Global Media & Politics

Ideological parallelism: Toward a transnational understanding of the protest paradigm
Kisun Kim and Saif Shahin. Social Movement Studies. 2019 (forthcoming).

This study advances the protest paradigm as a transnational theory by examining how ideological affiliations within and across national borders influence the framing of a protest movement. Our empirical focus is the coverage of the 2016-17 South Korean “candlelight” protests to oust conservative President Park Gyun-hye in Korean and U.S. newspapers. Content analysis of six months of coverage suggests that liberal publications in both nations (Kyunghyang Shinmun and New York Times) were supportive of the movement, framing the protests as large yet peaceful and relying on protesters for information. In contrast, the conservative press in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal) was closer in its coverage to Korea’s conservative publication (Chosun Ilbo), which was defensive of Park and her supporters. We argue that ideological affinities can operate beyond national boundaries — what we term “ideological parallelism” — to make news organizations sympathetic or hostile toward a social movement. But nationalist sentiments also remain significant to the extent that a foreign (Korean) social movement affects a nation’s (U.S.) foreign policy. We identify a novel framing device — Gaze — under which the coverage of both U.S. newspapers converged and considered the adverse implications of candlelight protests for America’s relations with South Korea and its containment of North Korea and China. We also show how the U.S. media’s Gaze recursively shapes South Korean press coverage, indicating that transnational protest frames impact local perceptions of social movements and can potentially influence their legitimacy and outcome.

Protesting the paradigm: A comparative study of news coverage of protests in Brazil, China, and India
Saif Shahin, Pei Zheng, Heloisa Aruth Sturm, and Deepa Fadnis. The International Journal of Press/Politics. 2016.

This study assesses the scope and applicability of the “protest paradigm” in non-Western contexts by examining the news coverage of Brazilian, Chinese, and Indian protests in their domestic media. Two publications from each nation, one conservative and one progressive, are content analyzed for adherence to a series of marginalization devices that have often been used by the U.S. media to ridicule protest movements and portray them as violent. The Indian media emerge as the least likely to follow the protest paradigm, while Brazilian and Chinese media conform to it in moderate levels. Comparative analysis suggests the historical legitimacy of informal power negotiations in a political culture makes news media more willing to take protesters seriously and limits adherence to the protest paradigm. In contrast, a news organization’s ideological affiliation with the government of the day, rather than any ideology per se, makes it relatively more likely to conform to the protest paradigm. Marginalization devices such as circus, appearance, and eyewitness accounts are rarely used in any of these nations. But disparity of sources, (non)reference to protesters’ causes and violence, and violence blame appear to be abiding features of news coverage of protests everywhere.

Mediated modernities: (Meta)narratives of modern nationhood in Indian and Pakistani media, 1947-2007
Saif Shahin. Global Media and Communication. 2015.

This article proposes a theoretical framework for understanding modernity as lying at the intersection of two dimensions: (1) the narrative of modernity as interpreted variously in particular nations and (2) the metanarrative of modernity as a universal goal that nations tend to share. It demonstrates that interpretations of modernity vary among nations, and even within nations over time. But modernity in former European colonies is nonetheless an ideological construct that seeks validation from the West. News media, this article shows, constitute a vital mechanism through which both the narratives and the metanarrative of modernity become collective. The media naturalize particular interpretations of modernity while also making ‘becoming modern’ a necessary objective of nationhood in non-Western societies. Empirical evidence comes from the comparative study of India’s Hindustan Times and Pakistan’s Dawn newspapers over a 60-year period (1947–2007) after the two nations gained freedom from British colonialism, using Derrida’s method of deconstruction.

Controlled chaos: Iran’s hot peace with Afghanistan
Saif Shahin. L’Iran et les grands acteurs regionaux et globaux. 2012.

While Iran does not have an easy relationship with any of its neighbours, ties with Afghanistan are by far the most complex. The two countries share deep cultural, ethnic and linguistic bonds, but Iranian security concerns and strategic interests don’t always align with Afghanistan’s search for political and social stability. On the one hand, Iran has eagerly participated in Afghanistan’s reconstruction since the US-led invasion in 2001 and developed extensive links with the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul. On the other hand, it allegedly arms sections of its old enemy, the Taliban, in their insurgency against government forces and uses its control over oil flow into Afghanistan and refugees as a handle to armtwist Kabul. Even the Shiites of Afghanistan, whose cause Iran claims to champion, don’t always view the influence of Iran-educated ayatollahs favourably. This paper argues that Iran’s ostensibly paradoxical policy formulations, while reflecting ruptures in its political establishment, also point out that it is willing to endure or even encourage instability in the short term to weaken US military might in its neighbourhood and gain an upper-hand in its rivalry for regional clout with Saudi Arabia.