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Darfur: Mass Media Framing of International Intervention, 2003-2007
Unformatted Document Text:  media reporting and is especially significant for how international events are interpreted by mass publics. Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Peter Waldman maintain that A[f]rames tell us what is important, what the acceptable range of debate on a topic is, and when the issue is resolved.@ (2003, xiii) Further, Robert Entman argues that A[t]he public=s actual opinions arise from framed information, from selected highlights of events, issues, and problems, rather than from direct contact with the realities of foreign affairs.@ (2004, 123, italics added; see also Iyengar, 1991; Entman, 1993) With respect to this paper, the importance of framing relates to the evaluation of options available to deal with the crisisB specifically the justifications for and the efficacy of international intervention in dealing with the crisis in Darfur as found in U.S. media reporting. At least since the Vietnamese War it has been well understood by decision-makers that the conduct of military operations has changed; winning on the battlefield, while ultimately important, has to be matched by winning the battle of media framingB a battle waged for the control of both images and commentary that define conflict situations in the minds of audiences. The so-called Alessons of Vietnam@ have been applied with varying degrees of success to recent military operations such as the Falklands, Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf War, as well as to on-going ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, in their analysis of humanitarian crises and what have been termed Anew wars@ involving primarily non-state actors, Peter Hoffman and Thomas Weiss maintain that the importance of conflict framing is in no way diminished: [v]isibility can be instrumental in shaping how war is viewed; as a result, media tools are part of the arsenal of new wars. Among both high-technology and low-to no-tech actors, information management is critical to shaping the political and military battlefields. In describing war or particular wars, how the media portrays the rationality and violence of the conflict can influence the strategies and resources available to belligerents. (2006, 77) This assessment was never more relevant than for the case of Darfur, where the newly-minted 3

Authors: Sidahmed, Abdel., Briggs, E.. and Soderlund, Walter.
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media reporting and is especially significant for how international events are interpreted by mass
publics. Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Peter Waldman maintain that A[f]rames tell us what is
important, what the acceptable range of debate on a topic is, and when the issue is resolved.@
(2003, xiii) Further, Robert Entman argues that A[t]he public=s actual opinions arise from
framed information, from selected highlights of events, issues, and problems, rather than from
direct contact with the realities of foreign affairs.@ (2004, 123, italics added; see also Iyengar,
1991; Entman, 1993) With respect to this paper, the importance of framing relates to the
evaluation of options available to deal with the crisisB specifically the justifications for and the
efficacy of international intervention in dealing with the crisis in Darfur as found in U.S. media
reporting.
At least since the Vietnamese War it has been well understood by decision-makers that
the conduct of military operations has changed; winning on the battlefield, while ultimately
important, has to be matched by winning the battle of media framingB a battle waged for the
control of both images and commentary that define conflict situations in the minds of audiences.
The so-called Alessons of Vietnam@ have been applied with varying degrees of success to recent
military operations such as the Falklands, Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf War, as well
as to on-going ones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Moreover, in their analysis of humanitarian crises
and what have been termed Anew wars@ involving primarily non-state actors, Peter Hoffman and
Thomas Weiss maintain that the importance of conflict framing is in no way diminished:
[v]isibility can be instrumental in shaping how war is viewed; as a result, media tools are
part of the arsenal of new wars. Among both high-technology and low-to no-tech actors,
information management is critical to shaping the political and military battlefields. In
describing war or particular wars, how the media portrays the rationality and violence of
the conflict can influence the strategies and resources available to belligerents. (2006, 77)
This assessment was never more relevant than for the case of Darfur, where the newly-minted
3


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