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Darfur: Mass Media Framing of International Intervention, 2003-2007
Unformatted Document Text:  concept of “Responsibility to Protect” was tested by claims from human rights groups that the crisis constituted the “first genocide of the 21 st century” vs. assurances by the Sudanese government that “it never happened.” In the humanitarian crises of the 1990s the term ACNN effect@ was used to describe the impact of mass media on foreign policy decision-making. It made the case that mass media had the independent power to force political elites to intervene in humanitarian crises against their better judgment. As described by Steven Livingston and Todd Eachus, A[t]he CNN effect is about a presumed shift in power away from the foreign policy machinery of government to a more diffuse array of nongovernmental actors, primarily news media organizations.@ (1995, 415; see also Gilboa, 2005) Indeed, over the summer and fall of 1992 media influence on the U.S. decision to intervene militarily in Somalia has been cited as critical by a number of scholars and practitioners, including Bernard Cohen, Michael Mandelbaum, and George Kennan (see Mermin, 1997, 385). The majority of scholarship, however, points to media playing at best a supporting role in that decision (in addition to Livingston and Eachus, 1995 and Mermin, 1997; see Jakobsen, 1996; Strobel, 1997; Robinson, 2002; Livingston, 2007). Walter Soderlund and Donald Briggs (in press) have documented both the Aalerting@ and A evaluation@ roles played by U.S.-based mass media in a series of humanitarian crises which occurred in a number of post-colonial societies in the decade following the end of the Cold War. In the ten crises studied, not only were there huge differences in the volume of media coverage, the evaluations of the effectiveness of international intervention as an appropriate response varied as well, these ranging from support- to indifference- to opposition. The authors concluded that only in the case of Somalia, could a convincing case be made that mass media helped to A push@ American decision-makers toward a military intervention. In most other cases either the 4

Authors: Sidahmed, Abdel., Briggs, E.. and Soderlund, Walter.
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concept of “Responsibility to Protect” was tested by claims from human rights groups that the
crisis constituted the “first genocide of the 21
st
century” vs. assurances by the Sudanese
government that “it never happened.”
In the humanitarian crises of the 1990s the term ACNN effect@ was used to describe the
impact of mass media on foreign policy decision-making. It made the case that mass media had
the independent power to force political elites to intervene in humanitarian crises against their
better judgment. As described by Steven Livingston and Todd Eachus, A[t]he CNN effect is
about a presumed shift in power away from the foreign policy machinery of government to a
more diffuse array of nongovernmental actors, primarily news media organizations.@ (1995, 415;
see also Gilboa, 2005) Indeed, over the summer and fall of 1992 media influence on the U.S.
decision to intervene militarily in Somalia has been cited as critical by a number of scholars and
practitioners, including Bernard Cohen, Michael Mandelbaum, and George Kennan (see
Mermin, 1997, 385). The majority of scholarship, however, points to media playing at best a
supporting role in that decision (in addition to Livingston and Eachus, 1995 and Mermin, 1997;
see Jakobsen, 1996; Strobel, 1997; Robinson, 2002; Livingston, 2007).
Walter Soderlund and Donald Briggs (in press) have documented both the Aalerting@ and
A
evaluation@ roles played by U.S.-based mass media in a series of humanitarian crises which
occurred in a number of post-colonial societies in the decade following the end of the Cold War.
In the ten crises studied, not only were there huge differences in the volume of media coverage,
the evaluations of the effectiveness of international intervention as an appropriate response
varied as well, these ranging from support- to indifference- to opposition. The authors concluded
that only in the case of Somalia, could a convincing case be made that mass media helped to
A
push@ American decision-makers toward a military intervention. In most other cases either the
4


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