News-Media and Transformation of Reality during the Egyptian Revolution

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2011

82 Pages, Grade: 16/20


Table of Contents:



Key to Phonetic Description

Table of contents

General Introduction

Chapter One: Review of Literature
1.0 Introduction
1.1 Critical Discourse analysis
1.1.1 Discourse
1.1.2 Capitalism
1.1.3 Power
1.1.4 Ideology
1.1.5 Hegemony
1.2 Journalism
1.2.1 Objectivity in Journalism
1.2.2 Discursive Practices of Journalism
1.2.3 Audience
1.2.4 Propaganda
1.2.5 Headlines
1.3 Conclusion

Chapter Two: Methodology
2.0 Introduction
2.1 Purpose
2.2 Rationale
2.3 Study Design
2.3.1 Pilot Study
2.3.2 The Study The Data Methods of Data Collection Methods of Data Analysis Critical Discourse Analysis as a Method A) Lexical Analysis B) Rhetorical Analysis C) Syntactical Analysis
2.4 Conclusion

Chapter Three: News-Media and Transformation of Reality during the Egyptian Revolution
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Lexical Choice as a Discourse Strategy in the Journalistic Discourse of NileTV and AlJazeera
3.1.1 Choice of words and its impact on the representation of events
3.1.2 Naming, as a referential strategy to serve social and political purposes
3.2 The role of Rhetorical Tropes in the Construction of Social Reality
3.2.1 Metaphor as a rhetorical strategy for persuading the audience
3.2.2 Metonymy as a rhetorical strategy for concealing responsibility
3.3 Transitivity as a Syntactic Strategy and its Role in the Construction of Different Versions of Reality
3.4 Discussion
3.5 Conclusion

General Conclusion




This Research paper is dedicated first and foremost to my parents, Ahmed and Amina,

without whom, I would simply not exist. To my reason to live: Salim Zidouh. To the sweetest of all sisters: Rajae Zidouh. To the dearest of all friends: Mohamed Bouaoud To the dearest of all uncles: Tijani El Fallahi

To the best cousins on planet earth: Hamza, Othman & Faycal El Fallahi To my One and only; Rihab M.

And indeed to all the dear friends who have helped me in any way to complete this End of Studies Project

Reda Abdellaoui, Nada Abjaou, Salim Ayoub,

Sofia Benkelfat, Soukaina Cherkaoui, Mounir Elasri,

Youssef El Moudden, Med Amine Khdaychi, Abderazak Layat, Hanane Moujahid, Yassine Soufi, Abdelkarim Souha


First of all, I would like to express my immense gratitude to my mentor: Prof. F.Z LAMRANI, without whom this paper would not have found its words.

Thank you, Madame, for your support, guidance, closeness, kindness and supervision.

Since the beginning of the semester, Professor Lamrani has always been there, giving me constant constructive criticism, remarks and advice.

Prof. Lamrani is also the reason for my choice of Discourse Analysis for my research subject, her course ‘Culture and Discourse’, that I took in semester five, was such an inspiration. I immediately fell in love with the subject, hence, my choice to do Discourse Analysis for my end of studies project.

I would like to thank the second reader, Prof El Hakkouni for considering my research paper.

My gratefulness also goes to all the proficient professors from whom I have learned much more than words could say.

Thank you: Prof. Bensoukas, Prof. Bouhlal, Prof. Graiouid, Prof. Guennoun, Prof. El Hakkouni and Prof Lasri…

Key to Phonetic Description

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

General Introduction

The present study endeavours to investigate the effects of journalistic

discourse on the perception of reality. More precisely, it attempts to demonstrate how different ways to ‘report’ the same events may lead to different constructions of social reality. The major aim of this research is to depict the strategies used by AlJazeera and NileTV during their coverage of the events of the Egyptian revolution of the 25th January 2011, the ideological purposes behind the use of these strategies and how they end up constructing different versions of reality. In this regard, Critical Discourse Analysis is used as a method of analysis, to uncover the ways social realities are constructed discursively via the news media. This research paper is organized as follows: the first chapter presents the major concepts related to the functionalist view of discourse, as well as all the key concepts related to journalistic discourse, namely, capitalism, power, ideology, hegemony, journalism, objectivity, discursive practices, propaganda, audience and headlines. The second chapter presents the research methodology, which involves the purpose, the rationale, the research questions and hypotheses, as well as the pilot study and the methods of data collection and analysis. Finally the third chapter presents the analysis of fourteen headlines from both the English and Arabic versions of the websites of AlJazeera and NileTV on their coverage of the Egyptian revolution (25th of January 2011)

Chapter one Review of Literature

1.0 Introduction

This chapter sheds light on all the key terms used in the present paper. It explores the different dimensions of discourse, and how they relate to the media, to enable it to construct social reality. This chapter will be arranged as follows. The opening section will cast light on ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, as a method of analysis associated with the critical approach to the function of language in society. The next sections will present this paper’s assumption of several key concepts of this research such as ‘Discourse’, ‘Capitalism’, ‘Power’, ‘Ideology’, ‘Hegemony’, ‘journalism’, ‘objectivity in journalism’, ‘the discursive practices of journalism’, ‘audience’, ‘propaganda, and finally ‘headlines’. The purpose of this research paper is to show how the media play a crucial role in the construction of reality. To understand this point, one must understand the concepts that this research paper tries to depict in the following sections.

1.1 Critical Discourse Analysis

“Critical Discourse Analysis” (CDA) refers to a methodology associated with the functionalist definition of discourse. One of the founders of CDA, Norman Fairclough (1995: 132) describes the aim(s) of CDA as follows:

To systematically explore often opaque relationships of causality and determination between (a) discursive practices, events and texts and (b) wider social and cultural structures, relations and processes; to investigate how much practices, events and texts arise out of and are ideologically shaped by relations of power and struggles over power

To agree with this assumption of what CDA is about, we must agree with the assumption that Discourse is both shaped by and shapes the world. Fairclough is clearly making the link between discourse and the social and cultural structures. He also claims that Discourse is nearly always pregnant with ideology, a fact which leads to the claim that CDA is about unveiling the hidden link between discourse and ideology. In this respect Johnstone (2002: 45) writes:

The goal of CDA is thus to uncover the ways in which discourse and ideology are intertwined. [...] every linguistic choice - every choice about how to produce discourse, but also every choice about how to interpret it - is a choice about how the world is to be divided up and explained. Every choice is strategic, in the sense that every utterance has an epistemological agenda, a way of seeing the world that is favoured via that choice and not via others.

Indeed, there are always different ways to refer to the same event/thing in the world. CDA claims that the choices we make, for example about how to represent actions, actors and events will have immediate impact on our representation of reality. Also, our choices might be the result of a certain ideological background, and might be intended to serve certain purpose(s). This is also another side that CDA tries to uncover, that is to show which strategies are used, by whom, and for which purpose.

Titscher et al. (2000: 146) reporting Wodak (1996) says that “CDA investigates and aims at illustration, a relationship between the text and its social conditions, ideologies and power-relations.” From this quotation we understand that CDA is not concerned with language alone, but rather with discourse intertwined with ideology and power. Indeed, these concepts (Ideology, power, and discourse) need further explanations and will therefore be discussed in the following sections.

Finally, we can us conclude this part with what is called by Titscher et al. (2000: 146) the general principles of CDA:

- CDA is concerned with social problems. It is not concerned with language or language use per se, but with the linguistic character of social and cultural processes and structures.
- Power-relations have to do with discourse, and CDA studies both power in discourse and power over discourse.
- Society and culture are dialectically related to discourse: society and culture are shaped by discourse, and at the same time constitute discourse. Every single instance of language use reproduces or transforms society and culture, including power relations.
- Language use may be ideological. To determine this, it is necessary to analyse texts to investigate their interpretation, reception and social effects.
- Discourses are historical and can only be understood in relation to their context. At a metatheoretical level this corresponds to the approach of Wittgenstein, according to which the meaning of an utterance rests in its usage in a specific situation. [...]
- Discourse analysis is interpretative and explanatory. Critical analysis implies a systematic methodology and a relationship between the text and its social conditions, ideologies and power relations. [... ] (Wodak, 1996: 17-20, cited in Titscher et al. , 2000: 146)

1.1.1 Discourse

There is no clear definition of the term “Discourse”, yet the most famous two definitions relate to the formalistic and to the functionalist view of language. The first claims that discourse in a linguistic form above the sentence and that discourse is what links sentences together to create text. While the second view of language, which is the functionalistic one, claims that discourse is language-in-use. As Blommaert (2005: 2) puts it, “there is a long tradition of treating discourse in linguistic terms, either as a complex of linguistic forms larger than the single sentence (a ‘text’) or as “language-in-use.” Discourse is also believed to always be social and central to human activity as Blommaert (2005: 10-11) puts it:

[...] there is no such thing as ‘non-social’ language [...] Any utterance produced by people will be, for instance, an instance of oral speech, spoken with a particular accent, gendered and reflective of age and social position, tied to a particular situation or domain and produced in a certain stylistically or generically identifiable format.

We can therefore understand that language and society are intertwined, and that discourse is exactly this concretisation of language, which is always social. We believe Language to be abstract, while discourse is the actual use of this abstract system that is language. Thus, as claimed by Richardson (2007: 10), “Language use exists in a kind of dialogue with society: language is produced by society and it goes on to help recreate it.” It is believed that Discourse is the product of society, yet at the same time, our very discourse help shape our social context. For example, the way you speak to a person in a meeting helps shape the actual social context and at the same time is being shaped by this same context, which already exists as a result of a previous discourse.

Another important part of discourse is the concept of identity. It is via discourse that people project themselves, and depending on what they are hoping to accomplish, people will draw on the resources provided by their grammar to achieve their ends. This leads to the fact, as Richardson puts it (2007: 12), that: “Language use is always active; it is always directed at doing something; and the way in which language achieves this activity is always related to the context in which it is being used.” We, as humans never use language randomly, whenever we speak or write, we engage in the process of building what Gee (1999: 11) likes to call, “seven areas -f reality” that are : “Significance”, “Activities”, “Identities”, “Relationships”,

“Politics”, “Connections”, “Sign systems and knowledge”. In addition to that, Discourse as a concept is very much linked to some other complex concepts (some of which will be discussed later in this paper) like: ideology, culture, thought and power, etc. It is believed that Discourse shapes our perception of the world but at the same time is shaped by the world. This interrelationship is at the heart of various philosophical, rhetorical, debates and might need a whole research to deal with it. Yet this is the assumption on which this research paper is based; that is, Discourse is dynamic and is always intended to do something, that it is via discourse that we tend to view the world around us. The relationship between discourse and culture is made clear in this quotation by Sherzer (1987: 296)

It is discourse which creates, recreates, modifies, and fine tunes both culture and language and their intersection, and it is especially in verbally artistic discourse such as poetry, magic, verbal duelling, and political rhetoric that the potentials and resources provided by grammar, as well as culture meanings and symbols, are exploited to the fullest and the essence of language-culture relations becomes salient.

Another assumption about language is that it has power, and clearly some people’s discourse is more powerful than others. Also, some kinds of discourse may have more power than others; for instance, journalistic discourse is one of the most powerful kinds of discourse of our modern days. This is due to the fact that people nowadays tend to believe everything that is said by the media. Therefore, journalistic discourse has the power to shape people’s opinions, to enforce, reinforce or challenge beliefs, and as claimed by Richardson (2007: 13), “For these reasons, and many more, the language of the news media needs to be taken very seriously”.

Indeed discourse is a difficult concept to define, largely because there are so many definitions most of which overlap, yet this paper is based on the following assumption about discourse:

-Discourse is language in use.
-Discourse is produced by society but at the same time shapes society.
-Discourse is always active.
-Discourse enacts Identity.
-Discourse has power.
-Discourse use is political.

Finally, as Fairclough (1992: 3-4) puts it:

Discourses do not just reflect or represent social entities and relations, they construct or ‘constitute’ them; different discourses constitute key entities in different ways and position people in different ways as social subjects, and it is these social effects of discourse that are focused upon in discourse analysis.

Discourse, therefore, not only reflects or represents the world as it is commonly believed; rather it helps to shape and to construct our very reality.

1.1.2 Capitalism

Capitalism is a term which refers to the life-mode of a certain society. To say that a society is capitalist is to make a claim that this society is based on classes, which are themselves based on the relationship of each one of them to the modes of production. As Shaikh (1986) cited by Richardson (2007, 3) puts it “In essence, a class society is structured in such a way as to enable one set of people to live of the labour of others”. Indeed it would be utopic to claim that in the modern world there is hardly any part where people are living within another system than the capitalist one. In Richardson’s (2007: 2) words, “the contemporary world is characterised by the pre-eminence of capitalism; there are very few, if any, places in the world that are not affected by capitalist social relations.” In fact, the common belief that people in the world are living in conditions close to the European standards, is a wrong one. The majority of people in the world live in what has been named by the west as the “third world”, so we can understand that what is believed to be the standard mode of living is in fact an elite one. Yet the relationship of the people living in any “third world” country to the mode of production is the same as the ones living in the most developed countries, since the structure remains almost the same. People sell their labour, which can be of various kinds, to an elite which will live of their labour and pay them only a part of what will then be called “the capital”. This mode is structured this way so as to create a sur-plus in labour, which remains unpaid for, so as to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. According to Karl Marx, as cited by Richardson (2007: 3)

There are only three economical classes: those who buy labour power (the bourgeoisie), those who sell their own labour power (the proletariat) and small-scale craftsmen/women and entrepreneurs (the petit bourgeoisie) who either create a product themselves or purchase a commodity and re-sell for a profit.

However, there remains a wide gap between each of these classes and even within each one of them. For instance, among the proletariat, we must make a difference between those who have social control over the work of others (managers, team-leaders...) and those who stand in the bottom of the pyramid. If we take the same example given by Richardson (2007: 4), journalists do not differ that much from workers in any other field. Journalists sell their labour to news organisations, a relation that places them in the proletariat, yet their social relation to the capital is clearly not the same as the cleaners who do the same (that is sell their labour). The Journalists labour produces a higher sur-plus and therefore they are paid more. This results in them having more autonomy over their labour. Also, depending on their status they can work less hours, submit their files from outside (the work-place), talk to others, eat when they feel like eating, etc. Obviously workers in a factory cannot do the same; they will be supervised all the time, which will lead to a different feeling towards their labour. Therefore as reported by Richardson (2007: 4), “the middle-class journalist may have a more positive view of capitalism because he or she is better insulated from the more obvious injuries of class experienced by the working classes.”

From another perspective, defenders of capitalism often claim that both the owner and the worker benefit from the contract and hence, the system is a legitimate one. However, it is clear all over the world that the profits that they make (that is the workers and the owners) are obviously unequal. Under capitalist systems, as the wealth of the owners increases, the wealth of the workers decreases, because “the wealth of the bourgeoisie is taken directly from the proletariat” (Richardson. 2007: 5).

We can, therefore, come to the conclusion that capitalism is inherently exploitative. Indeed, humans do not like to be exploited; therefore, the capitalist class who is the biggest beneficiary of this relation to the capital has to fight to hide the true nature of capitalism from the workers exploited. Indeed, the instability of capitalism is something that scares the elite, and pushes it to use power to hide its true nature.

In this respect, Chomsy (2006: 39) writes:

[...] They realise that the system of domination is fragile that is relies on disciplining the population by one or another means. There is a desperate search for such means: in recent years, communism, crime, drugs, terrorism, and others. Pretexts change, policies remain rather stable.

There are various methods to “discipline” the proletariat, that is to legitimate the current system so that it seems natural to live in a class society, and even necessary for the survival of the human kind. Yet, we can basically argue that all of these methods of “disciplining the population” are based on discourse, and precisely on the use of power through and via discourse. Indeed as Richardson (2007: 6) puts it “The language used in newspapers is one key site in this naturalisation of inequality and neutralisation of dissent.” It is clear from this quotation that discourse is central for the naturalisation of things, and that discourse can only do that by the use of a certain kind of power. This leads us to our next section, which will be devoted to “Power”.

1.1.3 Power

The idea of power has always been of central interest to researchers in the field of discourse in general and to Critical Discourse Analysts in particular. The relation between discourse and power is indeed an interlaced one. This results in a lot of difficulties when trying to define power, for it is in essence a very slippery concept.

In that sense let us start from the most simplistic vision of power; as suggested by Lukes (1974: 11), “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do”. This view of power is in fact based on behaviourism, and viewed from this perspective; we understand that A deliberately uses power over B while both of them know that power is in use. That is, A wants to achieve something, and B knows that A wants to achieve this same thing within an observable conflict. This definition of power may be a good one to start with, but not a final one. Since power is often used in misguiding ways, and the biggest trick of power may be to make its own existence unseen. In the real world, Power is often used without B knowing it, and to take it to an extreme sometimes even without A knowing that he/she is in the exercise of it. This step allows us to move to a more sophisticated view of power, which is referred to by Bachrach and Baratz (1970: 44) as the “non-decisions” face of power. That is how power is instrumental in making “non-decisions”:

[which can be] a means by which demands for change in the existing allocation of benefits and privileges in the community can be suffocated before they are even voiced; or kept covert; -r killed before they gain access to the relevant decision making arena Indeed, this side of power retains the first one provided by Lukes and builds up on it, to show the ways in which power can hide itself and prevent decisions from even being voiced about “potential issues over which there is an observable conflict of (subjective) interests” (Lukes, 1974: 20).

Indeed, the normalisation of things and the attributions made by certain social groups to what is called “the common-sense” might be seen as a very important side of power. Because in this normalisation of things, the people in power make their own interest seem natural and necessary (as we said before about Capitalism), therefore avoiding any conflicts from even being raised. This is indeed a much more sophisticated view of power than the first one; that is we can say that A exercises power over B, when A prevents B from knowing, hearing about, noticing any potential conflict of interests, and when A makes its own system of beliefs seem the only natural one, a fact which results in B following with consent what seems to be “natural” or common-sense.

We can link this view of power to journalism to understand how “journalists and the news-media in general are “used” by the social groups in power” (Richardson, 2007: 31). We can notice this use of power for example in the fact of reporting only certain events and not others. Resulting in the majority of the population knowing, believing only what the social groups in power want them to believe, therefore resulting in the “Non-decisions” which this face of power is all about.

However, Lukes (1974: 21) argues that even this face of power does not good enough, and that “power should be viewed as a more systemic phenomenon”. He claims that this view of power in his following claim:

[This view of power] gives a misleading picture of the ways in which individuals and, above all, groups and institutions succeed in excluding potential issues from the political process. […] The bias of the system can be mobilised, recreated and reinforced in ways that are neither consciously chosen nor the intended result of particular individual choices (Lukes, 1974: 21) In other words, Lukes debates the idea that these “non-decisions” are not the result of a single individual or a single social group; deciding on what should be said and what shouldn’t is not a simple result of an act. It is rather the result of the social structures and the cultural patterns that dictates for each group its behaviour and for each institutions its practices.

Finally, Lukes (1974: 23) summarizes what he believes to be the most complicated face (and the closest definition) of power when he writes that “[of course] A may exercise power over B by getting him to do what he does not want to do, but he also exercises power over him by influencing, shaping or determining his attitudes, beliefs, and very wants” (1974: 23). Therefore, we can say that power is all about the acceptance of the current social conditions that may, or may not, be in the interest of the majority of the population. In other words we can now safely say that “A exercises power over B when A affects B in a manner contrary to B’s interests.” (Lukes, 1974: 34) This side of power is based on social structures and cultural practices; These concepts are all of them based on what is referred to as “Ideology”, which will be the subject of the next section.

1.1.4 Ideology

As reported by Richardson (2007: 32),it is Antoine Destutt De Tracey who [after the French Revolution] coined the term ideology “to refer to ‘a new science of ideas, an idea-logy, which would be the ground of all other sciences” He continues that “De Tracey argued that the ideas we hold are not the product of God or nature but are generated by our social environment as perceived through our physical senses.” (2007: 32). Indeed, Ideology seems to be a very positive concept which can only lead to progress. This is the view that the majority of the population might have about ideologies as being good, and constructive. Yet, behind this deceptive and misguiding first image that we might get, Ideology is in fact a very misleading concept and as we saw earlier, one of the most important tools used by the social groups in power to naturalize their systems of beliefs.

In Marx’s words (Marx, 1848: 27), repeated by Franklin (2005). “the history of ideas demonstrates that the products of the intellect are refashioned along with material ones.” Ideas which at first sight are believed to be the result of experience, are in fact only the reflection of the economic circumstances and social relations of a certain period. Therefore, we can say, as Richardson (2007: 32) puts it, that ideologies mirror “the circumstances of the ruling class and their desire to maintain their class privilege.”

Indeed, Marx gives us a very different view of ideology and how it works, not only in modern society but since the beginning of the times. Marx attacked De Tracey’s view calling it a “bourgeois” perspective. Gee (1990: 6) suggests that ideology under Marx “is an upside-down version of reality”. He claims that “Since things are not really as the elite and the powerful believe them to be: rather, their beliefs invert reality to make it appear the way they would like it to be, the way it “needs” to be if their power is to be enhanced and sustained.” (Gee, 1990: 6) Here, Ideology is clearly defined as a misleading concept, which is used by the powerful and the elite to again “naturalize” what needs to be seen as natural if their power is to remain at all.

In this same regard Callinicos (1983: 128) argues that:

Ideology is conceived as a set of false beliefs, constituted by a dual relation, first, to the reality to which it is an inverted reflection, and, secondly, to the true, scientific knowledge of that reality. […] The obverse, of course, is that another minority, this time an enlightened one armed with the truth, can free the masses from these deceptions by the power of reason alone.

Therefore, Ideologies do not simply reflect reality, and are not simply the result of experience. Ideology is more than that, it itself constructs and shapes reality. This vision of reality that is constructed via ideologies is often contrary to people’s true interests, and thus serves the social groups in power alone.


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News-Media and Transformation of Reality during the Egyptian Revolution
Discourse Analysis End of Studies Seminar.
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critical, discourse, analysis, egyptian, revolution, news, media, aljazeera, jazeera, nile, tv, mass, studies, arab, spring
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Amine Zidouh (Author), 2011, News-Media and Transformation of Reality during the Egyptian Revolution, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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