Archive for the ‘media studies’ Category

Barack Obama campaigning in Akron, Ohio.

Barack Obama campaigning in Akron, Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Citation: Tariq, A. and Moody, M. (2009). Barack Hussein Obama: Campaigning While (Allegedly) Muslim. American Communication Journal (ACJ) American Communication Journal (11) 4



This textual analysis looks at how diverse news outlets framed the rumor that Sen. Barack Obama is Muslim during the 2008 Presidential Election.  Researchers argue such an analysis provides insight into the nature of American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims, and the power of these attitudes to influence an event as extensive as a national campaign.  Common frames were “Arabic words,” “concealment of past” and “Obama’s foreign sounding name.”  In the United State’s current atmosphere post September 11, Arab ethnicity, Islamic faith, and the evils of terrorism and war have been fused together so that association with one of these factors inevitably leads to implication in the others. Thus, suggesting that a U.S. presidential candidate is an Arab or a Muslim translates into a much more sinister accusation.


Religion was a prominent frame in the coverage of Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 Presidential Election.  Many myths and misrepresentations emerged, but perhaps the biggest one was Obama is Muslim.  Commentators carried out this frame by mentioning his middle name Hussein and by associating him with Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan.

On Oct. 10, 2008, with only 25 days to go before the 2008 Presidential election, Republican nominee Sen. McCain fielded an uncomfortable question from an audience member during a town hall debate. “I can’t trust Obama,” a woman confessed. “I have read about him and he’s not… he’s an Arab.” McCain quickly recaptured the microphone from her hands. “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen.”

Though his statement served as a respectful defense of his opponent, McCain’s words unwittingly revealed a significant undercurrent in the American consciousness—Muslims are bad.  To counter the woman’s claim, McCain did not state that Obama was of Caucasian and African heritage.  Nor did he address the implicit allegation in the comment–that as an Arab, Obama must also be a Muslim–by informing her that Obama was a Christian and a longtime member of the United Church of Christ. Instead, he refuted the accusation of “Arab” with the words “decent family man, citizen,” as though the two labels were mutually exclusive.

Colin Powell addressed Christian fear and bigotry surrounding Muslims in America on Meet the Press.  He concluded that if a American Muslim wanted to run for president of the United States, there should not be negativity associated with it.  Here is the excerpt: (more…)

English: One of the symbols of German Women's ...

English: One of the symbols of German Women’s movement (from the 1970s) Deutsch: Ein Logo der deutschen Frauenbewegung (aus den 70er Jahren) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History and overview of feminist theory

Merriam-Webster defines “feminist” as the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes and organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. On the other hand, “feminist theory” is the extension of feminism into theoretical, or philosophical, ground. It encompasses work done in a broad variety of disciplines, prominently including the approaches to women’s roles and lives, and feminist politics.
For feminist theorists, there is no dispute that media function ideologically, working with other social and cultural institutions to reflect, reinforce, and mediate existing power relations and ideas about how gender is and should be lived (Enriques, 2001).
Ardener (1975) posits that women and men within patriarchal, capitalist societies tend to form two distinct circles of experience and interpretation, one overlapping the other (Krolokke & Sorensen, 2006). The masculine circle converges with the norms of society, providing a masculine signature and overriding the feminine circle. (more…)
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frame analyses are often concerned with gatekeeper functions. Media operate simultaneously as both modern agenda setters (Entman, 1989) and orthodox gatekeepers of traditional norms and values. News outlets act as gatekeepers and interpreters of political themes by selectively choosing to cover one or both sides of an issue, putting forth their own interpretation. In the end, journalists and editors draw maps or internal story patterns for their readers, and these maps or frames serve to outline public debate and influence readers’ level of information (Gamson, 1985).

The gatekeeper process illustrates the gatekeeper’s role is highly biased based on his or her own set of experiences, attitudes, and expectations. In the study, “White News: Why Local News Programs Don’t Cover People of Color,” Heider (2000) observed two newsrooms, one in Honolulu, Hawaii, and one in Albuquerque, N. M.  He found that even in areas where people of color account for the majority of the population, those persons in charge of the news programming did not reflect the makeup of the population covered. (more…)

One of the founding tenets of journalism is objectivity, but the fact remains that due to personal beliefs and experiences, journalists use frames to make sure readers see or hear certain things and not others (Kent & Davis, 2006). Framing is a way of giving some interpretation to isolated items of fact, often placed in a frame of reference familiar to the audience (McQuail, 2000).

Entman (1993) defined framing as selecting “some aspects of a perceived reality and making them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation” (p. 52). As a macroconstruct, the term “framing” refers to modes of presentation that journalists and other communicators use to present information in a way that resonates with existing underlying schemas among their audience (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996). (more…)

Kristin Smart

Kristin Smart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gender is relevant as media function simultaneously as modern agenda setters and orthodox gatekeepers of traditional norms and values (Entman, 1993). The result is the presentation of a world dominated by men and male concerns where women’s voices and perspectives are marginal and peripheral (Ross, 2002).
Merriam-Webster defines “gender” as the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex. It is characterized as the socio-cultural practice of defining people according to femininity, masculinity, and “otherness.” Kamler (1999), who has conducted discourse-analytic studies of language and gender in early childhood and university settings, defines gender as fluid, negotiable, and complex. (more…)
A portrait of Karl Marx.

A portrait of Karl Marx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hegemony and its relationship to mass media is also relevant to this study. News outlets act as gatekeepers and interpreters of political themes by selectively choosing to cover one or both sides of an issue, putting forth their own interpretation. Therefore, scholars apply Gramsci’s (1971) notion of hegemony to deconstructing the news-making process. Hegemony does not refer to a deceitful plan crafted purposefully by those in positions of power to manipulate the system to serve dominant interests. Instead, it is “manufactured consent” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988).
The process aims to build a consensus among the masses that a certain ideology is normal and that any contradictions to it are deviant (Berger, 1995; Schiller, 1973). Rather than using physical force, hegemony is psychological, requiring the consent of those ruled. Consent is evident in the normalization of stereotypical, one-dimensional representations that under other circumstances would seem inappropriate. Hall (1997) further explained how members dominant groups use ‘‘Otherness’’ to maintain power. This process becomes problematic when there is an abuse of power. Hall asserts, ‘‘Stereotyping reduces people to a few, simple, essential characteristics, which are represented as fixed by Nature’’ (Hall, 1997, p. 257). One way that power is wielded is through a constructed ‘‘knowledge’’ centering on the dominated group.
Culture” is defined as shared man-made aspects of the environment that can be tangible and intangible, including social institutions such as language, and symbolic systems. Explicit norms include marriage, employment, education, and law, while implicit norms include unspoken rules.Conversely, “class” is defined as a social stratum whose members share certain economic, social, or cultural characteristics.

According to Orbe (1998), in every society a hierarchy exists that is embedded in the culture that privileges some groups above others. Those groups at the top establish the society’s method of communication. This is important because news stories send viewers, readers, and listeners hidden messages that suggest a story’s importance, and ultimately people’s importance within society.  (more…)