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The construction of Islam in the British and American Press 1998-2005. A corpus-based (keywords and collocates) analysis Tony McEnery Lancaster University. Objectives. How do news stories construct Islam? Have there been any (recent) changes over time?

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the construction of islam in the british and american press 1998 2005

The construction of Islam in the British and American Press 1998-2005

A corpus-based (keywords and collocates) analysis

Tony McEnery

Lancaster University

objectives
Objectives
  • How do news stories construct Islam?
  • Have there been any (recent) changes over time?
  • Are there differences between reporting on Islam (as a religion) and Muslims (as a people)?
  • Are there any differences/similarities between tabloids and broadsheets
  • Are there any differences/similarities between American and British newspapers?
  • How can corpus-based methods be used alongside CDA or moral panic theory?
why islam
Why Islam?
  • Post WWII – demand for unskilled labour results in migration of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims to the UK
  • 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
slide4
Data
  • 87 million words of British news

Broadsheets: The Business, The Guardian, The Independent & Independent on Sunday, The Observer, The Times & Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph & Sunday Telegraph

Tabloids: 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: Financial Times, New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle

analysis
Analysis
  • WordSmith 4 used:
  • 1. Keywords analysis of UK broadsheets vs. UK tabloids
  • 2. Collocational and concordance analysis of Islam, Islamic, Muslim, Muslims
  • 3. Keyword analysis of pre and post 9/11 articles in UK and US news
wordsmith settings
WordSmith settings
  • 2 Frequency lists compared together
  • p value was set at 0.0000000001
  • 2180 keywords found
findings style and spelling
Findings: Style and spelling
  • Tabloids

Pronouns: I, my, me, myself, we, he, she

Emphatic adjectives: stunning, fantastic, terrible, wonderful

  • Broadsheets

Conjunctions/determiners: the, that, whichhowever, thus, than

Formal terms of address: Mr, Ms

(See for example Biber et al 1998: 148)

moslem key in the tabloids
Moslem – key in the tabloids
  • 7,282 tabloid uses
  • 4,834 in the Daily Mail
  • 2,208 Daily Express
bin laden
Bin Laden
  • powerful (mastermind, terroristgodfather, millionaire, Al Qaeda leader)
  • warrior leader (chief, warlord)
  • outcast (dissident, exile, fugitive)
  • insane (maniac, twisted)
  • evil (gloating menace, evil, terrorist, murderous)
  • fanatical (extremist, fanatic, fanatical)
tabloid villains
Tabloid villains
  • Direct references to terrorist attacks: terror, terrorists, Taliban, Osama, Bin, Laden, bomb, bombs, bomber, bombers, plane, suicide, killers, attack, crash, hijack, September, twin and towers
  • Emotive/evaluation reaction: atrocity, atrocities, tragedy, carnage, horror, terrible and evil
other tabloid categories
Other tabloid categories
  • Brainwashing: lure, rant, rants, spew, rouser, brainwashed

“Children are being brainwashed into becoming Islamic extremists at 300 "Taliban schools" in Britain, it was reported last night. Youngsters are being indoctrinated with radical Islamic ideals by militant groups across the country, said leading British Muslim Dr Zaki Badawi.”

The Sun, December 28, 2001

  • Also,’scrougerphobia’ and political correctness
types of belief
Types of belief
  • In the tabloids, Muslims are fanatics and extremists
  • In the broadsheets, Muslims are radicals, fundamentalists, separatists but also moderates and progressives
broadsheet keywords
Broadsheet keywords
  • More focus on Islam
  • The media: book, novel, television, film, poetry
  • Other religions: Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Judaism
  • World events: Iran, Iraq, Iraqi, Arab, Israeli, Israel, Palestinian, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria
  • War and conflict: military, conflict, army, resistance, violence, occupied, ceasefire, genocide, peace, invasion
muslim s vs islam ic
Muslim(s) vs. Islam(ic)
  • Tabloids – more focus on Muslims (the people); Muslims as terrorists; evil preachers, Muslims as British and desiring peace, women as victims (honor killings, arranged marriage, hijab), men as potential terrorists or victims of racism
  • Broadsheets – more focus on Islam (as a religion) - stories on terrorism restricted to the word Islamic.
uk and us keywords before after 9 11
UK and US keywords before/after 9/11

Moral panic categories developed by McEnery (2005)

1. consequence

2. corrective action

3. desired outcome

4. moral entrepreneur

5. scapegoat

6. rhetoric

conclusions
Conclusions
  • Muslims as victims or villains
  • Moral panics, PC, scroungerphobia
  • Few distinctions made or explanations given
  • More neutral global ‘reporting’ stance in the broadsheets
  • Focus on small number of villains in the tabloids
other areas to focus on
Other areas to focus on
  • Additional data – BBC news, Al Jazeera
  • Close examination of stories – e.g. Abu Hamza 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?