In preparation of my doctoral thesis on discourse and intercultural education I came across the methodology of ethnographic content analysis on the one hand and a research document titled “Peering Beneath the Veil: An Ethnographic Content Analysis of Islam as Portrayed on The 700 Club Following the September 11th Attacks” by Eric Gormly on the other hand.
Discourse analysis is a research programme to reveal the construction of ‘reality’ and ‘stock of knowledge’ within society. In his study, Gormly analyzed over two calender weeks following immediately after the September 11th attacks at total of nine programs broadcasted by the 700 Club -TV station.
Following a review of religious broadcasting intended to give people moral guidance, information, entertainment and as a substitute for secular programs people consider immoral, Gormly looked into The 700 Club program as a key source of information and guidance for Evangelical Christians.
From Gormly’s findings it becomes evident that Pat Robertson, founder of The 700 Club, makes use of the ‘anti-islamic-atmosphere’ which followed the attacks, to place his messages and situate “Islam and Muslims within the same frame as militant Islam, radical Muslims and terrorists”. Besides that, he seized the chance to etch the belief in his audience’s head that “the West – Islam can only the viewed as a threat that strikes at the very core of an Evangelical Christian’s beliefs and therefore must be portrayed that way”.
This might be a starkly example of the constitution of “public truth” and “collective knowledge”. However, mechanism as shown above, are daily used in public discourse. Sometimes in a more descreet way, but identifiable if one wants to.
Let’s look at another evitable ‘harmless’ example: an article on the “Eco-City” Masdar. “Eco” in this content is meant as “greenie” and reveals the subtle irony and disrespect towards the project – no matter whether it is a successful one. The objektive assessment does not seem to be the intention of this article anyway but rather the gloating about a “failed project” in the eyes of Western engineers. Written in the style at is it does not leave a chance to the reader to make up its own opinion.
Let me give you some examples: The article describes on the one hand, how rich the emirate Abu Dhabi is and desribes the “Masdar City” later as a “green disneyland” which is supposed to build to improve the country’s image. In plain words: “Look at Abu Dhabi, a country rich beyond our dreams not being capable to implement such a project despite of the wealth”.
Another example conspiring in the same way is the article “From Camel to Classics” adhering to the tenor that Oman might be a progressive state in the positive (in the commonly accepted or expected Western way) on the one hand. On the other hand the project of building an opera house in the Arabic World seems to be a little bit crazy and past the populations’ needs. Well, we are talking about the “Arabian Switzlerland” (quote!) here, folks!
The examples given above, apart from the creation of the “evil” other in the first instance, illustrate imply the truth hidden in the unconscious mind: the West still does not meet the Arab World at eye level.
I went to the cinema yesterday to watch Eastwoods latest Masterpiece “J. Edgar”. A very interesting and complex peace of art. The film that is supposed to show the personal side of the FBI-founder portraying Hoover (in the eye of the viewer) as a powerful man yet featuring little self-esteem, due to a lordly mother that “rather wants a dead than a gay son” (hinting at Hoover’s alleged homosexuality. Hoover reportedly found his outlet in the chase of communists and hostile foreigners in the first place and later in the figure of civil-rights activits, such as Martin Luther King. Does this description remind you of somebody who become president some decades later, supposedly a former alcoholic, who later invaded the Iraq (amongst others)? Just a little bit of “history repeating”?
For anybody who is interested in learning how the mass media creates collective knowledge the books “Dining with al-Qaeda” by Hugh Pope is a must.