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Framing a Friendly Dictator: U.S. Newsmagazine Coverage of Pakistani President Musharraf After 9/11
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing a Friendly Dictator: U.S. Newsmagazine Coverage of Pakistani President Musharraf After 9/11 15 Closet liberal in a dictator’s suit The U.S. newsmagazines depicted Musharraf as a relatively mild, pro-Western leader whose dictatorship performs many functions of a true democracy. The Pakistani leader was portrayed as a person whose genuine intentions are democratic, but the circumstances make it impossible to realize this tendency. The main devices used to construct such a portrayal were justifications and patterns of omission. In all of the magazines, Musharraf was entitled as “president,” “military ruler” or “general,” even “a new friend” of the Western countries but not as a dictator. In terms of catchphrases, the military coup that he performed in 1999 was labeled as a “bloodless coup,” which emphasized the positive side of that act. The fact that Musharraf overthrew the democratically elected government of Navaz Sharif was mostly omitted. On several occasions the previous democratic government was labeled as “sham” and “false.” Musharraf’s dictatorship was normalized, presented as a standard and even desirable state for a country susceptible to “Islamic extremism,” such as Pakistan (“dictatorships in Pakistan are collegial things”, Newsweek, Oct.7, Behind America’s Attack on Afhanistan; “it may be a good thing for the antiterror coalition that Pakistan is ruled by a friendly military dictatorship, rather than what could be a hostile democracy,” Newsweek, Oct.22, A Fine Balance). The newsmagazines emphasized those political moves of the Pakistani leader that were of importance for the success of the United States’ fight against the Taliban regime, such as Musharraf’s removal of three high-ranked generals labeled as “extremist,” and the premature retirement of the chief of Pakistani secret service, ISI, considered to be close to the Taliban regime. Of less interest for the American newsmagazines and less

Authors: Obad, Orlanda.
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Framing a Friendly Dictator: U.S. Newsmagazine Coverage of Pakistani
President Musharraf After 9/11
15
Closet liberal in a dictator’s suit
The U.S. newsmagazines depicted Musharraf as a relatively mild, pro-Western
leader whose dictatorship performs many functions of a true democracy. The Pakistani
leader was portrayed as a person whose genuine intentions are democratic, but the
circumstances make it impossible to realize this tendency. The main devices used to
construct such a portrayal were justifications and patterns of omission.
In all of the magazines, Musharraf was entitled as “president,” “military ruler” or
“general,” even “a new friend” of the Western countries but not as a dictator. In terms of
catchphrases, the military coup that he performed in 1999 was labeled as a “bloodless
coup,” which emphasized the positive side of that act. The fact that Musharraf overthrew
the democratically elected government of Navaz Sharif was mostly omitted. On several
occasions the previous democratic government was labeled as “sham” and “false.”
Musharraf’s dictatorship was normalized, presented as a standard and even
desirable state for a country susceptible to “Islamic extremism,” such as Pakistan
(“dictatorships in Pakistan are collegial things”, Newsweek, Oct.7, Behind America’s
Attack on Afhanistan; “it may be a good thing for the antiterror coalition that Pakistan is
ruled by a friendly military dictatorship, rather than what could be a hostile democracy,”
Newsweek, Oct.22, A Fine Balance).
The newsmagazines emphasized those political moves of the Pakistani leader that
were of importance for the success of the United States’ fight against the Taliban regime,
such as Musharraf’s removal of three high-ranked generals labeled as “extremist,” and
the premature retirement of the chief of Pakistani secret service, ISI, considered to be
close to the Taliban regime. Of less interest for the American newsmagazines and less


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