"Like feeding time at the zoo":
Analysis of U.S. newsmagazine coverage of the Iraqi Kurds
By Melissa A. Wall
California State University – Northridge
ABSTRACT: This study employs frame analysis of US newsmagazines' coverage
of the Iraqi Kurds just after the first Gulf War in 1991 when they were
urged by then President Bush to rise up against Saddam Hussein who quickly
suppressed their rebellion. Findings suggest that the conflict is
presented as a problem resulting from the Kurds' own chaotic behavior; the
cause of the problem is represented as their backward nature; and the only
solution to the problem is portrayed as intervention by the United States
military. While previous literature suggests Middle Easterners and Muslims
tend to be represented as violent and threatening, this study identifies
another trend toward infantilizing certain Muslims such as the Kurds as
helpless and in need of U.S. protection.
When U.S. President George Bush declared victory in the first Persian Gulf
War on February 27, 1991, he also urged the people of Iraq to overthrow
Saddam Hussein. In early March of that year, the Shiites in Southern Iraq
and the Kurds in the North heeded Bush's call. The Shiites were stopped
almost immediately, while the Kurds savored their victories for almost a
month, until Hussein put down the rebellion. Soon after, photos and
televised images of fleeing Kurds were sent around the world. On April 2
1991, Bush declared that he was not responsible for the 1 million Kurds
fleeing from Iraq into Turkey, Iran and Syria. On April 8, then U.S.
Secretary of State James Baker made a highly publicized visit to one of the
areas to which the Kurds had fled. Four days after his 7-minute visit, the
United States reversed its policy and began Operation Provide Comfort, a
relief operation to set up military encampments for the Kurds that were
guarded by the coalition forces. In the meantime, the United Nations
passed Resolution 688, which authorized these so-called "safe havens" for
the Kurds north of the 36th parallel in Northern Iraq.
Though the repression of the Kurds may have been painted as a spontaneous
act of brutality by Hussein, any historical account of their status in Iraq
would have left little doubt that this would be the outcome of their
post-Gulf War rebellion. Each time in the last three decades that the
Kurds have rebelled against the Iraqi government, they have been
punished. In 1972, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency sponsored a
Kurdish uprising against Hussein as a favor to the American ally, the Shah
of Iran (Schorr, 1991). Once the Shah and Hussein settled their
differences, the Kurds were forgotten by Iran and severely punished by
Iraq. 200,000 Kurds fled to Iran, which forcibly returned 40,000 of
them. In the late 1980s, when some factions of the Kurds joined the
Iranians in the war against Iraq, Hussein fought them with chemical
weapons, secured from his various Western patrons. When Bush urged them to
rise up yet again, the outcome could have been predicted.
Ironically, the Kurds, who are a minority in every country in which they
live, were given more freedoms and more chances at some form of autonomy in
Iraq than in any other region, including Syria, Iran and the U.S. ally,
Turkey (Izady, 1993; Gurr & Hurff, 1994). Since the 1950s, the Iraqi
government has repeatedly offered concessions to the Kurds concerning their
autonomy, but the various Kurdish factions have never been able to stick to
a lasting agreement (Gurr & Hurff, 1994). Some critics believe Turkey has
mistreated the Kurds more consistently than Iraq (Saeedpour, 1992). Turkey
stripped them of their identity in 1925, and did not allow Kurds to speak
their own language until 1990. At the same time, Kurds in Iraq were
speaking Kurdish as well as wearing their traditional dress - without
punishment. Bush's encouragement of rebellion by the Kurds, Shiites, and
other groups was neither successful at overthrowing Hussein nor in securing
confidence among these groups in U.S. support for their cause. More than a
decade later, Bush's son has followed in his footsteps, claiming the mantle
of would-be liberator not just of the Kurds, but Iraq in general and indeed
the entire Middle East.
The research questions asked here are: How did U.S. news magazines frame
the Iraqi uprising and U.S. intervention following the first Gulf
War? What were the images of the Kurds produced in the magazines? More
broadly, what do these representations tell us about the media constructed
role for the United States in the Middle East? Findings suggest that the
primary problem in the conflict is presented as the Kurds' own chaotic
behavior, the cause is their backward nature and the solution is
intervention by the United States military. While previous literature
suggests Middle Easterners tend to be represented as violent and
threatening, this study identifies another trend toward infantilizing
certain Muslims as helpless and in need of U.S. protection.
This paper is operating from the view that news is socially constructed
and as such is shaped by the dominant ideology in a society. News tends to
create maps of meaning, which suggest certain preferred readings of a story
while still allowing room for alternative interpretations (Hall, Critcher,
Jefferson, Clarke, & Roberts, 1978). In part, this ideological process is
believed to be influenced both by the economic structure and ownership
patterns of the media system in which it is produced. In the United States
in particular news is a commodity, increasingly shaped by market forces and
the need to generate revenue for large conglomerates (Herman & McChesney,
1997; Schiller, 1996). More specifically, news is also influenced by
organizational and reportorial routines operating within a society's
dominant framework (Tuchman, 1978; Gans, 1979; Hallin, 1987). These
processes combined all work to "frame" the news or to suggest a particular
reading by including some information and leaving out other items (Gitlin,
In this particular case, the news being reported will also be influenced by
the fact that it is international and thus subject to an even more specific
set of values and constraints. While in general American news tends to
focus on disorder, to be event-driven and concerned mainly with bad news
and crises, these characteristics are even more evident within
international reporting (Rosenblum, 1979, 1993). Indeed, American
international reporting has long been criticized for its tendency toward
oversimplification. Reporters are often "parachuted" into other countries
and expected to cover rapidly breaking, dramatic events. They arrive with
little or no knowledge of the country's history, politics and culture and
few if any local sources (Hachten, 2002). They quickly move on when the
story grows cold. Worse than even parachute journalism is a tendency in
the American press to not even bother going to the countries where news
takes place (Hess, 1995). The corps of reporters assigned to cover
general interest international news has been shrinking since the 1970s
(Hess, 1995). Stringers are left to cover most of the world today, making
up two-thirds of the U.S. media's overseas staffs (Hachten, 2002;
Rosenblum, 1979; Hess, 1995).
In addition is the influence of sources and the government. One of the key
determinants of how international news is covered is the position of the
American government (Cohen, 1963; Herman, 1985; Mowlana, 1997). Thus, the
media often treat similar events differently depending upon their
implications for the U.S. government (Herman, 1985; Herman & Chomsky,
1988). U.S. governmental sources such as the Pentagon, State Department
and White House make up most news sources in the reporting of international
news, although the exact extent of government influence is debated
(Strobel, 1997). Particularly during the first Persian Gulf War, the
government was seen as having the upper-hand in manipulating and
controlling the media, whether through pool reporting and direct censorship
or through the staging of a massive U.S. propaganda campaign (Bennett &
Paletz, 1994; MacArthur, 1992). Indeed, Mowlana (1997) argues that by
following the government line, media end up supporting the status quo and
failing to adequately represent challenges to the dominant ways of thinking
about foreign policy and other issues, particularly as regards Muslims.
Beyond these routines and influences are other tendencies. For example,
when reporters have limited preparation and experience with a culture,
country or people, they tend to seize upon clichés to make up for their own
deficiencies (Said, 1981). Thus, American coverage of non-Western
countries in particular has been criticized for tending toward stereotypes
(Said, 1981). In terms of coverage of the Middle East and Islam, these
tendencies are seen in a pattern of ethnocentric reporting that finds the
region and its citizens backwards, barbaric and generally violent (Said,
1981; Bookmiller & Bookmiller, 1992; Esposito, 1992; Muscati, 2002). The
Middle East region then tends to be seen as an area that needs to be
modernized (Said, 1981; Michelmore, 2000). When crises arise such as the
Iranian hostage crisis or the first Persian Gulf War these tendencies only
become magnified. For example, Bailie and Frank (1992) found that during
the first Gulf War Arabs wore portrayed as deceitful, violent and feral,
and Islam as static, warlike and anti-intellectual. They identified three
main ways of framing Arab inferiority during the Gulf War: by highlighting
1) Western technological superiority; 2) Western cultural superiority; and
3) Western religious superiority. These researchers also note that
colonial superiority was emphasized by the inordinate focus on the first of
these categories, which emphasized sophisticated and infallible Western
weaponry – despite later revelations about their inaccuracies (Bailie &
Frank, 1992). Coverage often featured a mob of Arabs whose actions
apparently spoke for all Arabs. This coverage confirms trends identified
by Said (1981) as well that portray the Middle East as a monolith with
little recognition of the great cultural diversity which exists
there. Muscati (2002) believes that the U.S.' current status as the sole
superpower tends to reinforce a worldview of the country as a moral leader
for the rest of the world, especially the non-Christian regions, with
Western culture itself portrayed as humanitarian compared with Arabic
barbarism. At the time of the first Gulf War, some observers predicted
that fear and hatred of Islam would supply one of the new overarching
frames to replace the end of the Cold War (Haddad, 1993). The Sept. 11
terrorist attacks have proven these predictions true.
This study employs frame analysis in its assessment of the coverage of the
Iraqi Kurds during 1991. Framing draws on the work of sociologist Erving
Goffman (1974) who noted that humans tend to process reality into strips of
meaning, leaving some information out while retaining other elements. From
this idea, various researchers expanded the concept to apply to the
media. Gamson and Modigliani (1989) characterize news stories as
interpretative frames or "packages" made up of various condensing
devices. The package consists of an internal frame, within which other
condensing devices help shape the perspective being presented. Such
devices either work to suggest how to think about an issue (metaphors,
exemplars, catchphrases, depictions, and visual images) or to suggest what
should be done about it (causes, consequences, and moral claims). Gamson
(1992) believes that frames tend to tap into cultural knowledge and
expectations and in doing so increase their salience with news
audiences. Similarly, Entman (1991, 1993) identifies media frames as
constructed out of certain rhetorical devices such as keywords, stock
phrases, stereotyped images and sources of information. These will make
salient certain problems, causes and solutions within news stories (Entman,
1991). Framing has become increasingly widespread as a means of textual
analysis of news content with dozens of framing studies regularly presented
at mass communication conferences. This ubiquity has led a number of
observers to debate the definition and practice of framing (Roefs, 1998;
Carragee & Roefs, 1999; D'Angelo, 2000; Jha-Nambiar, 2002).
In this study, a frame is not equated with coming up with a list of topics
or themes within the text, but with an assessment of the underlying meaning
of the news texts in question. Such an assessment will follow the
recommendations of Entman and Gamson described above, paying attention to
what is identified as the problem the cause and the solution and any moral
claims attached to these as well as keywords, metaphors and other
significant word choices. The study will also pay attention to the frame
sponsors by noting the dominant sources in coverage of the Kurds'
uprising. Carragee and Roefs (1999) argue sources can reveal frame
sponsorship as well as help us understand the contest between groups with
competing frames. The study follows Entman's definition of framing as
"select[ing] some aspects of a perceived reality and mak[ing] them more
salient in a communicating text" (p. 52). In sum, in this paper framing is
believed to produce social meaning (Carragee & Roefs, 1999).
Frame analysis was used to study all relevant newsmagazine articles
appearing in Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report about the Kurdish
uprising and its aftermath published in 1991. This includes all news
stories, but not columns, editorials or news briefs. In all, 32 such
stories appeared in these newsmagazines. More precisely, the coverage
comprised 46,883 words. By magazine, the coverage broke down as follows:
Newsweek, 13 stories; Time, 12; U.S. News, 7. Newsmagazines were selected
because of the way that they condense news and thus may make frames more
easily recognizable. In order to detect the frames, I read the entire
population of stories three times, taking notes on the compelling imagery,
metaphors exemplars, and keywords as recommended by Entman
(1991). Headlines were analyzed to determine the agency in the conflicts.
I also sought to determine what was presented as the underlying problem,
what was causing it and what solutions were offered. Finally, content
analysis of sources was conducted to help determine frame sponsors. This
latter analysis revealed the following: The magazines' most frequently
quoted sources were Western officials (49 percent). The second most
frequently quoted source was Ordinary Kurds/Iraqis (17 percent). Other
sources are reported below.
Table 1: Selected Source Results
Western govt./military officials
Kurdish opposition groups (Peshmerga, etc.)
Regional Mid-East officials
Iraqi govt./military officials
Other sources, which do not appear in the table above, were quoted with
frequencies of less than 5 percent. This includes Experts such as
professors or think tank denizens (2%, n=5); United Nations representatives
(2%, n=5); and Iraqi media (1%, n=3). In all, 253 sources were quoted in
the Iraq stories. Further assessment of the sources is woven into the
What follows is a description of the main frame found in the coverage of
the Iraqi Kurds in 1991 following their uprising against
Hussein. Following Entman, the frame is broken down into three parts: a
problem, a cause and a solution. Here, the problem is Kurdish chaos; the
cause is the Kurds themselves because of their primitiveness and backward
natures; and the solution to the problem is the United States military or
simply no solution at all.
Attacked by Hussein, the Kurds are in chaos. The newsmagazines seems to
suggest that this is a natural state for them, describing fleeing refugees
with metaphors that imply that their movements are natural events such as
floods instead of a man-made ones caused by the Western embargoes and then
the U.S.' war waged on Iraq. Thus we read: Women, children and old people
began streaming; many refugees will return home when the tide turns; Iran
absorbed a wave of refugees; refugees leaked down; tidal wave into Turkey;
modest stream of refugees; refugees streaming; refugees trickle; hundreds
of refugees poured; Wretched souls streaming into Turkey; sprinkling of
refugees; commitments to help the trickle of refugees; trickle of
refugees; civilians streamed. Such descriptions make their movements
seem almost spontaneous because they fail to provide adequate
background. There was only one mention of the fact that the Kurds had
already been fleeing Iraq because the Western sanctions made getting food,
medicine and other necessities difficult or impossible. Coverage thus
implies that vast movements of people naturally occur here. Such terms
exclude understanding why they are fleeing or what other options they
have. This type of imagery implies that these movements of people are
like natural disasters which humans cannot stop. Their humanity is nearly
invisible in such descriptions because they are no longer individuals nor
really even people. In addition to the natural disasters comparisons,
newsmagazines depicted the refugees like irrational, chaotic
animals: descriptions noted that the refugees flocked, perched, swarmed;
and were distributed food to like feeding time at the zoo. These metaphors
imply that the Kurds are irrational, operating in animal-like groups. A
reliance on this sort of metaphor can temper any emotion readers might feel
for fellow human beings.
The lack of stability and chaos is also supported with themes about the
brutal eagerness of Middle Eastern nations competing to devour each
other. For instance, Iraq could be dismembered; Turkey, Iran and Syria
taking a bite out of Iraq; Iraq could be gobbled up; Turkey, Iran and
Syria could be slicing off pieces of Iraq; moves to carve up Iraq;
dismemberment of Iraq. We come away with images of a region of countries
gnawing away at each other's sovereignty. Surrounding countries come off
almost like cannibals or packs of animals. There is no sense that the US
has caused this massive movement of people and the resulting
instability. Yet U.S. encouragement following its attack on Iraq is
believed to be why Kurds rose up, despite the historical precedent that
makes clear Hussein would react brutally toward any rebellion. Coverage
suggests this instability is inherent in Iraq—Iraq could splinter; Iraq's
unraveling; hold the fraying country intact; Iraq is a country perpetually
on the brink of explosion. Yet prior to the U.S.' first invasion in
1991, Iraq was a stable country and indeed perceived as an ally in the
region, especially after the Shah of Iran was replaced with a
fundamentalist Islamic government in that country.
The question then is why are the Kurds in chaos? Even though the most
obvious answer is that a war has just taken place in their country, in the
magazine stories, the Kurds themselves seem to be to blame for being
backwards and helpless. Coverage suggests that the Kurds come from a
primitive culture where families may have a dozen children or more, and
warriors dress in quaint "traditional" clothes. Those who speak English
can only do so imperfectly (no mention of reporters' lack of Kurdish/Arabic
or other language skills). As Ahmad Hussein, a storekeeper from Dahyuk in
Northern Iraq, said in broken English, "There are no anything."
More than one story included excerpts of Kurdish poetry in their reporting
of the conflict. One story leads with a takeout quote from a Kurdish
If we had a king,
He would be worthy of his crown;
He should have a capital,
And we would share his fortune.
Turk and Persian and Arab
Would all be our slaves.
The story goes on to note that the "slaves are out of the question, but
the capital and fortune are looking more attainable." This odd bit of
poetry doesn't help us understand the current situation but does raise in
the reader's mind questions about the competence of the Kurds to live in a
modern world, playing on stereotypes about the feudal, non-modern way of
life the Kurds naturally gravitate toward.
In addition, the passivity of ordinary people contributes to the chaos, as
they are rarely described as helping each other and or fighting off the
perpetrators of the violence. A story notes:
As the aircraft came around again and again, the Peshmerga opened
fire. Suddenly a line of men rose up, wrapped their arms around one
another and sang and danced. Only the setting sun prevented the helicopters
from slaughtering them all.
Most refugees, however, are simply helpless, asking the Americans to stay
and protect them: "I am very afraid," says a student in Zakhu, his chin
trembling as he struggles to express himself in English. "You in Iraq. No
in America. No in Europe." In another story, Kurdish sentries watched the
skies for approaching enemy helicopters, which they called "damnation
birds." After a farmer-poet recites some of his own verse, he notes that
the Kurds have been repressed in the past, but that all this has changed
now. The more knowing reporter goes on to explain that things certainly
have not changed because the Kurds are destined to remain an orphan
nation. The use of the word orphan emphasizes the childish nature of the
Kurds, representing them as helpless and in need of some sort of parental care.
Beyond the Kurds themselves another cause of the problem was identified as
Saddam Hussein. Headlines interpreted the revolt and the Iraqi counter
attack as Saddam's Revenge and Saddam's Slaughter. Saddam Hussein is also
credited in article headlines with causing the Kurdish conflict. In
writing about Hussein, articles blame him for the U.S. invasion, generally
failing to discuss the fact that the U.S. ambassador to Iraq voiced no
opposition when he informed her of plans to invade Kuwait months
earlier. By leaving out this content, coverage takes the U.S.' role in
events out of context.
Because the Kurds are constructed as leading naturally chaotic lives due
to their "backwardness" and "primitive" ways, they are not portrayed as
able to offer any solutions. The solution instead is presented as the
United States. Five headlines note President Bush is solving the problem
(Bush Orders American Troops to Help the Kurds); America/Americans are
credited twice; relief organizations and the U.S. Marines are noted once
each (In Northern Iraq the Marines are Fighting to Save the Kurds.) These
headlines suggest that without outside help, the Kurds could never achieve
autonomous status. The United States is repeatedly presented as the force
capable of determining the region's fate and bringing order. After all, in
the Mideast, the U.S. still looks 10-feet tall. As one refugee told a
reporter, seeing American helicopters is "like seeing the sun." Such an
assessment fails to consider the intense anger generated among ordinary
Arabs at the presence of U.S. troops in the Middle East.
We also find a reliance on U.S. official sources (49 percent) to tell this
story. For example, in a story about the U.S. troops setting up a relief
system for the Kurds, we read: "At this sort of thing," said an Army
colonel, "We're the best there is." Often, even when locals are quoted,
they are used to merely confirm what the official Western sources have
said: In the mountains of Iraq, a refugee tells a reporter, "If the
Americans tell us to go then we'll go," he said. "We trust the
Americans." In one typical example, Marine Cpl. Wade Sibley is pounding
home tent stakes in a dank field of spring corn in Northern Iraq . . . [he]
has gone to Iraq to tidy up a war . . . he is saving lives. Americans such
as Sibley are not portrayed as causing this conflict, though they certainly
could have been. The US as the savior is reinforced by an emphasis on its
development and mastery of advanced technology. "We love the sound of
American planes overhead," said one 24-year-old metallurgist. "And we
silently ask the planes to hit Saddam for us."
While the American involvement meant that the conflict was portrayed as
worthy (i.e. legitimate), helping the Kurds achieve their ultimate goal -
establishing an independent state - would have meant disrupting the
region's status quo, something the American government was loathe to
do. Such a change was presented as a potential morass or quagmire, a
keyword which appeared 11 times within the texts as well as 3 times within
headlines, threatening to disrupt the region's stability and drag the
Americans into a war similar to Vietnam, a keyword which was used 13 times
within the texts. The keyword Vietnam holds strong connotations for any
American reader, signaling a failed war. Thus, much more is being said
when the word Vietnam appears than just the mention of a war. Both Vietnam
and quagmire are used to imply that the Kurdish conflict is not so much an
organized war as chaotic mess, reflecting the perceived instability of the
Middle East region.
No mention is ever given of solutions other than Western intervention. We
are simply told that without outside help, the Kurds would be unable to
take care of themselves. By relying on Western officials as the primary
sources to interpret the conflict, the magazines end up with only one
solution for the problems: American involvement. The lack of other
sources means that other possible solutions could be ignored. For example,
only 6% of the sources used are from the Middle Eastern Region (other than
Iraq itself); thus that viewpoint is virtually absent from the
coverage. Interestingly, despite the American claim that the United
Nations was instrumental in events in the Persian Gulf, their opinions and
comments are rarely sought with some 2% of all sources being from the
UN. (Locally, we get a bit of the Kurds' side of this story [18 percent],
while Iraqi officials are quoted 3 percent of the time.) Other,
potentially more informed sources such as experts in Middle Eastern studies
or think tank residents also do not have much of a presence (2% of sources).
Yet despite Western efforts to help, these countries are ultimately
represented as inherently disorderly – the natural chaos of the problem
itself described above. Newsmagazines note that George Bush envisioned a
new world order in which he worked with other statesmen to forge stable
relationships among 'civilized' nations . . . Bush's dreams have been
dashed on the frozen mountains of northern Iraq. The human catastrophe
there has shown how easily the real world can sink into disorder, pain and
unreason. That is, the U.S. is reasonable, but the Kurds and other Arabs
are irrational. Coverage further suggests there may be no diplomatic
solutions, noting that Diplomacy attempts are far less helpful in resolving
long-standing enmities or finding real solutions to age-old
problems. After all, as one newsmagazine puts it, the Middle East is a
breeding ground for war, a metaphor that implies violence is cultivated
there, raised like a group or animal. Since armed intervention is
portrayed as the only way to solve problems, then we must conclude that
when such action cannot or will not be taken, there is no
solution. Critics such as Douglas (1994) argue that this narrow range of
choices constitutes a "failure of morality."
While the literature review suggests Arabs and Muslims most often tend to
be represented as threatening and violent by Western media, this analysis
reveals that the Kurds are to a certain extent infantilized and made to
look like a lost tribe of helpless victims who may never make it into the
21th century without the modern machinery and moral superiority of the West
for guidance. Indeed, the Kurds are depicted in awe or ignorance of
technology and stuck somewhere back in time, praying for a kingdom
populated by slaves. Of course, Kurds are not Arabs, but their own ethnic
group and perhaps their portrayals here are linked to the notion that Arab
leaders such as Hussein are frightening brutes from whom Middle Eastern
peoples – be they Kurds or even average Arabs – must be "defended" by a
more powerful protector. We find that coverage does not so much represent
Islam and the Middle East simply as violent and brutal as the previous
literature suggests, but that another tendency has been
identified: Constructing some Middle Easterners, in this case the Kurds,
as helpless and childlike and, thus in need of liberation and
protection. Not only are there brutal Middle Easterners such as Hussein,
there are ordinary citizens in need of saving. This is an important,
under-discussed tendency that is all the more important in light of the
continued US involvement in that region today.
The frame used here does not allow for more complex explanations of how
arbitrary colonial and other political divisions left the Kurds without a
state, nor does it suggest local or regional solutions or even
international solutions. It also fails to adequately to explain the
rationale of US involvement in the Middle East. Ultimately then, these
depictions are not so much about the Kurds themselves, but rather they are
constructed in a particular way to help define the United States and what
its role in a post-Cold War world might be. Other research on 1990s
conflicts suggested that with the end of the Cold War, other entities such
as Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) were becoming important story
sources and protagonists in writings about non-Western conflicts (Fair,
1992; Wall, 1997). But this study suggests that the U.S. government in the
form of the military will continue – whenever involved in such conflicts –
to serve as the primary focus. Indeed, the military and U.S. officials are
the primary sponsors of this frame, and, despite Carragee and Roefs' (1999)
discussion of frames as competitions among interested parties, there
appears to be no competing frame in the stories. The media very much
follow the government's lead, failing to provide historical context or
exhibiting basic cultural knowledge just as prior studies of international
news suggested would be the case. After all, U.S. soldiers are easier to
talk to – especially if you don't speak Arabic or Kurdish. Stories don't
quote Middle Easterners, especially those who do not want a U.S. presence
in the region; by de-emphasizing this point of view, coverage does not
adequately inform audiences that some Arabs were angry about the U.S.
involvement. This is important because this explanation would be part of
Al Qaeda's rational for its Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United
States. Thus, what is being constructed is the United States' role as
global protector and policeman – as the world's sole superpower – without
adequate attention paid to the reception of this idea in the Middle
East. U.S. military firepower and military prowess become exemplars for
modernity and civilization – seen as tools for liberation rather than
destruction. By portraying the conflict as a battle against the "evil"
Hussein, the media reinforce U.S. government's spin that they in turn
represent the alternative: "good." Hammond (2000) warns that this taking
of sides ultimately justifies the rehabilitation of imperialism.
It is important to note that the existence of a media frame does not mean
the unrest or violence is not real (just as the Cold War frame did not mean
there was no Cold War) but that the frame serves as a means of condensing
the world's troubles into clichés that do little to heighten awareness or
knowledge among media audiences. Nor does this analysis of the
newsmagazines' coverage wish to downplay the fact that reporting the plight
of the Kurds was a difficult and sometimes dangerous assignment for
reporters. While some argue that framing needs to be studied not only
through media content, but also audience and journalist framing processes,
such an assessment was beyond the scope of this particular project;
however, it should be the aim of future research on this
topic. Identifying frames helps us recognize how political power operates
via the media. With a knowledge of media frames and their tendency to
simplify and distort, we might be able to begin to move forward, toward
real understanding of international conflicts and their underlying, often
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