WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 1	
  
Western Media Framing the Kosovo War
Public Opinion – COM 564
Elon University
B...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 2	
  
Introduction
Politics are “altogether too big, too complex and too fleeting for...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 3	
  
historical events, the language and wording used to make the consumers feel a c...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 4	
  
which if successfully completed would end by eliminating Kosovar Albanians. 20,...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 5	
  
regards to media covering current events and how reports are presented through ...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 6	
  
asked to complete a brief questionnaire and then presented with five news artic...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 7	
  
When comparing the Kosovo War to the Holocaust opinion leaders framed the
need ...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 8	
  
Learned from a Violent Century,” where Hillary Rodham Clinton directly compared...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 9	
  
Wording in the Frame
Another conclusion that was drawn from this experiment is ...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 10	
  
and Lippmann’s theories, should they have been capable to. Frames not only enh...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 11	
  
of getting editorial approval. The media tends to rely on familiar imagery, so...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 12	
  
and the general publics begin to become immune to the images, no matter how gr...
WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 13	
  
Resources
Del Zotto, A. C. (2010, August 3). Weeping Women, Wringing Hands: Ho...
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Western Media Framing the Kosovo War

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Western Media Framing the Kosovo War

  1. 1. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 1   Western Media Framing the Kosovo War Public Opinion – COM 564 Elon University Brenna Mickey May 29, 2014
  2. 2. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 2   Introduction Politics are “altogether too big, too complex and too fleeting for direct acquaintance,” people must depend on others for their news concerning national and international affairs alike (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). Such matters are unavoidably complex and are always subject to alternative interpretations through the grape vine of communication. Due to no fault of our own, we construct our understandings of current events based on defined ideas and our already perceived realities. The fall of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s led to multiple wars in Eastern Europe. Kosovo, a province of Serbia in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, had struggled for its independence ever since it was annexed to Serbia in the early twentieth century (Ke, 2008). Western media outlets covered the War in Kosovo, delivering their versions of the conflict half way across the world. Walter Lippmann stated, it is impossible for us to fully understand complex matters; therefore, we create our own truth based on preconceived ideas and realities. This coincides with the Framing Theory, specifically media framing, which is used by media outlets. Framing the story a certain way to give the general public ideas to relate to and even concepts to think about the even being described. Since we’re not physically capable to view events ourselves that are occurring across the globe, we rely on stereotypes and bridge knowledge gaps by relating them to previous events and ideas. In regards to the Kosovo War, Western media framed the events in various ways, some in which misrepresented the events on that side of the world. Framing took place by U.S. media outlets in various ways but there were three techniques when framing the issues one way or another: the theme of the story, comparing the Kosovo War to other
  3. 3. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 3   historical events, the language and wording used to make the consumers feel a certain way about the issues and events, as well as the imagery selected to accompany the text. These specific forms of framing have been analyzed and interpreted to conclude that framing U.S. news reporting international affairs, specifically the Kosovo War. History of Kosovo Historically, the Slavs (Serbs and Bulgars) dominated Kosovo in the 5th century (Yang, 2003). In the early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was driven out of the Balkans and Serbia having gained an independent state status, asserted control over Kosovo in 1912. After the First World War, Serbia and Kosovo were integrated into Yugoslavia, with Kosovo as a providence of Serbia (Yang, 2003). In 1989, Slobodan Milosevic, who was president of Serbia at the time, denied Kosovo independence from Serbia, beginning the struggle for independence (Ke, 2008). The Kosovo War, represented by two opposing sides, the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbians, resulted in violence through out the country, as the Kosovar Albanians fought for their freedom from Serbia. While Serbia felt that Kosovo was a part of their reign, there is an unarguable statistic of 90% of the population in Kosovo having originated from Albania, a country that borders Kosovo as well as a few other countries in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia (Ke, 2008). Albanian in the national language in Kosovo and there is a very strong brotherhood between Kosovo and Albania. As the fall of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia progressed, Kosovar Albanians saw an opportunity to rise against the current leadership and became violent with their protesting. Milosevic counteracted these disruptions by initiating an ethnic cleansing,
  4. 4. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 4   which if successfully completed would end by eliminating Kosovar Albanians. 20,000 – 30,000 Kosovar Albanians were pronounced dead or had gone missing by the beginning of 1999, drawing international attention to the affair (Ke, 2008). In March of 1999, the confrontation between Serb security forces and Albanians reached the peak of violence as tens of thousands of people fled from their homes from Serbian military ransacking cities and villages through out Kosovo (Yang, 2003). This eventually led to NATO intervening to end the ethic cleansing, which was compared to the Holocaust of World War II. NATO initiated an airstrike where they began bombing areas where Serb military forces were camped out. On June 5, 1999 NATO and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia came to an agreement to ceasefire (Lalli, 2002). Kosovo declared independence on February 17, 2008. The Republic of Kosovo is currently 6 years old and is informally recognized as a country by 108 out of 193 members of the United Nations (Ke, 2008). Framing the Kosovo War “Media framing shapes the social construction of reality and provides a conceptual and theoretical framework for analyzing the news content… Framing involves selection and salience; it is an unavoidable part of the process of choosing what aspect of reality to describe and how to describe it (Ke, 2008).” Frames not only enhance understanding; they influence opinions (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). The theory of framing states in order to make sense of events, we categorize them based on preconceived ideas and realities that we’ve already been exposed to (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). The Framing Theory is commonly used in
  5. 5. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 5   regards to media covering current events and how reports are presented through certain frames. In the case of the Kosovo War, the question arises about Western media covering the issues and events in Kosovo and through what lens. Did the media represent accurately the happenings during the Kosovo War or were the actual events misrepresented through Western media based on generalizations and stereotypes. Theme in the Frame Themes began to arise in media reporting the Kosovo War. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan conducted an experiment by presenting people with news reports on the Kosovo War framed either in order to promote or prevent U.S. intervention (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). This experiment took into consideration the overall theme that news articles used and how they swayed their readers into having varying opinions on the current event occurring; this was proven by presenting articles with the same facts but through different themes. “The best way to determine how citizens use frames to comprehend political issues is to examine what makes certain frames successful. A good frame is the heart of the story (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006),” Berinsky and Kinder argue for their experiment. Their attempt to determine if citizens can in fact make sense of situations better than they other wise could when presented the news that is organized to emphasize a particular hook or theme. The three scenarios that were presented to groups framed the Kosovo Crisis as a humanitarian crisis, a risk to America and a basic factual article. The participants were
  6. 6. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 6   asked to complete a brief questionnaire and then presented with five news articles that would represent one of the conditions. All of the newspaper articles were drawn from the Washington Post (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). “These frames were intended to capture the ways in which different media outlets could present the same information qualitatively in different ways (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006).” Results from the experiment concluded that participants’ recall of pro- intervention and anti-intervention facts varied by experimental conditions, meaning participants in the risk to America story condition remembered significantly more anti- intervention facts than participants assigned to the humanitarian crisis treatment (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). This experiment took into consideration the overall theme that articles used and how they affected their readers into having varying opinions on the current event occurring. This was proven by presenting the same articles with different frames: humanitarian, risk to America and factual. Comparison One main media framing technique includes comparing the current event to previous events that are similar. The Kosovo War was not exempt from these generalizations, and were frequently compared to the Holocaust and the Vietnam War. While all of these wars had varying trigger points and history that was unrelated, they were all categorized into similar events that took place in three extremely different areas of the world.
  7. 7. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 7   When comparing the Kosovo War to the Holocaust opinion leaders framed the need for intervention from Western countries by comparing the Kosovo War to World War II. “The imperative of stopping a genocide would lend support to some kind of American intervention in Kosovo (Paris, 2003).” The same was done when comparing the Kosovo War to the Vietnam War, “unpleased memories of the Vietnam conflict would likely produce countervailing pressures against intervention (Paris, 2003).” These comparisons were used by such news outlets as the New York Times, the Washington Post and discussed on national television in the United States by influential opinion leaders. Making such references and metaphors provided the public to activate conscious and subconscious, rational and emotional responses to these other current events, due to strong emotions that are associated with the just the mention of Hitler’s name or American intervention of the Vietnam war, thus swaying the publics opinions on the Kosovo War (Paris, 2003). Historical metaphors that appear frequently identify as trigger phrases that reporters and politicians a like used to evoke emotion and something that the audience can relate to (Paris, 2003). Certain common phrases that were used in comparison were: Vietnam, quagmire, Holocaust, genocide, never again, concentration camps, loading innocent people onto trains, Hitler, appeasement, Munich, stand up to Nazi aggression, Balkan powder keg and Balkan tinderbox (Paris, 2003). The Clinton Administration also linked Kosovo to the Holocaust by repeating certain trigger phases in their public statements. For example, Holocaust-survivor Elie Wiesel visited the White House in a forum entitled “The Perils of Indifference: Lessons
  8. 8. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 8   Learned from a Violent Century,” where Hillary Rodham Clinton directly compared the Holocaust to the Kosovo War: “I never could have imagined that when the time finally came for him [Wiesel] to stand in this spot and to reflect on the past century and the future to come, that we would be seeing children in Kosovo crowded into trains, separated from families, separated from their homes, robbed of their childhoods, their memories, their humanity. It is something that causes all of us to pause and reflect…how could all this be happening once again at the end of this century? When we see people forced from their homes at gunpoint, loaded onto train cars, their identity papers confiscated, their very presence blotted from the historical record, it is only natural that we world think of the events which Elie has chronicled tonight in his own life.” In other words, the war in Kosovo might not be the new Holocaust but should be thought of as a similar event when international intervention is concerned. These are statements and comparisons that were continuously made by the Clinton Administration as well as with other politicians and opinion leaders in the media. By making these comparisons in the media, it’s only natural to relate what you know of other events to the ones being compared to them. This, however, does each country an injustice because it takes away the identity of each country and generalizes their issues into something less complicated, therefore deprecating the authenticity of the issues. While this seems fairly negative, this relates back to the Framing Theory, in general, because we are not able to comprehend complex ideas and political issues without somehow relating them to what we already know.
  9. 9. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 9   Wording in the Frame Another conclusion that was drawn from this experiment is the importance of wording and how it swayed general understanding and perception of events. In regards to the Kosovo War and this experiment, framing language in the risk to America stories generalized the Kosovo War as similar happenings in World War II, Milosevic comparing to Adolf Hitler, the Kosovar Albanians comparing to the Jews and the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ in direct comparison with ‘Holocaust.’ Both readers of the Risk to America articles and the Humanitarian treated articles showed an outstanding 75% of participants agreeing that Western intervention needed to happen (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). Another example of language framing the general understanding of the Kosovo War through media would be found by analyzing the over all word choice of articles produced on the Kosovo War. A “Narrative Analysis of U.S. Press Coverage of Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs in Kosovo” notes that four themes captured journalist attention and common language began occurring including (a) Serbs as terrorists, (b) Serbs as evil, (c) Milosevic as a dictator and (d) Kosovo refugees as fearful victims of the Serbs (Did the US). A study on the Washington Post and the Washington Times objectively reporting the reality of the Kosovo War concluded that while neither news outlet showed a blatant political slant in their reporting, they did frame the articles in specific ways (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). Neither the Washington Post nor the Washington Times presented the total truth or reality of the events happening in Kosovo nor, based on the framing theory
  10. 10. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 10   and Lippmann’s theories, should they have been capable to. Frames not only enhance our understanding, they influence our opinions (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006). “Frames therefore do not need to present strong arguments for one side or another in order to change public opinion. Small subtle differences in the presentation of information can sometimes do the trick (Berinksy & Kinder, 2006).” Another example of wording changing the frame of a story is when the media described the unfortunate but predominate occurrence of rape during the Kosovo War. By describing rape as a “war crime” without informing the public on the war crime debates, the media indirectly circulates the myth that victims of war sex crimes would somehow be protected by international law, when in fact, they are not (del Zotto, 2010). Media framing in its essence refers to respondents only reporting fragmented and non-specific information about the main characters in the event. Albanians and Kosovars, Balkans and Muslims, Serbs and Yugoslavians often overlapped in the language that was reported, resulting in a culturally blended and incorrect representation of various groups of people (Lalli, 2002). Imagery in the Frame Since framing in the media is generally expected, some common themes have arisen when discussing framing political or current events. Time and Tradition, Money and Patriotism are three overlapping theories that are widely accepted by both scholars of media and media workers for how media select their stories (del Zotto, 2010). Time and Tradition discusses staying with traditional ways of selecting and editing stories that allow journalist to cope quickly with time restrictions and the pressure
  11. 11. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 11   of getting editorial approval. The media tends to rely on familiar imagery, sometimes blatantly stereotyping cultures so that the audiences have something to relate to (del Zotto, 2010). The Money theme builds consensus with consumers to remain loyal to the media they’re consuming. This is more of a product driven method of presenting the news (del Zotto, 2010). Lastly, Patriotism relates to with holding certain standards and policies for the country correspondents are reporting for. Even in democratic societies where freedom of the press is existent, not wanting to stir the pot by contradicting the government’s official position on certain issues is always top priority (del Zotto, 2010). When it comes to the Kosovo War, there were many ethnic Kosovar Albanians that were uplifted from their homes, children were orphaned and families were separated. The media portrayed these cases almost as features through the imagery that was used. Specifically with Kosovar Albanian women, stories were enveloped with imagery of heartaches and displacement. A study published in the Journal of Gender Studies reports that women were generalized into six specific frames through imagery in Western media during the Kosovo War: The Passive Refugee, The Waiting Wife, The Female Body Torn Apart, The Rape Survivor, the Touchy-Feely Peace Activist and the Non-Stereotypic Woman in War (del Zotto, 2010). These categories framed all women involved in the conflicts experience, according to Western media. No matter what the framing of the images were that were being released, the images of the Kosovar Albanian refugees inspired a feeling of distant suffering for consumers of the media (Lalli, 2002). The feeling of war stock photography is embraced
  12. 12. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 12   and the general publics begin to become immune to the images, no matter how graphic, which is a result of media framing (Lalli, 2002). Conclusion Most scholastic researchers perceive Western intervention in Kosovo negatively, but these studies on Western media during the Kosovo War have proved what bias is, across the board, represented through media outlets based on the theme of the story, comparing the Kosovo War to previous well covered conflicts in the media, the language used and the imagery used to accompany the articles. While these forms of framing in the media might not have one hundred percent accuracy, framing in the media is considered, by all standards, an ethical form of journalism. It allows the general publics and consumers of media to relate certain preconceived ideas and notions to other, similar events. There is no foolproof way of recording only the facts of a story or event because everyone’s truth varies. Two correspondents at the same event, standing in the same location, witnessing the same incidence could have two completely different opinions about what occurred. While Western media framed the Kosovo War, whether it was through the theme, in comparison, language or imagery, it was all to help Westerners understand the occurrences more clearly in this exotic country.
  13. 13. WESTERN MEDIA FRAMING THE KOSOVO WAR 13   Resources Del Zotto, A. C. (2010, August 3). Weeping Women, Wringing Hands: How the Mainstream Media Stereotyped Women’s Experiences in Kosovo. Journal of Gender Studies, 11. DOI: 10.1080/09589230220139773 Ke, J. (2008). Did the US Media Reflect the Reality of the Kosovo War in an Objective Manner? Beijing Foreign Studies University. Berinsky, A. J., Kinder, D. R. (2006, August). Making Sense Of Issues Through Media Frames: Understanding The Kosovo Crisis. The Journal of Politics. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00451 Lalli, P. (2002, 1 September). Media and War Events: The Influence of Media Information about Kosovo war. Paris, R. (2003, November 3). Kosovo and the Metaphor War. Political Science Quarterly, 423-450. DOI: 10.2307/798263 Yang, J. (2003, June 1). Framing the NATO Air Strikes on Kosovo Across Countries: Comparison of Chinese and US Newspaper Coverage. International Communication Gazette, 231-249. DOI: 10.1177/006549203065003002

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