THE FORUM BRINGS THE DIALOGUES TO STUDENTS
The Dialogue “The Image of Others and Stereotypes” forming part of the events included in “Communication and Cultural Diversity” deals with the subject of identities and how these are covered by the media. Xavier Giró, Chris Paterson, Cynthia Boaz, Na’ma Sheffi and Jean Marie Yoder, have touched on subjects such as the coverage of the Iraq war and the Middle East conflict
Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Xavier Giró, explained the theory of the shortcomings, literally “cracks”, offered through a different vision of the media coverage based on prevalent ideologies. In this sense, the professor pointed out that, in spite of the shortcomings, it is possible to use these “cracks” to filter dialogue that speaks out against abuses, demonizing the enemy, simplicity and superficiality.
Giró made reference to three “cracks” through which this “other information” is being channeled, permitting a global questioning of the debate. One of these is competition in the media for audience share, the search for exclusive rights on stories and the struggle to achieve a profile of their own. The other is competition in terms of profitability and lastly there is the reality of social pressure which leads to a compromise between journalists and readers.
In his contribution to the debate, Giró sought to give another vision of the information supplied by the media and the press, often pressurized by economic factors which are related to the news company such as time, space and professional training. In addition to his hope-giving vision, Giró went on to add that “I have still not seen a newspaper refer to the State of Israel as a terrorist”.
Similarly, Jean Marie Yoder, from the University of Denver, revealed work based on the news that has appeared in the last two years on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the US newspaper the New York Times. Yoder explained the profile of the Palestinian identity as portrayed by the newspaper and the way in which “the American media highlights the identity of groups in order to define meanings and in turn these are adopted by the readers”.
According to Yoder’s research the identity of the Palestinians has been demonized and the Palestinians are themselves puppets of terrorists. In addition, they have no form of leadership and the general dialogue is one of mistrust. “The language used helps to maintain this ideology”, added Yoder. The news emphasizes two identities: that of Yasser Arafat and that of the suicide bombers, who in this last case cause “visceral terror” given the association of the Arab world with terrorism through the attacks against the Twin Towers on September 11. The professor also pointed out that “it is important to teach people how to read and to discuss these identities, we should create new discourses and new visions”.
The professor Na’ma Sheffi, from the University of Sapir, based her talk on the treatment given to the Middle East conflict using rap and its introduction onto the Israeli scene in the year 2000. Sheffi referred to the documentary “Channels of rage” by Anat Halahmi which analyses the nature of the conflict through two rappers the likes of the Jewish Israeli Subliminal and the Muslim Israeli TN. Sheffi referred to the politicization of rap during the Intifada and its use as a “weapon of ethnic struggle”.
The two other speakers, Chris Paterson and Cynthia Boaz, from the University of San Francisco analyzed the media coverage of the Iraq war in American weekly newspapers, over a one year period, comparing this to the information published in Europe, India and Canada.
The main conclusion of the experts is that the North American media did not sponsor a diplomatic solution to the conflict while the majority of the other media sources adopted a more internationalist stance. In this sense, the two speakers explained that the cause of this difference is that “the foreign policy of the Bush administration is based on a policy of hegemony while the policy of Europe is more erudite”.
In the North American media the Iraqis were demonized and their culture is never mentioned, additionally “in the majority of the news reports more importance was given to the American casualties than the Iraqi casualties, which results in the dehumanization of the enemy”. In the American news reports the sources were usually governmental whereas in other publications alternative sources were found.
In this sense, Paterson and Boaz, explained that through the situation experienced in the United States following September 11 and through the erroneous conception of the war in Iraq and the reasons for this war, “all those who protested were considered unpatriotic”. Moreover, “this negative portrayal of the enemy creates a greater sense of self and makes you feel good while doing harm to others”, he added.