Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Mass Communication and Media Arts
This study focuses on contrasting responses to two highly provocative acts from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Ariel Sharon's controversial visit to the Temple Mount in February 2000, and a Palestinian terrorist cell's suicide bombing of a nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2005. Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000 led to the second intifada, the bloodiest outbreak of violence in the conflict's recent history. However, what followed the suicide attack in Tel Aviv in 2005 were several weeks of restraint from both sides. This study positions media texts as antecedents and consequents to these two key focal points in history and examines their content. The central method for the study is quantitative content analysis. Three newspapers were selected primarily for their ability to set the public agenda: English editions of the Israeli Haaretz and Jerusalem Post, and the Palestinian Al-Quds, translated into English from its original Arabic. The corpus for the study comprised 820 news and opinion articles about Arab-Israeli relations from one week of articles from each side of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount and one week of articles from each side of the suicide bombing. Media texts were coded for two operationally defined constructs: inflammatory words and conciliatory words. Inflammatory words were fighting words symptomatic of violent and aggressive behavior. Conciliatory words were related to pacification, symptomatic of appeasing, and passive behavior. Built-in dictionaries of Diction, Version 6.14.5, a software program, were used to confirm the validity of the two principal constructs. Results confirmed the newspapers' propensity to focus on violent news and also suggested that media content is likely to be shaped and influenced by acts of violence on the ground. Results also supported speech-act theory and indicated that inflammatory or violent texts in the media perform the functions of agenda-setting or news-framing and potentially cultivate violent behavior among readers. The constructs of inflammatory and conciliatory words and their application in constructing a practical Threat Index are among the key contributions of this study.
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