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reporting 9/11 Sean Phelan. Lecture overview (1) “we’re all Israelis now” - reporting the Middle East in the immediate aftermath (2) State/terror discourse on US television (3) Representations of Islam on US television & the CNN messageboard

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Presentation Transcript


Sean Phelan



(1) “we’re all Israelis now” - reporting the Middle East in the immediate aftermath

(2) State/terror discourse on US television

(3) Representations of Islam on US television & the CNN messageboard

(3) British and Irish current affairs immediate framing - Primetime & Newsnight

(4) Arguing 9/11 - play Fox clip here


“we’re all Israelis now”

Israel/Palestine and American media in the immediate

aftermath of 9/11

who s celebrating
Who’s celebrating?

San Fr Chronicle:“Palestinians on the West Bank celebrated”; “In the West Bank town of Nablus, about 3,000 people poured into the streets”

USA Today:“Palestinians celebrating in the streets”, “apparent Palestinian jubilation”

New York Times: “some Palestinians rejoiced”, “big crowds of Palestinians marched in celebration”,

The Washington Post“Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip cheered the attack”, “Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon fired weapons into the air in celebration”


Who’s celebrating?

Boston Globe “RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian youths danced and handed out candies on the streets here and in Jerusalem yesterday to celebrate”, “Palestinians in Jerusalem celebrated outside the Damascus Gate”

Fox News: “Palestinians celebrating in the street”,

CBS“some Palestinian militants

ABC: “more militant Palestinians in Jerusalem”

CNN: “Palestinians took to the street

american israeli oneness as victims
American Israeli ‘oneness’ as victims

“Spilled Blood Is Seen as Bond That Draws 2 Nations Closer” (New York Times Headline)

juxtaposed with Palestinian ‘joy’

...Israelis also took cold comfort in concluding that Americans would now share more of their fears, while some Palestinians rejoiced at the same thought” (NEW YORK TIMES)


- Israel as (singular) Middle East ‘victim’

‘Tuesday's strikes may have helped convey to Americans a little of what they have been feeling over the past year of violence’ (USA Today)

‘Arab-Israeli violence now racking Israel’ (SF Chronicle)

“Israel is, of course, a country, that has seen its share of terrorism” (Fox News)


‘lexical coherence” of Palestinian Joy

“firing joyfully”(USA Today)

“Palestinians rejoicing” (New York Times);

“show of glee” (The Washington Post),

“Palestinian youths danced” (Boston Globe).

“jubilant Palestinians” (SF Chronicle)


Signifiers of

Palestinian ‘joy’

“Others offered candy to passers-by, a traditional gesture of celebration”(The Washington Post)

“celebrated…firing guns in the air”(Chronicle) -

“some drivers honked their horns in triumph” (New York Times)

“Palestinians took to the street” (CNN)

palestinians bogus grief
Palestinians’ bogus grief

- The popular as disclaimer: “Leaders Deplore, But People Rejoice” (Boston Globe Headline)

- Grief as PR repair job“Arab League spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi hastily organized a candlelight vigil ... in East Jerusalem nearly 24 hours after hundreds of Israelis flocked to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv in a spontaneous outpouring of grief”(USA Today).


Palestinians’ bogus grief

- Grief as Coercion: “Palestinian schoolchildren were made to stand in silence to commemorate the American victims” (Wash Post) Palestinian Authority announced that all Palestinian schoolchildren would stand” (NYT)

- Culpability in discourse structure?“Muslim groups and Arab leaders, including Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, condemned the attacks”. (SFC)

representing the other
Representing the ‘other’

- Hatred as primary definers - “There’s no shortage of people in the Middle East, who for various reasons hate the United States” (CBS) ‘little room for moderation among those who actually define themselves by their hatred for the US” (Fox)

- Hatred as historical fable/hatred from nowhere? (play Fox clip)

- Palestinian Q subsumed as Arab grievance “Arab leaders and citizens have expressed growing anger over U.S. political support and military aid for Israel [and] Islamic fundamentalist groups, including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, are also offended by the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia” (WPost)


Representing the ‘other’

- Animal metaphors “It is the carrierthat you have to get -- the regimes from which these terrorist plots are hatched” (Netanyahu in the SF Chronicle)…. “ ’a war... between humanity and those who are bloodthirsty’ " Sharon said”. (Globe)….“Israel intensified its hunt for Palestinian militants” (USA TODAY)

- Ideological uses of agency:“Palestinian analyst” juxtaposed with A “Professor of political studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (SFC)

- Arafat as metonym for the Palestinian Q“His Palestinian Authority” (Wash Post)…”Arafat’s Regime” (Boston Globe)…

- Arafat as dictator “Arafat's Palestinian Authority has suppressed videotaped footage” (WP)” “Palestinian leaders try to repair image - Effort includes threats to media”(USA Today - Headline)


Representing the ‘other’

- The street signifier/popular as threat “But the attack clearly had support on the streets”(New York Times) ”street reactions ...reflected a popular sentiment” (Wash Post)

- “Our” Muslims “Certainly most American Muslims don’t share the views of the militants overseas” (Fox News) ...“Muslim and Arab leaders in the New York area emphasized that they were reacting to the emergency first and foremost as Americans” (New York Times)


ABC news clip Sept 11th

- The popular as disclaimer “a sympathy not shared...”

- Catch all noun phrase of “more Militant Palestinians”

- Palestinian = Muslim in conflation of “ more militant Palestinians” & “these Muslims” in Lebanon

- Qualified denials Palestinian groups’ active denials of responsibility qualified by their “condemnation” of US Policy

- Palestinian “militant” spokesperson delegitimated by his not being identified

- Is there culpability in discourse structure?

de emphasizing israel on the make
De-emphasizing Israelon the make

- Diminution of agency:'Arafat is our bin Laden,' Israeli says amid fighting” (USA Today Headline)... “Three killed as Israelis Move Into Two West Bank Towns” (New York Times Headline)…”

- Rhetoric of attack as defence “operations to prevent terrorist bombings” (New York Times)

- Security as euphemism - “Israel has taken active security precautions in the aftermath of the attacks on the US” (Fox News)...

- Rhetoric of military precision “an Israeli government spokesman siad that the military activity had been guided solely by tactical considerations” (New York Times)….” in what the army said was a search-and-arrest mission to seize Palestinians of anti-Israeli Violence” (NYT)


De-emphasizing Israel

on the Make

- Rhetoric of democratic warfare “13 people were wounded in the exchanges of gunfire”(NYT) “Trading gunfire with residents (SFC)

- Sharon as moderate: “under pressure from hard-liners in his government” (Wash Post).. Despite such calls, government officials said Israel would remain restrained” (SF Chronicle)

- Non-dramatic rep. of Israeli actions: “Israeli troops entered Jenin around 2 a.m” (SFC)

- Reliance on Palestinian agency: “Israeli tanks enter Jericho on West Bank - Aide to Arafat charges U.S. attacks used as pretext” (NYT)…”The actions brought accusations from Palestinian leaders that Israel was using the terrorist attacks in the United States as a smoke screen” (SFC)


Ideological Square inverted?

- Clear agency:“Israel has launched a military offensive in Palestinian-controlled territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that has killed a dozen Palestinians in the last three days”…. “In the tank thrusts into Jenin,the army destroyed a Palestinian Authority building and killed at least 11 Palestinians in the two days of clashes, including a 9-year-old girl”

- Dramatised Description of Israeli Bully:”a column of Israeli tanks accompanied by infantry roared into[contrasted with token Palestinian resistence] into the sleepy Jordan Valley town of Jericho before dawn today, triggering a smattering of opposition”

- Emphasising Palestinians good qualities: Only Palestinian source is desrcibed as a “top Palestinian peace negotiator” and a “moderate”


Ideological square inverted

- Dramatisaiton of impact on Palestininans: “... “13 Palestinians were wounded, including one woman who was hit by shrapnel in her bed.[juxtaposed with] There were no Israeli casualties”...

- Disclaimers:“Israeli officials said Palestinian gunmen who shoot at Israeli cars have operated from Jericho. However, it was unclear whether there was any direct connection between the attack on Jericho and those gunmen.

- Ideological uses of agency: ”’These actions couldn't have gone on for so long if it weren't for the attack at the World Trade Center’,said Roni Daniel, military correspondent for Israel'sChannel 2 television station. "This is a window of opportunity that the Israeli army will use to push Arafat into a corner."


Israeli Partisans

“Until Tuesday, I felt selfishly grateful for the physical and psychic distance from the line where civilization confronts barbarism . But we're all Israelis now, all of us New Yorkers, all of us Americans (Samuel G Freedman, USA Today”…

“And in this Black September, after the worst act of terrorism in history, the question arises from Israelis like this official: Do you get it now?” (Clyde Haberman - New York Times)

“Like Israel, maybe now we will begin to take these men more seriously.'’(Bill Keller, New York Times)

“Was this not the ultimate expression of President Arafat's very own philosophy?” (Michael Kelly in Wash Post)


Consensual Rhetoric

“We can empathize with the Palestinians who have lived for a half-century under Israel's thumb -- and boot. But such empathy ends when we see cheering on the streets of Palestine as people watch televised images of the collapse of the World Trade Center”. (Gregory F. Treverton - SF Chronicle)


Empathy with Palestine

“...But it may easily seduce us into this small voice is extremely dangerous for us: forgetting that with or without Islamic fundamentalism, with or without Arab terrorism, there is no justification whatsoever for the lasting occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people by Israel. We have no right to deny Palestinians their natural right to self-determination” (Amos Oz, NYT)

”If we want to avoid creating more terrorists, we must end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict quickly and in a way both sides see as fair” (Caryle Murphy - Wash Post).


American TV in the immediate aftermath

  • Analysis of transcripts from 5 American television news networks: CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.
  • Total corpus size of 4.18 million words
  • Most interesting preliminary findings cross-compared with CNN message board corpus of just over 2.39 million words

State* concordance with terror

Television Corpus

Mboard Corpus








state-sponsored terrorism



states that harbor



ending states who



a terrorist state



states who sponsor



state sponsored terrorism



states that support



that harbor terrorists



state terrorism and



states that support



that support them



sponsored terrorism is



the states that



that harbor them



united states is



that support them



of state-sponsored



and terrorist states



state sponsored terrorism



contain terrorist states



state sponsorship of



involved in state



them and harbor



Israel is a



sponsors of terrorism



state-sponsored terrorism



state sponsors of



support terrorism have



was state support



terrorist states i



sponsorship of terrorism



the terrorist state



states that harbor



those states who


  • Results suggest collocation of state and terror common in both media fora but more frequently on the message board.

Collating state and terror:

television uses

  • None of the 41 noun phrases indict either America, Israel or any other ‘Western’ democracy
  • Only 1 use could be construed as alluding to US involvement and that’s uttered by Colin Powell! - ignored by interviewer Bob Schieffer

More state/terror concordances


Not once

Not once

22 times

(11 refs to “domestic terrorism chief”)


American Terror

American Sponsor*

Domestic terror*

Message board

24 times

3 times

12 times


Israel concordance with terror

  • Further searches of TV corpus showed that noun phrase "Israeli Terror*" is only ever directly collocated with "experts”
  • Phrases "Israel is a terrorist state” and "Israel is behind" are not used at all on TV.

Islamic noun-phrases

Fig 1: The 15 most popularly used noun phrases from the TV transcript corpus where Islamic is used as an adjective.


Islamic noun phrases

Fig 2: The 15 most popularly used noun phrases from CNN’s online messageboard where Islamic is used as an adjective.


‘Our’ Muslims versus ‘theirs’??

  • All 15 TV refs to Islamic centers refer to attacks on US centers
  • 13 of the 15 refs to ‘Islamic society’ are references to Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Imam of the Islamic Society of North America.
  • Of the 11 refs to Islamic community, 10 are Anglo-American
  • Of the 10 refs to ‘Islamic conference’, 6 refer to conferences which had Bin Laden as the main delegate
  • Phrase ‘Islamic civilisation” not used once on TV
  • High use of ‘Islamic world’
  • Much higher usage of Islamic noun phrases on messageboard
  • Much higher ranking of Islamic terrorist on m-board

Primetime/Newsnight of

Sept 12th compared

  • Both countries claim a “special relationship” with Britain
  • Both have a direct experience of terrorism
  • Yet both programmes reveal a very different attitude towards US power
  • And both tackle the question of why/rationalise/contextualise in very different ways?
  • Why so?
  • Are the programmes metonyms of wider national political and media responses?

Primetime ‘order of discourse”

(1) Introduction: Foregrounding the Middle East and the need to

know why

(2) Historical context - Middle East report

(3) American perspective - an interview with former Congressman Bruce Morrison - MOC on the need for US “maturity” re retaliation…BM acknowledges legitimacy of pol grievances & the need for US foreign policy to address them

(4) Bin Laden profile - a report - traces as far back as Soviet invasion - acknowledges past CIA sponsorship

(5) Discussion on the official American response: Fintan O’Toole & Prof Ronan Fanning - on the dangerous “war rhetoric” - RF links Bush’s rhetoric to that of the British during the War of Indepdence.. “almost as if he didn’t understand the concept of guerrilla war”- FOT on the “understandable”, yet “irrational” war talk - doomsday predictions - things will “get worse and worse” and more “visceral “ - we’re going to see horrors “beyond anything we’ve imaged” in terms of casualties


Newsnight ‘order of discourse’

(1) Introduction and preview: the how, why and what next - “we shall tackle them all tonight”

(2) How did it happen? On intelligence failures/previous warnings etc..

(3) Studio discussion re why and how (play this)

(4) How can the US respond - a speculative report

(5) Studio discussion on “what next” -

(6) Discussion on British context - casualties/practical security measure/Br Al Quayeda links/labour backbencher concern about Blair’s “blank cheque” to Bush

(7) On the impact on America’s self belief & perception – a report

(8) Studio discussion re US self belief reject isolationist tendency

(9) Discussion on the impact on the global economy the big q: what impact on inter finance mkts?

arguing 9 11 fox news 9 13

- “Discussion” as symbolic warfare

  • Atmosphere of extreme “symbolic Violence” (Bourdieu). Is it a form of censorship?
  • “Symbolic capital” of “telling it as it is”
  • Modality & posture of “certainty”
  • Timorous “liberal” dissent “... [but] “….you know I agree with you on the Israeli issue “
  • Mediator as eunuch/co-producer of zeal
  • Pundit geography “it’s not just in the Middle East there, it’s right there in Palestine harboured by the Palestinian Authority”!!!
  • Rhetorical uses of history ...what “history tells us”.
  • The threat of the popular? Saudis “worried about Islamic fundamentalists in their own country”!!!
Arguing 9/11 - Fox News 9/13