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Nationalism, Gender And The War Discourse

1700 words - 7 pages

The presence of war has been argued as one of the major contextual factors leading to rapid changes in media discourse. During periods of conflicts, the media are characterised by a heightened emphasis on a clear division between “us” – the goodies and “them” – the baddies (Bugarski 1997). In particular, a “polarising logic of war discourse” (Pankov, Mihelj and Bajt 2011, p. 1044) is deliberately formed by conflating various forms of nationalism and other discourses of identity, such as gender and age (ibid), with the intent to create binaries and contrast different entities involved in the war. In doing so, the media serve to sustain power in political systems, for they promote preferred social relations and values of the ruling political structure (Van Dijk 2006, p.15). The mediated representations of the political crisis in Crimea in 2014 have followed this pattern. In this case study, using critical discourse analysis, I shall examine the language and accompanying video of the article “'What If My son doesn’t Come Back at All': Crimean Mothers Wait for Their Sons Drafted in Ukraine”, which was published on Russia Today News’ website on 26th March 2014. I particularly pay attention to how these textual and visual elements transform people into nationalised and gendered subjects in a pro-Russian nationalist narrative so as to legitimise the ideology that the news serves.
The article was tied to the concern over the situation of Crimean soldiers serving in the Ukrainian army after the Crimea’s legal status referendum held on 16th March 2014. As a result of this referendum and a string of events entailed, Crimea, formerly an autonomous republic within Ukraine, became a part of the Russian Federation, and those soldiers who had not returned to Crimea were thus considered as undergoing military service in another country. Although reporting in the “public sphere” (Habermas 1989) an issue concerning citizens and the nation, the article was structured around personal stories shared by the soldiers’ families. This way of framing discredits the sense that deems the referendum as having negative consequences on Crimea’s national interests, which possibly counters its legitimacy. The article also presented the issue as emotion-driven, caused by maternal anxiety and love rather than general national dissatisfaction. Such an interpretation is visible in the constant emphasis on emotion of the people portrayed, in both reporting language (“nightmare”; “fear their loved one won’t be able to come home”, “I tell him, ‘Hello, son, I love you’. That is all I can tell him”; “the anxiety is too much to bear”) and video footage of the interviews with them (mothers crying, mother showing photos of her son, fiancé waiting on phone). This discursive construction serves to ideologically avoid giving this issue the impression of radical political criticism made by citizens, which might threat the representation of a united Crimea during the crisis. Similar ideological...

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