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Representations of Islam in the British and American press 1999-2005 Paul Baker and Costas Gabrielatos Research questions How do news stories construct Islam? (How) has there been a change in construction since 9/11?

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representations of islam in the british and american press 1999 2005

Representations of Islam in the British and American press 1999-2005

Paul Baker and Costas Gabrielatos

research questions
Research questions
  • How do news stories construct Islam?
  • (How) has there been a change in construction since 9/11?
  • Are there any differences/similarities between American and British newspapers?
why islam
Why Islam?
  • Impressionistic view that Islam/Muslims more focussed on since 9.11.
  • April 2001 Robin Cook reports that Britain’s national dish is chicken tikka masala
  • September 2001 – terrorist attacks on US
  • July 2005 – terrorist attacks on UK
why news
Why news?
  • Power to influence public opinion
  • But also (usually) tries to reflect public opinion
  • British news is biased and

proud of it

  • Most other research found

mainly negative bias (Awass, Patel, Richardson)

slide5
Data
  • 87 million words of British news (Jan 1998-July 2005)

The Business, The Guardian, The Independent & Independent on Sunday, The Observer, The Times & Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph & Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Express & Sunday Express, The Daily Mail & Mail on Sunday, Daily Mirror & Sunday Mirror, The People, Daily Star & Sunday Star, The Sun

40 million words of American news (Jan 2000- July 2005): New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle

search term
Search term
  • Alah OR Allah OR ayatolah OR burka! OR burqa! OR chador! OR fatwa! OR hejab! OR imam! OR islam! OR Koran OR Mecca OR Medina OR Mohammedan! OR Moslem! OR Muslim! OR mosque OR mufti! OR mujaheddin! OR mujahedin! OR mullah! OR muslim! OR Prophet Mohammed OR Q\'uran OR rupoush OR rupush OR sharia OR shari\'a OR shia! OR shi-ite! OR Shi\'ite! OR sunni! OR the Prophet OR wahabi OR yashmak! AND NOT Islamabad AND NOT shiatsu AND NOT sunnily
method
Method

1. Corpora split into 4:

2. All sub-corpora compared to a reference corpus (BNC written – 90 million)

3. UK sub-corpora compared, US sub-corpora compared

4. Keywords (words which occur statistically significantly more often in a corpus when compared to a reference corpus) derived

5. Keywords analysed via concordances with respect to moral panic categories

moral panic
Moral panic
  • Conceived by Cohen (1972) mods and rockers in 1960s UK
  • Build up of concern over a social issue.
  • A scapegoat (social group)
  • Solutions proposed (moral entrepreneurs)
  • Often expressed as outrage rather than fear
  • Emotive language
  • Threat is normally exaggerated
moral panic categories developed by mcenery 2005
Moral panic categories developed by McEnery (2005)

1. consequence

2. corrective action

3. desired outcome

4. moral entrepreneur

5. scapegoat

6. rhetoric

uk keywords pre 9 11
UK keywords pre 9.11
  • No evidence of moral panic.
  • References to Iraq, Israel, Kosovo, Palestine
  • Muslims often mentioned ‘in passing’ rather than as main subject of article
  • Wider range of contexts pre 911 (fashion, famous, tourists, music, hotel, cricket, sex, leisure, dance, ski, museum, divorce, café, wine, gardens, film, beer, holidays, football, exotic and fun).
uk after 9 11
UK - After 9.11
  • British Muslims and what they believe:

"The vast, vast majority, of Muslims living in the UK support policing efforts, fear terrorism and want to work with us," said [Sir Ian].’ (The Guardian, October 29, 2004).

  • Focus on belief: moderate, militants, fanatics, fundamentalist, extremists
  • Focus on immigration, political correctness andscroungerphobia (taxpayers)
us before 9 11
US – before 9.11
  • Keywords are mainly proper nouns relating to Israel/Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Indonesia.
  • Peace is a keyword – focus on contexts where Muslims are aggressed against.
  • Muslims (occasionally cast as internal to the US – Farrakhan).
further research
Further research
  • Additional data – BBC news, Al Jazeera
  • Close examination of stories – e.g. Asylum seekers, clerics or types of Muslims (young women)
  • Comparison between right/left political stances
  • Examination of agency, metaphor, presupposition etc.
issues to address
Issues to address
  • What is bias? What is fair?
  • Does lexical priming work in the same way for everyone?
  • Need to consider readership and audience response
  • Is news the only way that people are informed?
  • Bias of the researcher?
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