Critical Discourse Analysis on How the Media Broadcasts Political, Social and Scientific Issues about the Middle East

Research Aim

There has been an ongoing media bias about Middle East issues that produces misinformation in relation to political, social and scientific matters of this part of the world.  This widespread distortion brings about a general state of disinformation in the rest of the world about the parties in conflict that takes away the focus on the essence of the real problems behind the conflicts.  A serious scientific study rooted in sound methodological and theoretical grounds is needed in order to uncover the facts beyond the misleading reporting.  Critical Discourse Analysis can provide an eclectic multidisciplinary research tool in the unveiling of the truth about the real situation of the Middle East.

Research Usefulness

This research study can shed light about a conflict that has been going on for a long period of time.  It can help in showing to the world a balanced perspective of fundamental issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraqi War, the September 11th Terrorist Attack, scientific, women and human rights issues in the Middle East, etc.  The aim of this research project is to acquire a more balanced view of the Middle East social, political and scientific situation through the analysis of relevant literature about this topic.

Theoretical Framework

Media bias exerts a subtle omnipresent influence in the realm of Science, Culture, Politics, and Society.  No one can escape from its grip.  Media bias as an entropic dialectical construct of power is a very concrete force that shapes our thinking and modifies our behavior.  Prof. Slef Slembrouck (2005), a Discourse Analysis scholar, has something to say about power:  “Power must be analysed as something which circulates, or rather as something which only functions in the form of a chain. It is never localised here and there, never in anybody’s hands, never appropriated as a commodity or piece of wealth. Power is employed and exercised through a net-like organisation. And not only do individuals circulate between its threads; they are always in the position of simultaneously undergoing and exercising this power.”[1]

For worse or for better, media bias is a part of our everyday experience.  Directly or indirectly, it controls and manipulates our lives.  Studying the implications of media bias along the theoretical lines of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) will show the real impact of power and knowledge through the use of language as a discursive weapon of influence.  (McGregor, n. d.).  We have to apply a rigorous methodology based on a solid theoretical background.  Norman Fairclough, one of CDA’s pioneers, has to be followed closely in his diverse and rich line of studies:  “Norman Fairclough’s books, Language and Power (1989) and Critical Discourse Analysis (1995), articulate a three-dimensional framework for studying discourse, “where the aim is to map three separate forms of analysis onto one another: analysis of (spoken or written) language texts, analysis of discourse practice (processes of text production, distribution and consumption) and analysis of discursive events as instances of sociocultural practice” (1995: 2).  (Wikipedia,  2005a).

A clear advantage of using CDA as a research tool is stated by Brett Dellinger (1995) with the following words:  “Critical discourse analysis has made the study of language into an interdisciplinary tool and can be used by scholars with various backgrounds, including media criticism. Most significantly, it offers the opportunity to adopt a social perspective in the cross-cultural study of media texts.”

On the other hand, it is necessary to follow the spirit of CDA as stated by Teun A. van Dijk (2005):  “We want to know how discourse enacts, expresses, condones or contributes to the reproduction of inequality. At the same time, we listen to the experiences and the opinions of dominated groups, and study the most effective ways of resistance and dissent.”

Doing Critical Discourse Analysis of the media is a challenging task that must be undertaken with a scientific understanding of language, society, and human nature.  We have to be epistemic in our approaches to the media as a discursive mechanism of power and knowledge, because in the long run it is not just a matter of power but of knowledge.  The more knowledge we have about all the issues dealt with on the media, the more we will be able to discern the truth behind any kind of bias.  Critical Discourse Analysis can empower us to reach sound conclusions whenever we approach the media study with a scientific spirit and an open mind.

How the media broadcasts political, social and scientific issues about the Middle East will be studied in this project under the theoretical and methodological guidelines of the Critical Discourse Analysis approach.  The Israeli/Palestinian  conflict, the September 11th Terrorist Attack, the Iraqi War, the human rights and the women issues as well as scientific issues are dealt with by the media with a strong bias according to many different sources.  The main focus will be on how the coverage of the media effects the overall perception of the Middle East to the rest of the world.  In other words, the major focus will deal with the probable distortions induced by the media that promotes a climate of misunderstanding about current Middle East issues.  “Honest Reporting” (2005) states the following in relation to this apparent bias:  “Since the outbreak of violence in the Middle East on September 29, 2000, much concern has been raised about media bias. And as is becoming painfully clear, a key aspect to the Mideast struggle today is the manipulation of media to influence public opinion.”  So this bias can have a strong hold on the opinions of millions who receive distorted information about the events going on in the Middle East.  Danny Schechter (2000) expressed his viewpoint about this matter with the following words:  “The debate about media bias in Middle East coverage seems to have been going on forever. Writing in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Rick Salutin calls it the most distorted areas of foreign news coverage for 50 years.”  If there is media bias in the Western world about the Middle East, we should be concerned about it, because that bias is not going to help in any way to the solution of the current conflicts.  On the contrary, millions of citizens in the West could stay in ignorance of what is really happening in the Middle East.  Journalist Robert Fisk spoke his mind after returning from the Middle East.  His position against the United States media bias seemed to be well grounded.  Reporter Alex Bleyleben (2002) for The Stanford Daily chronicled one public appearance by Fisk in the United Kingdom.  In that occasion Bleyleben reported that “Among Fisk’s other criticisms about Western policy in the Middle East was the biased coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He argued that Palestinian violence is much more likely to be reported as an act of “terrorism,” while bloodier Israeli violence has often been justified as state military action.”  This kind of media bias raises many questions about the credibility of the media in the West in case of being true.  So we have to endeavor ourselves to tackle this problem with a solid methodological and theoretical approach in order to find out about the reality or not of such media bias and to what extent it is an official expression.  We are interested in the truth of the matter.  Speaking about this same idea, Robert Fisk said quoted by Bleyleben: “I hate ‘what’ and ‘where’ stories without the ‘why’,” he said. Fisk criticized a media which reports daily about terrorism committed by Muslims and anti-American sentiment without revealing why these sentiments are present in Arab world”.  This research study has as main purpose to get a higher understanding of the role and the stand of the media in the West about fundamental issues of political, social and scientific nature in the Middle East.

Methodology

We have to be epistemological at all times in our efforts to find the truth about this research topic.  As it is a complex and controversial theme with multiple dimensions, we will stick to the facts as much as possible.  So we will follow our method with consistency and in a coherent manner.  We will mostly use Internet sources like webpages and databases, and print materials like books, journals, magazines and scholarly publications on libraries.  We will do extensive searches on the Web and then we will organize the data according to the different themes like the political, social and scientific issues.  After getting all the information we will analyse all the data on a Literature Review and will draw our conclusions according to the facts discovered all along the research.

We will try to be consistent and coherent all the time.  We will also strive to have a comprehensive and exhaustive idea of the topic by researching as much material as possible.  We will always do our best to be rigorous following a scientific method at all costs.   The research instrument will be mainly the Internet.  As our method of analysis we will use an inductive approach, but in certain cases we will have to approach the problems at hand through deductive and abductive thinking.  This project has an empirical nature, and we will tackle it accordingly.

Works Cited

Antaki, Charles, and Billig, Michael, and Edwards, Derek, and Potter, Jonathan. (2002).  “Discourse Analysis Means Doing Analysis: A Critique Of Six Analytic Shortcomings”.  Discourse and Rhetoric Group.  Department of Social Sciences.  Loughborough University.  27 Oct. 2005.  <http://www.shu.ac.uk/daol/articles/v1/n1/a1/antaki2002002-paper.html>.

Bleyleben, Alex.  “Fisk Decries U.S. Media Bias in the Mideast”. (Nov. 22, 2002).  The Stanford Daily.  28 Oct. 2005.

http://daily.stanford.edu/tempo?page=content&id=9637&repository=0001_article

Cline, PhD., Andrew R.  “Media / Political Bias”.  (2005).  The Rhetorica Network.  26 Oct. 2005.  <http://rhetorica.net/bias.htm>.

Dellinger, Brett.  “Critical Discourse Analysis”.  (1995).  27 Oct. 2005.  <http://users.utu.fi/bredelli/cda.html>.

Fight The Bias.  “Newsletter – Edition #31”.  (4 Nov. 2002).  25 Oct. 2005.  <http://www.fightthebias.com/Archives/Issues/31/31.htm>.

Google Directory.  “Bias and Balance”.  25 Oct. 2005.  <http://www.google.com/Top/Society/Issues/Business/Media/Bias_and_Balance/>.

Groseclose, Tim, and Milyo, Jeff.  “A Measure of Media Bias”.  (Sept. 2003).  27 Oct. 2005.  <http://mason.gmu.edu/~atabarro/MediaBias.doc>.

Hart, Peter, and Hollar, Julie. “How power shapes the news”.  (March/April 2005).  Fear & Favor.  FAIR’s Fifth Annual Report.  Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR).  26 Oct. 2005).  <http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2486>.

Honest Reporting.  “What Is Bias?”  (2005).  26 Oct. 2005.  <http://www.honestreporting.com/a/What_is_Bias.asp>.

McGregor, Sue L. T.  “Critical Discourse Análisis – A Primer”.  27 Oct. 2005.  <http://www.kon.org/archives/forum/15-1/mcgregor_print.doc>.

Mitchell, Loren.  “Media Bias in America”.  (March 1991).  25 Oct. 2005.  <http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0051_Media.html>.

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Slembrouck, Prof. Stef.  “What is Meant by “Discourse Analysis”?”  (28 Oct. 2005).  Department of English, University of Gent. 28 Oct. 2005.  <http://bank.rug.ac.be/da/da.htm>.

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[1] See also Hart, 2005 in Farness & Accuracy In Reporting.

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