Twelve Ways The Media Misrepresents Violence

IN Media Practice | 18/03/2002
Twelve Ways The Media Misrepresents Violence

Twelve Ways The Media Misrepresents Violence

Where do the media go wrong in dealing with violence? This round-up gives us a start in understanding.

Norwegian peace studies professor Johann Galtung has laid out 12 points of concern were journalism often goes wrong when dealing with violence. Each implicitly suggests more explicit remedies.

1. Decontextualizing violence: focussing on the irrational without looking at the reasons for unresolved conflicts an dpolarization.

2. Dualism: reducing the number of parties in a conflict to two, when often more are involved. Stories that just focus on internal developments often ignore such outside or `external` forces as foreign governments and transnational companies.

3. Manicheanism: portraying one side as good and demonizing the other as `evil`.

4. Armageddon: presenting violence as inevitable, omitting alternatives.

5. Focussing on individual acts of violence while avoiding structural causes, like poverty, government neglect an dmilitary or police repression.

6. Confusion: focussing only on the conflict arena (i.e. the battlefield or location of violent incidents) but not on the forces and factors that influence th eviolence.

7. Excluding and omitting the bereaved, thus never explaining why there are acts of revenge and spirals of violence.

8. Failure to explore the causes of escalation and the impact of media coverage itself.

9. Failure to explore the goals of outside interventionists, especially big powers.

10. Failure to explore peace proposals and offer images of peaceful outcomes.

11. Confusing cease-fires and negotiations with actual peace.

12. Omitting reconciliation: conflicts tend to re-emerge if attention is not paid to efforts to heal fractured societies. When news about attempts to resolve conflicts are absent, fatalism is reinforced. That can help engender even more violence, when people have no images or information about possible peaceful outcomes and the promise of healing.

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