Media Analysis: Killing one person is murder. Killing 100, 000 is foreign policy: A look into recent Anti-War Movements, post 9/11

The Middle East and its accumulation of nuclear weapons has become a major concern for political states, such as the United States and Canada. The growing tension is in part due to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in September of 2001, where the Bush administration declared war against Afghanistan and Iraq. Anti-war movements across the United States and Canada have remained rampant as a consequential outcry to the undesirable actions of foreign policy makers, and state agents. The Hamilton Coalition to Stop War – hereafter regarded as the HCSW – have demonstrated numerous protests to gain national attention, with regards to the motives, politics, and outcomes of international wars pursued by the Canadian government. Mainstream media outlets, such as CBC, CTV, and The Star, have represented the anti-war movements in an orientalist framework. The orientalist framework, coined by Edward Said, represents the ‘us versus them’ mentality that is prevalent in different forms of hegemonic ideological practices between ‘the West’ and the ‘Islamic World’ (Said 1977: 8). This dominant representation exists in the structure and writing techniques conveyed by the mainstream media outlets. The use of negative words to describe the events is a strategy used by the media outlets to shape the HCSW in a specific way. By examining the orientalist framework, we understand how the mainstream media agents have identified anti-war movements as an ‘othering’, where the justification of its position is set through the ideological practice of national security.

The orientalist framework is crucial towards comprehending the ways in which media agents ratify the state practice to maintain the ideology of ‘the other’ as the dangerous. For instance, protests that challenge foreign policy agreements about the United States and Canada issuing war against parts of the Middle East have been continuously framed as acts of criminality. The CBC used vocabulary such as, “shouting”, “escalating tensions”, and “marched” to shape the peaceful protests into ones that are seemed to have caused chaos (CBC 2012: 1 ). In doing so, the media agents use negative connotations that shape the identity of the protesters as ‘the other’. This form of state practice becomes the dominant formula for the use of ‘othering’, where over a long period of time a group in society are characterized as the ‘dangerous’. The patronizing of attitudes, as Said points to, reproduces an order where one group is rationalized, while the ‘other’ is criminalized. In the case of the media, Jules Boykoff in “Mass Media Depreciation,” argues that the media depicts protesters as individuals who engage in and encourage violence (Boykoff 2007: 226). In other words, by framing the protesters as a recognized group in society who pursue deviance perpetuates the ‘us versus them’ mentality. Boykoff argues that while demonstrators are identified as deviant individuals, the bigger question as to why this frame is not applied to institutions, poses a greater concern in of itself (Boykoff 2007: 226). In other words, individuals who adhere to norms do not question institutions and its motives. This in part due to the orientalist framework exhibited by state agents, where the individuals who pose a threat to the order are demonized, and appropriately framed as barbaric.

Furthermore, news mediums that portray protesters as violent, often times conceal the reasons as to why the rally was developed in the first place.  For instance, the HCSW rallied in front of the Federal Building in Hamilton on Sunday November 18th, 2012 voicing their dissent on Canada’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (CBC Hamilton 2012:1). The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken place over a long period of time, where Canada’s position has reflected Israeli interests and viewpoints. This tension between the West and the East ties into Said’s orientalist framework; in which a clear division of nationalistic values are represented through power structures between Canada and Israel, versus Iran and Palestine. However, news mediums mask the HCSW as a criminalized group, where it’s actions are framed as unwanted and uninformative. By doing this, the news mediums are disguising the bigger issues of war and conflict, in which the motives behind the HCSW protest reflect the unnecessary Canadian ties to its Israeli counterpart. This is further exemplified in the structure of the articles that gave very little coverage to the individuals suffering against the Israeli attacks. The CBC Hamilton news articles structured its opinion by introducing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one that may potentially lead to future strife between Iran and the West (CBC Hamilton 2012: 1). By the end of the CBC article, however, it implicitly redirected the main focus of the article, which was war, to support a particular side that re-enforces the belief system of the Canadian government. The HCSW have stated that the Canadian government is “becoming more and more isolated in its position on conflict,” (CBC 2012: 1). In part, what Canada is ratifying is what Gary Kinsman, Dieter Buse and Mercedes Steedman define as a national security approach to governance (Kinsman et al. 2000: 278).

In Canada, national security is a historical phenomenon that forced the government to implement policies that have been deemed necessary steps to assure the safety of the state. At the domestic and international level, security policies represented the interest of governmental values, which have systemically oppressed individuals deemed as threats (Kinsman et al. 2000: p. 284). The consequences of this representation as the common-sense approach have legitimized the state to identify individuals as ‘the other’ and ‘the norm’. This is shown in the orientalist framework, where little room is given to challenge the ordeals of the state. For instance, Brian Stewart from the CBC has structured his editorial article in a way that identifies Iran as Canada’s primary threat, while re-enforcing security measures that legitimize the states agenda. In his article, Stewart states that Canada’s Special Economic Measures (Iran) Regulations, passed in 2010 acknowledges that the external threats are individuals of Iranian descent. Stewart uses titles that state, “Iran’s Extraterritorial Operations,” and words such as, “havoc,” “secret,” and “terror attacks,” to frame Iranian interests (Stewart 2012: 3). These mechanism are a consequential factor for the common-sense hegemonic constructions of national security. For Said, this form of control is in part due to the orientalist framework, where the development of norms and values are standardized, and hegemonic practices reflect the greater order of state nationalism. Thus, national security becomes the ideological practice, and groups that display dissent against this normative agenda are identified outside the boundaries of the national security order. This is further exemplified in CBC’s article that identified the Israeli Prime Minister of higher regard, when he gave international credit to Canada for ending ties with Iran. In doing so, the media agents conform to the states interest to suppress and polarize’the other’ and identify them as primary threats to national security.

Thus, the underlying issues at the basis of the protests, which are exemplified through the numerous media outlets have used the ‘us versus them’ ideology articulated in Edward Said’s orientalist framework. The articles used vocabulary that shaped the HCSW as deviants, while structuring its articles in ways that implicitly guide the reader to adhere to a particular interest. More importantly, the anti-war movements against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the risk of the Iranian war have diverted attention from the effects of international policy regulations. The fundamental implications of such news mediums have caused the majority to ratify state interests, while particular freedoms of ‘the other’ have been stripped. Ultimately, the news mediums become an interest of the state, where the dominant representation of ‘the other’ is infiltrated through strategic vocabularies and article structures.

References

Boykoff, Jules. 2007. “Mass Media Depreciation.” Pp. 216-47 in Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. Oakland: AK Press.

Burman, Tony. 2012. “Burman: What has prompted Canada’s move against Iran?” The Star, September 7, pp. 1-2. (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1253310–burman-what-has-prompted-canada-s-move-against-iran)

Carter, Adam. 2012. “Hamiltonians protest bloody Gaza conflict.” CBC, November 18, pp. 1-2. (http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/2012/11/18/hamilton-gaza-protest.html)

CBC Hamilton. 2012. “Hamilton protesters march against war in Iran.” CBC, October 12, pp.1-2. (http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/2012/10/07/hamilton-war-protest.html)

CBC. 2012. “Israeli PM praises Canada for cutting ties with Iran.” CBC, September 9, pp. 1-2. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/09/09/harper-iran-apec.html)

CTV. 2012. “As Conflict in Israel escalates, concerned Canadians protest for peace.”  CTV, November 17, pp. 1-2. (http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/as-conflict-in-israel-escalates-concerned-canadians-protest-for-peace-1.1042420)

Kinsman, Gary, Dieter K. Buse and Mercedes Steedman. 2000. “How the Centre Holds – National Security as an Ideological Practice.” Pp. 278-286 in Whose National Security? Canadian State Surveillance and the Creation of Enemies, edited by Gary Kinsman, Dieter K. Buse and Mercedes Steedman. Toronto: Between the Lines.

Said, Edward. 1977. Orientalism. London: Penguin. (Retrieved from http://www.odsg.org/Said_Edward(1977)_Orientalism.pdf on February 15, 2013.)

Stewart, Brian. 2012. “Did intelligence fears prompt Canada to cut Iran ties?” CBC, September 11, pp. 1-3. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/09/10/f-vp-stewart-iran-canada.html)

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