Oaks, SAGE Publications, 2010.
Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Paul Jones, David Holmes, Key Concepts in Media and Communications,London and Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, 2011.
Karim H. Karim, “Covering Muslims. Journalism as Cultural Practice”, in Barbie Zelizer, Stuart Allan (eds.), Journalism after September 11. Second Edition, Oxon andNew York, Routledge, 2011, p. 131-146.
Douglas Kellner, “9/11, Spectacles of Terror, and Media Manipulation: A Critique of Jihadist and Bush Media Politics”, Logos, issue 2.2 (Spring 2003), logosonline.home.igc.org.
Richard Kearney, “Strangers and Others: From Deconstruction to Hermeneutics”, Critical Horizons, vol. 3, no. 1, 2002, p. 7-36.
Michael Kimmel, “Mars, Venus or Planet Earth. Women and Men in a New Millennium (Transcript)”, The Center for Gender and Student Engagement (CGSE), July 8th, 2013, www.mediaed.org.
James Kurth, “The United Statesas a Civilizational Leader”, in Peter J. Katzenstein (ed.), Civilizations in World Politics. Plural and Pluralist Perspectives, Oxon andNew York, Routledge, 2010, p. 41-66.
Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life. Volume I – Introduction, translated by John Moore,London andNew York, Verso, 1991.
Jeff Lewis, Language Wars. The Role of Media and Culture in Global Terror and Political Violence,London,Ann Arbor,MI, Pluto Press, 2005.
Rebecca Ann Lind, James A. Danowski, “The Representation of Arabs in U.S. Electronic Media”, in Yahya R. Kamalipour, Theresa Carilli (eds.), Cultural Diversity and the U.S. Media, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1998, p. 157-168.
David Machin, Andrea Mayr, How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis,London and Thousand Oaks, SAGE Publications, 2012.
Terrence McCoy, “ISIS, Beheadings and the Success of Horrifying Violence”, June 13th, 2014, The Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com.
Jennifer Milliken, “The Study of Discourse in International Relations: A Critique of Research and Methods”, European Journal of International Relations, vol. 5, no. 2 (June 1999), p. 225-254.
Paul Nesbitt-Larking, Politics, Society, and the Media (2nd Edition),Ontario,Plymouth, Broadview Press, 2007.
Razmond S. Nickerson, “Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises”, Review of General Psychology, vol. 2, no. 2, 1998, p. 175-220.
Barack. H. Obama, “Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly”, New York, September 24th, 2014, www.whitehouse.gov.
Donald E. Pease, The New American Exceptionalism,Minneapolis,University ofMinnesota Press, 2009.
Michael A. Peters, Nicholas C. Burbules, Poststructuralism and Educational Research, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefied Publishers, Inc., 2004.
Necati Polat, International Relations, Meaning and Mimesis, Oxon andNew York, Routledge, 2012.
Mark Preston, “Poll: Americans Back Airstrikes, but Oppose Use of U.S. Troops inIraq,Syria”,September 29, 2014, cnn.com.
Kathleen Glenister Roberts, Alterity & Narrative. Stories and the Negotiation of Western Identities,Albany,StateUniversity ofNew York Press, 2007.
Theodor Roosevelt, The Winning of the West. Volume Three: The Founding of the Trans-Alleghany Commonwealths (1784-1790), www.gutenberg.org.
Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny,Manchester,ManchesterUniversity Press, 2003.
Chris Rumford, “Social Policy Beyond Fear: The Globalization of Strangeness, the ʻWar on Terror’, and ʻSpaces of Wonder’”, in David Denney (ed.), Living in Dangerous Times. Fear, Insecurity, Risk and Social Policy, West Sussex, UK, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2009, p. 71-85.
Shinichi Saito, “Television and Perceptions of the U.S.Society in Japan”, in Yahya R. Kamalipour (ed.), Images of the U.S. around the World. A Multicultural Perspective,New York,StateUniversity of theNew York Press, 1999, p. 231-246.
Rick Shenkman, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter,New York, Basic Books, 2008.
Richard W. Sonnenfeldt, Witness to Nuremberg, New York, Arcade Publishing, Inc., 2006.
Paul Starobin, “The Eternal Collapse of Russia”, The National Interest, September – October 2014 Issue, August 28, 2014, nationalinterest.org.
Emily Swanson, “Most Americans Now Support Airstrikes in Syria, Poll Shows”, The Huffington Post, August 29th, 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com.
Daya Kishan Thussu, “Televising the ʻWar on Terrorism’: The Myths of Morality”, in Anandam P. Kavoori, Todd Fraley (eds.), Media, Terrorism and Theory. A Reader, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefied Publishers, Inc., 2006, p. 3-18.
Tzvetan Todorov, The Fear of Barbarians. Beyond the Clash of Civilizations, translated by Andrew Brown, Chicago, The Universirty of Chicago Press, 2010.
John Tulloch, R. Warwick Blood, Icons of War and Terror. Media Images in an Age of International Risk, Oxon and New York, Routledge, 2012.
Stephen M. Walt, “Building up New Bogeymen” (Review of Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order), Foreign Policy, no. 106 (Spring 1997), p. 176-189.
Ruth Wodak, “Prejudice, Racism, and Discourse”, in Anton Pelinka, Karin Bischof, Karin Stögner (eds.), Handbook of Prejudice, Amherst, NY, Cambria Press, 2009, p. 409-442.
Bob Woodward, Bush at War,New York, Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Micah Zenko, “Mission Leap”, Foreign Policy,August 22th, 2014, www.foreignpolicy.com.
 Historian of modern American politics and media, Nicole Hemmer refers to the trend among conservative media personalities such as Bill O’Reilley, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Dinesh D’Souza and Brian Kilmeade, to interpret history through highly ideological lenses in order to develop “a fact-lite version of history”, that “starts with the answers, then bends the facts to fit them”, so that as Rush Limbaugh states: “kids learn historical truth and get a foundation of love and respect for this country, despite our flaws”. Nicole Hemmer, “The Rise of Right-Wing Pseudo-History”, August 26th, 2014, in http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/nicole-hemmer/2014/
/08/26/rush-limbaugh-glenn-beck-and-the-new-conservative-pseudo-history-movement (site of U.S. News – News, Opinion & Analysis), accessed on August 28th, 2014.
 Dean Baquet, “The Executive Editor on the Word ʻTorture’”, The New York Times, August 7th, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2014/08/07/the-executive-editor-on-the-word-torture/ (site of The New York Times), accessed on August 28th, 2014.
 Duncam Gardham, “Torture is not wrong, it just doesn’t work, says former interrogator”, The Telegraph, October 28th, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/8833108/Torture-is-not-wrong-it-just-doesnt-work-says-former-interrogator.html (site of The Telegraph); Newsweek Staff, “Neuroscience: Torture Doesn’t Work and Here’s Why”, Newsweek, September, 21th, 2009, updated April 14th, 2014, http://www.newsweek.com/neur
osciencetorture-doesnt-work-and-heres-why-79365 (site of Newsweek); Scott Horton, “Torture Doesn’t Work, Neurobiologist Say”, Harper’s Magazine, September 22th, 2009, http://harpers.org/blog/2009/09/torture-doesnt-work-neurobiologist-says/, (site of Harper’s Blog, part of Harper’s Magazine); see also former F.B.I agent, Ali Soufan (with Daniel Freedman), The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.
 Barbara Czarniawska, “Alterity/Identity Interplay in Image Construction”, in Daved Barry, Hans Hansen (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of New Approaches in Management and Organization, London and Thousand Oaks, SAGE Publications, 2008, p. 51.
 Paul Starobin, “The Eternal Collapse of Russia”, The National Interest, September – October 2014 Issue, August 28th, 2014, http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-eternal-collapse-russia-11126 (site of The National Interest), accessed on August 30th, 2014.
 “[I]n the new war on terror, the Geneva Convention protections for prisoners had, in [Alberto Gonzales’] view, become ʻobsolete’”. ***, “Just a Few Bad Apples?”, The Economist, January 20th, 2005, http://www.economist.com/node/3577249 (site of The Economist), accessed on August 28th, 2014.
 Daya Kishan Thussu, “Televising the ʻWar on Terrorism’: The Myths of Morality”, in Anandam P. Kavoori, Todd Fraley (eds.), Media, Terrorism and Theory. A Reader, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefied Publishers, Inc., 2006, p. 4.
 Donald E. Pease, The New American Exceptionalism, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2009, p. 42. See also: Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style, London, Routledge, 1991, p. 46.
 For Shinichi Saito, “cultivation theory postulates that the more time people spend watching television, the more likely it is that their conceptions of social reality will reflect what they see on the screen. Furthermore, the theory contends that heavy consumption of television contributes to a homogenized view of the real world”. Shinichi Saito, “Television and Perceptions of the U.S. Society in Japan”, in Yahya R. Kamalipour (ed.), Images of the U.S. Around the World. A Multicultural Perspective, New York, State University of the New York Press, 1999, p. 232. (For further references, see: George Gerbner, Larry Gross, Michael Morgan, Nancy Signorielli, “Living with Television: The Dynamics of the Cultivation Process”, in Jennings Bryant, Dolf Zillmann (eds.), Perspectives on Media Effects (Communication), Hillsdale, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1986, p.17-48; James Shanahan, Michael Morgan, Television and Its Viewers. Cultivation Theory and Research, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999).
 Michael Kimmel, “Mars, Venus or Planet Earth. Women and Men in a New Millennium (Transcript)”, The Center for Gender and Student Engagement (CGSE), July 8th, 2013, in http://www.mediaed.org/assets/products/2
32/transcript_232.pdf (site of Media Education Foundation), accessed on August 30th, 2014.
 “Income Inequality”, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Season 1, Episode 10, July 14th, 2014, in http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/john-oliver-wealth-gap-american-dream-video_n_5584621.html (site of Huffington Post), accessed on August 28th, 2014.
 Stephen M. Walt – Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University – in a Foreign Policy article, asserts that: “From 2001 until sometime around 2006, the United States followed the core neoconservative foreign-policy program. The disastrous results of this vast social science experiment could not be clearer. The neoconservative program cost the United States several trillion dollars and thousands dead and wounded American soldiers, and it sowed carnage and chaos in Iraq and elsewhere. One would think that these devastating results would have discredited the neoconservatives forever, just as isolationists like Charles Lindbergh or Robert McCormick were discredited by World War II, and men like former Secretary of State Dean Rusk were largely marginalized after Vietnam. Even if the neoconservative architects of folly are undaunted by failure and continue to stick to their guns, one might expect a reasonably rational society would pay them scant attention. Yet […] neoconservative punditry is alive and well today. Casual viewers of CNN and other news channels are being treated to the vacuous analysis of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Bill Kristol”. (See Stephen M. Walt, “Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry”, Foreign Policy, June 20th, 2014, in http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/06/20/being_a_neocon_means_never_having_to_say_you_ _re_sorry_dick_cheney_william_kristol (site of Foreign Policy), accessed on August 30th, 2014. See also Benjamin H. Friedman, “Six Bad Arguments for Bombing Libya”, Cato Institute, March 29th, 2011, in http://www.cato.org/blog/six-bad-arguments-bombing-libya (site of the Cato Institute), accessed on August 28th, 2014; Justin Long, “Keeping Score on the Libya Intervention: Good Idea or Tragic Mistake”, The National Interest, August 22th, 2014, in http://nationalinterest.org/feature/keeping-score-the-libya-intervention-good-idea-or-tragic-11119 (site of The National Interest), accessed on August 28th, 2014).
 Stuart Hall, “The Rediscovery of ʻIdeology’: Return of the Repressed in Media Studies”, in Michael Gurevitch, Tony Bennett, James Curran, Janet Woollacott (eds.), Culture, Society and the Media, London and New York, Methuen & Co, 1982, p. 81.
 See Anna Lawlor, “5 Ways the Listicle Is Changing Journalism”, The Guardian, August 12th, 2013, in http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/aug/12/5-ways-listicle-changing-journalism (site of The Guardian); Pete Cahmore, “11 Reasons Why We Should Still Love Listicles”, The Guardian, September 1st, 2013, in http://www.theguardian.com/media/shortcuts/2013/sep/01/11-reasons-why-sti
ll-love-listicles, (site of The Guardian); John Kell, “More Listicles on the Way? Buzzfeed Secures $50 Million Investment”, Fortune, August 11th, 2014, in http://fortune.com/2014/08/11/buzzfeed-financing-50m/ (site of Fortune magazine), accessed on August 30th, 2014.
 Other strategies used in media discourse to exploit the persona of the Other, are: lexicalisation, manipulation, topicalisation, foregrounding and backgrounding, “as well as rhetorical devices such as metaphors, euphemisms and hyperboles”. (Krisadawan Hongladarom, “Discourse about Them. Construction of Ethnic Identities in Thai Print Media”, in Anna Duszak, Us and Others: Social Identities across Languages, Discourses and Cultures, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing, 2002, p. 332).
 Earlier titles follow a similar pattern: “Russia Troops Mass at Border With Ukraine” (Steven Lee Myers and Alison Smale, March 13th, 2014); “Scrutiny Over Photos Said to Tie Russia Units to Ukraine”, (Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer, April 22th, 2014); “Russia Sent Tanks to Separatists in Ukraine, U.S. Says” (Andrew E. Kramer and Michael E. Gordon, June 13th, 2014).
 James Kurth, “The United States as a Civilizational Leader”, in Peter J. Katzenstein (ed.), Civilizations in World Politics. Plural and Pluralist Perspectives, Oxon and New York, Routledge, 2010, p. 42.
 Jennifer Milliken, “The Study of Discourse in International Relations: A Critique of Research and Methods”, European Journal of International Relations, vol. 5, no. 2 (June 1999), p. 225-226. See also: David Campbell, Politics without Principles: Sovereignty, Ethics, and the Narratives of the Gulf War, Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993.
 For an in-depth analysis, see Richard Nadeau, Edouard Cloutier, “New Evidence About the Existence of a Bandwagon Effect in the Opinion Formation Process”, International Political Science Review, vol. 14, no. 2 (April 1993), p. 203-213.
 In the case of framing effects, Gitlin defines “frames [as] principles of selection, emphasis, and presentation composed of little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters”. Tversky and Kahneman referenced by James N. Druckman, “use the term ʻdecision frame’ to refer to the decision-maker’s conception of the acts, outcomes, and contigencies associated with a particular choice”. (James N. Druckman, “The Implications of Framing Effects for Citizen Competence”, Political Behavior, vol. 23, no. 3 (September 2001), p. 227). For the hindsight bias, Reid Hastie and Robym M. Dawes claim that: “[o]ur recall is organized in ways that make sense of the present. We thus reinforce our belief in the conclusions we have reached about how the past has determined the present. We quite literally make up stories about our lives, the world, and reality in general”. (Reid Hastie, Robyn M. Dawes, Rational Choice in an Uncertain World. The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making (Second Edition), London and Thousand Oaks, SAGE Publications, 2010, p. 133.
 Gerry Gable, Chana Moshenska, “The British Media and the Far Right”, in Jan Herman Brinks, Stella Rock, Edward Timms (eds.), Nationalist Myths and Modern Media. Contested Identities in the Age of Globalization,London, Tauris Academic Studies, 2006, p. 83.
 Rebecca Ann Lind, James A. Danowski, “The Representation of Arabs in U.S. Electronic Media”, in Yahya R. Kamalipour, Theresa Carilli (eds.), Cultural Diversity and the U.S. Media, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1998, p. 157-158.
 Paul Nesbitt-Larking, Politics, Society, and the Media (2nd Edition), Ontario, Plymouth, Broadview Press, 2007, p. 84. See also as referenced by Nesbitt-Larking: Ralph Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society,New York, Quartet Books, 1973.
 Theodore Roosevelt, The Winning of the West. Volume Three: The Founding of the Trans-Alleghany Commonwealths (1784-1790), in http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/11943/pg11943.html (site of The Project Gutenberg), accessed on September 1st, 2014.
 ***, “Saudi-Arabia: Scheduled beheading reflects authorities’ callous disregard to human rights”, August 22th, 2014, in http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/saudi-arabia-scheduled-beheading-reflects-authorities-callous-disregard-human-rights-2014-08-22 (site of Amnesty International), accessed on September 1st, 2014.
 Terrence McCoy, “ISIS, Beheadings and the Success of Horrifying Violence”, June 13th, 2014, The Washington Post, in http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/13/isis-beheadings-and-the-success-of-horrifying-violence/ (site of the The Washington Post), accessed on September 1st, 2014.
 Denise Dibattista, “Legitimising and Informative Discourse in the Kosovo Debates in the British House of Commons and the Italian Chamber of Deputies”, in Paul Bayley (ed.), Cross-Cultural Perspective on Parliamentary Discourse, Amsterdam, John Benjamins B.V., 2004, p. 174.
 Douglas Kellner, “9/11, Spectacles of Terror, and Media Manipulation: A Critique of Jihadist and Bush Media Politics”, Logos, issue 2.2 (Spring 2003), in http://logosonline.home.igc.org/kellner_media.htm (site of Logos, Journal of Modern Society and Culture), accessed on September 2nd, 2014
 David L. Altheide, “Moral Panic: From Sociological Concept to Public Discourse”, Crime, Media, Culture, vol. 5, no. 1 (April 2009), p. 79-80. See also: Stanley Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers (Third Edition),New York, Routledge, 2002.
 Ruth Wodak, “Prejudice, Racism, and Discourse”, in Anton Pelinka, Karin Bischof, Karin Stögner (eds.), Handbook of Prejudice, Amherst, NY, Cambria Press, 2009, p. 425. See also: Teun A. van Dijk, “Discourse and Manipulation”, Discourse and Society, vol. 17, no. 2 (May 2006), p. 359-383.
ws/john-cassidy/american-war-machine (site of The New Yorker), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 Barack. H. Obama, “Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly”, New York, September 24th, 2014, in http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/24/remarks-president-obama-address-united-nations-general-assembly (site of the White House), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 Spencer Ackerman, “Global Terrorism Rose 43% in 2013 despite al-Qaida Splintering, US reports”, The Guardian, April 30th, 2014, in http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/30/global-terrorism-rose-despite-al-qaida-splintering (site of The Guardian), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 ***, “Report on Terrorism (2011)”, The National Counterterrorism Center, Washington, DC, 2012, p. 14, in http://fas.org/irp/threat/nctc2011.pdf (site of Federation of American Scientists – Intelligence Resource Program), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
hingtonsblog.com/2014/08/muslims-condemn-isis.html (site of Washington’s Blog), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 Karim H. Karim, “Covering Muslims. Journalism as Cultural Practice”, in Barbie Zelizer, Stuart Allan (eds.), Journalism after September 11. Second Edition, Oxon andNew York, Routledge, 2011, p. 142.
 Howard H. Davis, “Discourse and Media Influence”, in Teun A. van Dijk (ed.), Discourse and Communication. New Approaches to the Analysis of Mass Media Discourse and Communication,Berlin,New York, de Gruyter, 1985, p. 47.
 For example, Rick Shenkman’s book, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter, shows that “only 34 percent know that it is the Congress that declares war (which may explain why they are not alarmed when presidents take [them] into wars without explicit declarations of war from the legislature)”. Micharel X. Delli Carpini in an article entitled: “In Search of the Information Citizen: What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters”, details how “public opinion since the 1930s has consistently documented low levels of political knowledge among the American public, leading Philip Converse [American political scientist] to write that ʻthe most familiar fact to arise from the sample surveys is that popular levels of information about public affairs, are from the point of view of an informed observer, astonishingly low’”. See: Rick Shenkman, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter, New York, Basic Books, 2008, p. 24; Micharel X. Delli Carpini, “In Search of the Information Citizen: What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters”, The Communication Review, vol. 4, issue 1 (2000), p. 131.
 Ariel Edwards-Levy, “The American People Really Don’t Want to Bomb Syria (Polls)”, The Huffington Post, September 3rd, 2013, in http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/03/syria-airstrike-polls_n_3861639.html (site of The Huffington Post), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 ***, “Bipartisan Support for Obama’s Military Campaign Against ISIS”, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, September 15th, 2014, in http://www.people-press.org/2014/09/15/bipartisan-support-for-obamas-military-campaign-against-isis/ (site of Pew Center Global), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 Emily Swanson, “Most Americans Now Support Airstrikes in Syria, Poll Shows”, The Huffington Post, August 29th, 2014, in http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/29/syria-poll_n_5736468.html (site of The Huffington Post), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 Dan Balz, Peython M. Craighill, “Poll: Public Supports Strikes in Iraq, Syria; Obama’s Ratings Hover Near His All-time Lows”, The Washington Post, September 9th, 2014, in http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll
-public-supports-strikes-in-iraq-syria-obamas-ratings-hover-near-his-all-time-lows/2014/09/08/69c164d8-3789-11e4-8601-97ba88884ffd_story.html (site of The Washington Post), accessed on September 25th, 2014.
 Mark Preston, “Poll: Americans Back Airstrikes, but Oppose Use of U.S. Troops in Iraq, Syria”, September 29, 2014, in http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/29/politics/poll-americans-back-airstrikes/ (site of CNN), accessed on September 30th, 2014.
 Micah Zenko cites Adam Siegel analysis of the concept by “provid[ing] a useful typology for diagnosing the onset of mission creep: 1. Task accretion (the general assumption of tasks necessary to achieve the mission’s initial objective); 2. Mission shift (occurs when forces adopt tasks that expand the mission); 3. Mission transition (is an unclear or unstated transition to a new set of objectives); 4. Mission leap (occurs with a clear decision – an explicit choice – to change the mission, and, therefore, the military’s tasks)”. (See Micah Zenko, “Mission Leap”, Foreign Policy, August 22th, 2014, in http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/08/22/five_signs_miss
ion_creep_iraq_syria_islamic_state_airstrikes_obama (site of Foreign Policy), accessed on September 30th, 2014.
 Glenn Greenwald, Murtaza Hussain, “The Fake Terror Threat Used to Justify Bombing Syria”, The Intercept, September 28th, 2014, in https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/28/u-s-officials-invented-terror-group-justify-bombing-syria/, (site of The Intercept), accessed on September 30th, 2014.
 Ken Dilanian, “US Offers More Nuanced Take on Khorasan Threat”, Associated Press, September 25th, 2014, in http://bigstory.ap.org/article/70dba5b999be4a3583ddd55dad9215dd/us-offers-more-nuanced-take-khorasan-threat (site of Associated Press), accessed on September 30th, 2014, also quoted in Ibidem.
 ***, “Department of Justice White Paper – Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”, February 5th, 2013, in http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/04/16843014-justice-department-memo-reveals-legal-case-for
-drone-strikes-on-americans?lite&preview=true%22 (site of NBC News), accessed on September 30th, 2014.
 Among the studies referred to by David Altheide, see: Allan Ellenius and the European Science Foundation, Iconography, Propaganda, and Legitimation, New York, Oxford University Press, 1998; Hans H. Gerth, “Crisis Management of Social Structures: Planning Propaganda and Societal Morale”, International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, vol. 5, no. 3 (Spring 1992), p. 337-359; Robert Jackall (ed.), Propaganda, New York, New York University Press, 1994.
facts.htm, (site of CDC – Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), accessed on September 30th, 2014.
 Charlotte Childress, Harriet Childress, “White Men Have Much to Discuss About Mass Shootings”, The Washington Post, March 29th, 2013, in http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/white-men-have-much-to-discuss-about-mass-shootings/2013/03/29/7b001d02-97f3-11e2-814b-063623d80a60_story.html (site of The Washington Post), accessed on October 6th, 2014.
 ***, “Map of School Shootings from 2013-14”, The Boston Globe, June 6th, 2014, in http://www.bostonglobe. com/2014/06/10/map-school-shootings-from/0MLAH4HL2MjgGKDlbDVpaJ/story.html (site of The Boston Globe), accessed on October 6th, 2014.
 Chris Rumford, “Social Policy Beyond Fear: The Globalization of Strangeness, the ʻWar on Terror’, and ʻSpaces of Wonder’”, in David Denney (ed.), Living in Dangerous Times. Fear, Insecurity, Risk and Social Policy, West Sussex, UK, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2009, p. 74.