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Investigating Ideology in Media through

Positive-self presentation and Negative-other presentation:

A Critical Discourse Analysis of U.S Media Coverage of
Israel-Palestine Conflict

Dayana Binti Nayan
TGB 130048

Chapter 1
1.1 Introduction
Generally, news broadcasts, news reports, situation comedies, advertisements, talk
shows, press photos, emails or text messages on a mobile phone, just to name a few,
are what constitute media. Rapid growing and great enhancement of media in our world
today as a results of modernization have vastly benefited the human race in a way that
access to information become effortless. The fact that we are living in what is typically
described as the Information Age where internet connection and online communication
become almost available everywhere is icing on the cake where information and events
from all around the world is just one click away to be obtained. The great exposure
towards media at our disposal could lead us to unconsciously bestow the authority for
the media to shape our perspectives on certain events (Amir, Kazem, & Hossein, 2013).
In parallel, Maya, Hafriza, and Ain Nadzimah (2006) highlighted that society is
influenced by the media as people who depend on media as a source of information
often find themselves affected by their images. This is due to the fact that media has the
power in determining what information they want the public to have (Amir et al., 2013).
Nevertheless, despite the medias self-proclaimed objectivity and bias-free principle in
reporting life events and happenings all over the world, they actually presuppose their
preferred version of reality hence making their targeted readers to view this reality
from their point of view (Alireza & Rahman, 2012). Coesmans (2013) is in agreement
with this view focusing on news as a particular example. He depicted journalism as an
ideological choice-making practice in todays information-driven world. He elaborated
that journalists as the news producers often based their reporting styles on how they
want their readers to decode the reported events and what effects do they want the
news to have on the targeted readers. Thus, this governs which issues are highlighted
and which ones are concealed in the news reports (Coesmans, 2013). Concisely, it is
often far from the truth that news reports are objective and bias-free (Alireza & Rahman,

2012). The notion how news reports could be deviated from the real facts due to news
producers hidden value had been illustrated brilliantly by Caldas-Coulthard (2003) as
well in such following:
News is socially and culturally determined which resulted in it being deviated
from the real facts of the events. Meanwhile, news producers play a role as
social agents whose point of view is conveyed through how they constructed the
Thus, news is hardly the event itself, but just an ideologically constructed report
of the event. (p. 274).

The explanation above highlighted that such alleged claim that media or particularly
news create their own version of reality is often motivated by the medias ideology
which is evident in the description of the news itself as it has been described as
ideological choice-making practice and ideologically constructed report (CaldasCoulthard, 2003, p. 274). Consequently, this leads to the next logical question that
needs to be asked by every media consumers: how does media controllers or news
producers carefully weave their ideology in their discourses? The answer to this
question could lie in Richardson (2006)s hypothesis in which he proposed that
language serves as the tool to endow meaning to our action, ultimately it is the
language as well that can be ideally used as the tool to derive meaning from our action.
Thus, this answers the aforementioned question in which language is deemed as the
medium to convey ideology. In a study analyzing the language use of newspapers,
Richardson (2006) identified language as a non-neutral element which justified his
hypothesis that it is through language that media construct their own version of reality
thus it is through language as well that this presupposition of reality by media can be
detected. Richardsons hypothesis found its affinity in Lakoff (2000)s notes on language
in which she highlighted that words are rarely purely neutral. The way we use the
language is often motivated by the meaning that we want to achieve. Therefore,
language analysis in media could path a way to analyze how meanings are embedded

in specific contexts as well. In light of this, Maya et al. (2006) emphasized that language
and media share a symbiotic relationship in which they noted that not only does
language analysis enrich media studies, but media analysis also enriches our
understanding of language (p. vii).

1.2 Statement of problem

The medias enormous capacity in influencing the ideology of the public combined with
their nature as public discourse which denotes their wide, if not unlimited, access to the
public results in the media discourse being one of the popular social practices of what
has been termed as the contemporary form of racism (T. A Van Dijk, 2000). The
contemporary form of racism is differentiated from the old racism in a way that it does
not appear as transparent as the old racism in which among its characteristics are
physical and verbal violence and forceful segregation. Instead, contemporary form of
racism is characterized as discursive which is expressed and conveyed through text
and talk of various popular mass-mediated formats; news reports being one of them, in
as subtle and as natural it could possibly be (T. A Van Dijk, 2000). Nevertheless, the
power of contemporary racism should not be underestimated. It might not be as radical
as the old racism but it works just as effective in marginalizing and demonizing
particular social groups. Correspondingly, T. A Van Dijk (1997) inferred biased,
prejudiced, and xenophobic ideology, hegemony practices and demonization of
particular social groups in media discourse as the contemporary form of racism.
The understanding of production or reproduction of contemporary form of racism,
specifically biased ideology in the media and subsequently the media power in
influencing, to some extent, the thoughts and beliefs of their consumers requires the
understanding of the notion of mental model. T. A Van Dijk (1995) described a mental
model as a mental representation or perspective or understanding of an event. Each
media controller, producer or journalist has a mental model of each reported news event
which stems from their ideological belief (T. A Van Dijk, 1995). Therefore, in order to

reproduce these ideological beliefs through the media texts, it is the pivotal aim of the
media controllers or the journalists to manipulate the news texts in such a way that
would facilitate the media consumers to form a mental model of a particular event that is
at least almost similar to that mental model of theirs (T. A Van Dijk, 1995). Conclusively,
manipulating the mental model of the media consumers is the key to the production and
reproduction of biased ideology in media. Subsequently, repeated exposure to biased
mental models could lead to equally biased attitudes such as ethnic prejudices and
over-generalization towards particular social groups. Once these ethnic prejudices are
firmly established (production of ideology), they will in turn control the future formation of
mental models of the media consumers upon reading any news related to the same
particular social groups (T. A Van Dijk, 1993a). Thus, the medias ability to shape the
mental model of a particular event of the media consumers them the power to control to
some extent the minds of the public and indirectly their attitudes.
As previously discussed, the construction of ideology occurs through the manipulation
of mental model. Understandably, the media controllers or the journalists use the
structures and the contents of the news texts as the vehicle to manipulate the structures
and contents of the mental model of the media consumers in order to ensure the
synchronization between the consumers mental model upon reading the news and the
ideological beliefs of the media controllers or the journalists. Fairclough (1995)
accentuated the encryption of the ideology in media discourse and the mind control by
the media would be accomplished effectively under the condition that the media
consumers are not aware of the persuasive and manipulative functions of the news text
which lead them to believe that the news reports are true or the journalists point of view
is legitimate and making sense. As a results, identifying ideology in media discourse
specifically those that could be regarded as contemporary form of racism such as
biased and prejudiced ideology could be quite tricky and often goes unnoticed by
readers especially those who are less-privileged in education (Nasser & Alireza, 2012).
The juxtaposition of the fact that news media discourse plays a huge role as the social
practices of ideological construction particularly those that are prejudiced and biased

and the fact that they have almost unlimited access to the public discourse places the
media as the main source of peoples prejudiced and biased ideology especially if they
are lack of other alternative sources of information (Coesmans, 2013). Thus, being in
the risk of becoming the victim of the media abusing their power to impose a particular
prejudiced ideology on our beliefs and understanding, this called for the urgency to
equip ourselves with skills and tool to identify the underlying ideology in media ( Nasser
& Alireza, 2012). Fairclough (1995) highlighted that the investigation of ideological work
in the media could be asked through series of questions involving representation,
identities or relations such as why one representation is selected over the other
available one or why a particular identity is constructed in one way rather than the other,
where does this representation come from and why is it represented in such as way.
Correspondingly, analysis of representation of in-group and out-group has been the
method of analysis for many studies focusing on prejudiced and xenophobic ideologies
as well as hegemonic relations such as the study of racism and anti-Semitisms by
Wodak (1997) and Reisigl and Wodak (2001) as well as the study of immigrants and
asylum seekers by KhosraviNik (2010) and Zuraidah and Lee (2014).
Thus, in order to explore the questions of representation, identities and relations hence
the ideological work in the media, language use in the media should be addressed as a
form of a social practice in which it has a dialogical relationship with social facets; it is
not only shaped by the social but shaping the social as well. Fairclough (1995)
emphasized that analysis of language has certain advantages over other form of
analysis in media studies in which it can give detailed account of the mechanisms
through which media mediate sociocultural changes discreetly; the imposition of certain
ideology on their consumers being one of them. However, as we treat the language use
as a social practice, language analysis alone would not make the cut. Language
analysis of media should be carried out as discourse analysis, specifically critical
discourse analysis. This is due to the fact that critical discourse analysis has the
capacity to simultaneously address both facets of the language use; the socially shaped
and socially constitutive (Fairclough, 1995). As a results, by analyzing mass media
linguistically in a critical discourse analysis manner, the questions of representation,

identities and relations hence the ideological work in the media could be explored
satisfactorily (Fairclough, 1995).
Young and Fitzgerald (2006) proposed that the skills we need to equip ourselves in the
era of ideological-saturated news media is the ability to utilize our knowledge,
experiences and perspectives to perform a critical [italics in original] examination on
every discourse we encounter. The expression critical is used to illustrate the reflective
and interpretative approach of looking at language. The reflective approach comprises
of finding out the speakers or writers motivation in choosing particular words and
structures instead of others while interpretative approach could be related to examining
the relationship between language use in a society and societal structures. Ultimately,
by acquiring this skills, we could approach discourses as a more effective reader that
goes beyond breaking the code and making meaning instead of just acting as a passive
reader and listener absorbing every piece of information like a sponge (Young &
Fitzgerald, 2006).
Thus, this study generally aims to explore the relationship between media and ideology
and demonstrate how media could implicitly convey ideology to their targeted
consumers using language as a tool. It is hoped that this study could enrich the current
literatures on the study of media and ideology as well as promote the importance of
critical literacy in todays world with the rapid growing of media that could be ideologicalloaded. As the findings of this study could turn out as another prove that media could be
biased and misleading, it might serve as a justification to consider the teaching of
critical literacy in our current national curriculum.
1.3 Research aim and questions

Considering the fact of the possible influence media have in shaping our thoughts and
beliefs on certain issues due to their ideological-laden discourse which reflected in their
different presentation of information or reality as well as the role of language is
operationalizing the media ideology, this study aims to linguistically investigate the
underlying ideology conveyed by different U.S media in the coverage of Israel-Palestine

conflict by performing Critical Discourse Analysis. In doing so, media ideology would be
examined from the point of view of positive self-presentation and negative-other
presentation. Therefore, Van Leeuwens Social Actor Analysis and Wodaks DiscourseHistorical Approach are borrowed from Critical Discourse analysis for the purpose of this
study. More specifically, this study aims to answer:

Which representational strategies are used by the different media to represent

social actors involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict? How do they compare?


What are the argumentative strategies exercised by the different media to

legitimize or de-legitimize the social actors and actions of Israel-Palestine


How are the findings obtained in (1) and (2) used to illustrate Israel and Hamas
and their military action as positive or negative?


What are the rhetorical strategies used to mitigate or intensify the medias
perspectivation of positive self-presentation and negative-other presentation?

The first question studies the representation of social actors involved in the IsraelPalestine conflict using Van Leeuwen (2006)s sociosemantic inventory. Meanwhile, the
second question examines the argumentative strategies used by different media in
order to legitimize or de-legitimize the social actors and actions of the Israel-Palestine
conflict. The third question which requires the categorization of the representational
strategies and argumentative strategies as positive construal or negative construal of
Israel or Palestine, would be answered simultaneously during the analysis for the first
question and the second question. Specifically, every finding for the first question and
second question would immediately being discussed as positive presentation or
negative presentation. All the findings with regards to research question 1, 2 and 3
would be discussed in Chapter 4 of the actual thesis which is the Data Analysis
After question 3 has been discussed satisfactorily, the us and others of each media
outlet would be inferred from the findings of question 3. In other words, the media

ideology or stance (who is in favour of their coverage) with regards to the IsraelPalestine conflict would be discussed. This would be explained in Chapter 5 which is
the Discussion chapter together with the findings of question 4 which studies how the
positive presentation and negative presentation are intensified or mitigated. The
analysis of intensification or mitigation would be carried out by examining the rhetorical
strategies used by the media such as the use of metaphor. The news reports and
opinion-editorial (op-ed) articles from three different media outlets would be used as the
texts to fulfill these questions.

Section 2
Literature review
2.0 Theoretical Framework and Previous Studies
The purpose of this section is to provide the theoretical background for this study as
well as to develop understanding of the ideas with regards to the research aim and
questions. Therefore, this section discusses three main key frameworks that govern this
Sub-section 2.1:

Ideology through positive-self presentation and negative-other


Sub-section 2.2:

2.1.1 Social Identitiy Theory

U.S media coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict


Sub-section 2.3:

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)

2.3.1 Van Leeuwans sociosemantic inventory of representation

of social actors

2.3.2 Wodaks discursive strategies of positive self-presentation

and negative-other presentation

2.1 Ideology through positive-self presentation and negative-other presentation

Media experts believe that media convey coherent and sometimes kaleidoscopic ways
of viewing the reality. Thus, media discourses contribute in constructing reality about our
world and determine the standard for socially-accepted way of functioning in the society.
(Croteau, 2014). Nevertheless, a few questions could emerge from the idea of sociallyaccepted way of functioning in the society: For example, what standards or guidelines
used by media to determine what is accepted and what is unaccepted? How is
appropriate and inappropriate being defined? What does it mean by justice and
injustice? What are the underlying messages in media content and which party does
this messages favor? Hence, all of these questions derived from the relationship
between media and ideology (Croteau, 2014).
Croteau (2014) further elaborated that when a study is carried out to disclose media
ideology, it aims to look at how the media implicitly presented the images of society.
Therefore, T. A. Van Dijk (2006) defined ideology as set of beliefs that determine the
shared social representations of particular social groups (p. 120). Consequently,
discourse and other social practices are grounded in these representations. In turn,
ideologies are also rapidly articulated in and attained by discourse, either in spoken or
written form. In this study, via media. Thus, discourse becomes ideological in nature
when members of a particular group explain, motivate or legitimate their groups
attitude or behavior (T. A. Van Dijk, 2006, p. 121). Based on this premise, it justifies the
ideological nature of a media discourse as the media controllers, such as the news
writers present their information by taking a role as a member of a particular group.
Thus, in ideological terms, media are often regarded as forms of communication that

privilege certain sets of idea and neglect or undermine others (T.A Van Dijk, 1998, p.

Given the characteristics of ideology as often narcissistic and self-centered, it is

reasonable to assume that a groups ideology is organized by the groups schemata
(T.A Van Dijk, 1998). The use of language generally and the construction of discourse
specifically are governed by this groups schemata. Thus, the representation of this
group schemata in episodic memory is what termed as context model. Context model
controls many aspects of discourse where one of them is making sure that the
discourse is socially appropriate. By socially appropriate, it means that ensuring that
the discourse conforms to the groups schemata hence its ideology (T. A. Van Dijk,
2006). As a results, this context model is said to be ideologically biased which resulted
in the construction of a biased discourse. T. A. Van Dijk (2006) further highlighted that
the production and understanding of a discourse is also governed by mental models
which are representations of happenings, behaviours or circumstances people are
involved in, or which they read about. These mental representations possessed by an
individual are claimed to be stem from the cognitive functions of ideology in which
ideology organizes and monitors specific group attitudes as well as governs the
development, structure and application of sociocultural knowledge. As a results,
ideology in particular, determine evaluative beliefs i.e. common opinions approved by all
members of a group. For example, news on Israel-Palestine conflict is constructed and
understood based on the models that the news producers and readers have with
regards to this war. Similar with the context model, as these mental models are claimed
to be rooted from the group ideology, these models are said to be ideological biased as
well which in turn instigate an ideological discourse (T. A. Van Dijk, 2006).
Consequently, T. A. Van Dijk (2006) pointed out that ideology in discourse can be traced
as actions or actors are illustrated as extra or less positively or negatively, governed by
the mental models possessed by the discourse producers. Following this idea, T. A. Van
Dijk (2006) further made one important note pertinent to this study, in which he

mentioned that the construction of ideology in terms of positive and negative construal
of social actors and action is a common phenomenon for all discourses that illustrate
particular happenings and actions including news articles, opinion editorials and
narratives about personal experiences (p. 121). Therefore, it is reasonable to deduce
that an ideology is usually engrained in the relationship between the group and Others
in terms of us versus them in which us are linked with positive values and them
are subtly presented in negative light (T.A Van Dijk, 1998).
In fact, the positive and negative presentation as illustrated above is clearly explained
by Social Identity Theory. Thus, the following part describes explicitly Social Identity
Theory which is used as the framework for examining representation of us and
others as ideology.

Social Identity theory

Social identity theory is one of the theoretical frameworks that has greatly benefited the
study of ideology in media (Matu & Lubbe, 2007). For example, Matu and Lubbe (2007)
used Social Identity Theory to investigate how Kenyan political groups in the run are
portrayed in three different newspapers which ultimately demonstrate how newspapers
construct conflicting ideological positions in election reporting. Meanwhile, Social
Identity Theory was also used as a framework in a study carried out by Oktar (2001) to
examine how two Turkish newspapers of different ideological orientations construct the
representation of social groups in secular and anti-secular discourse. In his study,
Oktar (2001) explained that Social Identity Theory was developed by Tajfel and Turner
and their associates during mid to late 1970s. Social Identity Theory is grounded in a
premise that the structure of hierarchy of social groups in society is organized with
regards to the notion of power and status. Each level of the hierarchy provides the
members of its respective social group with a social identity. Thus, this social identity
defines who one is and offers a description and evaluation of this definition (Oktar,


The evolution of social identity theory leads to the derivation of Self-categorization

Theory. According to Self-categorization Theory, people in a society categorized one
another into groups due to the presence of conflicting objectives and intention. Peoples
individualized objectives and intention hence provide the basis for their self-concept.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that this self-concept is what motivate
categorization. As a results, categorization yields intergroup phenomena in a society,
which constructs the notion of in-group and out-group. Achugar (2004) stated that with
regards to this intergroup phenomena, each group has its own representation of
defining features which is contextually constructed by the people of the society. Thus,
the decision of whether to regard one another as in-group members or outgroup
members is made based on this defining features. Oktar (2001) claimed that selfconcept often results in in-group bias as in-group members will fancy their own group
compared to other groups as it is a humans nature to enhance their self-esteem by
making social comparisons. Thus, in order to achieve the positive self-esteem, in-group
members would position themselves along the positive values continuum while
portraying the out-group using negative features. Concisely, people are more likely to
embrace positive aspects of the group in which they are ascribed to (Oktar, 2001).
Thus, the attitudes in which people are inclined to emphasize the positive qualities of
their own group while accentuate the negative traits of the out-group stem from their
ideology. This justifies why Social Identity Theory is largely used as a framework in
studying ideology. In light of the notion of in-group and out-group, T.A Van Dijk (1998)
described the categorization of social groups as us versus them in which us refers
to the in-group while them refers to the out-group. Consistent with the in-group and
out-group stereotyping, the members of a social group create an ideological
representation of us (themselves) through positive presentation while them (others)
through negative presentation (T. A. Van Dijk, 2006).
Oktar (2001) further elaborated that the construction of positive self-presentation and
negative other-presentation in discourses consists four approaches which constitute
what is termed as ideological square:

1. Express/emphasize information that is positive about us.

2. Express/emphasize information that is negative about them.
3. Surpress/de-emphasize information that is positive about them.
4. Suppress/de-emphasize information that is negative about us.
(Oktar, 2001, p. 319)
2.2 U.S media coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict
Manohar (2008) described media coverage in terms of how they present a particular
part of information either as news, entertainment or as infotainment. Manohar (2008)
further elaborated that media coverage can be distinguished based on two crucial
aspects namely type of mass media used and the style of coverage. Type of mass
media can be divided into four main categories which are newspaper coverage,
television coverage, radio coverage, and internet coverage. Meanwhile, the style of
coverage of media is generally categorized as biased coverage, un-biased coverage
and interactive coverage. Basically, biased coverage refers to the biased manner in
presenting information in which the coverage is in favour of a particular idea or against a
particular idea. On the other hand, un-biased coverage refers to a manner in which the
media do not take any particular stance with regards to a particular idea. Interactive
coverage is the type of coverage that present an information and taking audience views
at the same time in the presentation of the information hence making the coverage
interactive (Manohar, 2008).
Following the notion of media and ideology, the Israel-Palestine conflict has been
attracted the eyes from all over the world although the conflict has been going on for a
long time. Recently, the Israel and Palestine once again captured the world attention
with their latest round of conflict allegedly sparked by the murder of three Israel youths
by members of Hamas (Chillag & Levs, 2014). This followed by the air strikes and
ground invasion. Thus, the happenings related to the conflict have attracted extensive

media coverage not only from media originated from both parties in conflict but from
international media as well such as media in the United States. Nevertheless, the media
in the United States are under scrutiny after numerous claims emerged that their reports
are either Pro-Israel or Pro-Palestine in nature.
An analysis of biases in US media coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict by MintPress
News (Reese, 2014) claimed that Pro-Israel stance is traceable in American media in
the coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. For example, Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting, which is a news industry watchdog, found that PBS NewsHour, an American
evening television news programme, to be skewed towards Israel in its coverage of the
conflict in 2013. Meanwhile, a study conducted in 2002 found that ABC, CBS and NBC
which are the major broadcasters in America were 79 percent preferred to illustrate
Israels action in the conflict as defensive while Palestines action as aggressive (Reese,
2014). Similarly, the most recent claim was made by The Huffingtons writer, Murra
(2014) in which he insisted that Fox and CNNs coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict is
far from the reality undergone by the Palestinians in Gaza. His allegation also stated
that U.S media are inclined to portray the Israel-Palestine conflict as if the clash
between Hamas and Israel is equivalent. He urged that the imbalance power involved in
the conflict needs to be acknowledged. U.S media often stress the Israels right to
defend themselves but undermine the Palestines right to do the same as Palestines or
more accurately Hamass retaliation often perceived as an act of violence (Murra,
At the other side of the coin, there are also claims saying that certain US media
coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict are in favour of Israel. Brown (2014), the chief
political analyst of Wall Street Daily claimed that certain U.S media are conspiring
against the Israel. He quoted an example of such bias reporting against Israel from The
Daily Beast in which the report has been focusing merely on the suffering and
destruction faced by the Palestinians without acknowledging the similar impact
experiencing by the Jews. Brown (2014) intensified his claim with a powerful concluding
remark in which he stressed that American is keeping themselves misinformed if they

still go to American press for their source of information. Another U.S media that comes
under fire for skewing towards Pro-Palestine direction in its coverage of the conflict, is
the New York Times. This allegation was made by Pro-Israel watchdog as well as
Israels Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, following New York Timess
alleged false accusation towards Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu of neglecting the
murder of innocent Palestinian teenager despite the Prime Ministers statement that
very day in which he called the murder reprehensible (El-Shenawi, 2014). Following
the alleged false accusation by New York Times, Dermer bluntly labelled New York
Times as an embarrassment to journalism.
2.3 Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)
As this study aims to disclose media ideology by looking from the angle of
representation as explained earlier, the notion of polarized presentation of own group
and Others can be rooted from the idea of power and dominance as well. Thus, by
taking into account the idea of power and dominance, this could justify clearer why CDA
is chosen as the medium to understand the ideology at work of different media.
Dominance is referred to as the execution of social power by elites, organizations or
groups. (T. A Van Dijk, 1993b). For example, in the context of this study, dominance is
referred to the enactment of social power by the media controllers or producers. As this
social power comprises control, it is not merely confined to action but cognition as well.
In fact, the most effective power is mostly in a cognitive form which is often
operationalized through persuasion, disguise or manipulation in order to influence the
mind of others to conform to ones own interest or ideology. Thus, a powerful groups
may not only regulate the freedom of action of other groups but affect their thoughts as
well (T. A Van Dijk, 1993b).
The consequence of this dominance or the exercise of power is in turn evident in social
inequality such as political, cultural, class, racial and gender inequality (T. A Van Dijk,
1993b). T. A Van Dijk (1993b) highlighted that inequality in a discourse can be justified

and understood using two discursive strategies which are positive presentation of own
group and negative presentation of the Others which could subtly be implemented
through arguments, narratives, semantic manipulation and other structures of
discourses such as daily conversations, political speeches, academic books and news
articles. Thus, this is where the notion of representation as ideology intersects with the
notion of power and dominance. The action of influencing the minds of others through
the use of dominance and power to construct social inequality is indeed a function of
text and talk. Wodak and Meyer (2009) were in agreement with this as they emphasized
that texts are often serve as the medium for competing for dominance which manifest
through opposing discourses and ideologies.
Therefore, it is at this critical point, where the notion of text and talk is brought in,
particularly, that language is identified as the ideal vehicle to articulate power or to
challenge power, that justify the pivotal role of Critical Discourse Analysis in examining
the ideology, power and dominance. In particular, Critical Discourse Analysis enable
explicit investigation on how discourse structures are constructed in order to portray
social representations in such a way that sustain dominance. More specifically, the role
of Critical Discourse Analysis is to find out what discursive structures are
operationalized, in a case where powerful speakers or groups manage to persuade or
influence their audience. Thus, according to T. A Van Dijk (1993b) the discursive
reproduction of dominance involves two point of views which are production and
reception. These point of view can be summarized in a way that the discursive
reproduction of dominance is rooted from the social cognitions of the people in power, in
the context of this study, the ideology of the media controllers and subsequently, the
discourse structures affect the thoughts of the consumers of the discourse i.e. how the
readers or consumers construct their understanding of the discourse.
Ultimately, T. A Van Dijk (1993b) summarized that the focus of CDA is the (re)production
and challenge of dominance in a discourse as what has been elaborated in the above
explanation. Meanwhile, although still in parallel, Young and Fitzgerald (2006) described
Critical Discourse Analysis in a more simpler term: CDA approach discourses through

language analysis in order to disclose any misconception, inequality or power

imbalance. In the same light, Sahragad and Davatgarzadeh (2010) highlighted that CDA
focuses on internalizing the ideological mechanisms at work in discourse and aims to
provide a critique on how discourses function as a platform to convey certain agendas.
Ultimately, Wodak and Meyer (2009) simply concluded that it is the revelation of
structures of power and disclosure of ideologies that lie at the heart of Critical Discourse
One important note made by T. A. Van Dijk (2001) is that CDA itself is not an
approach. Preferably, it attempts to provide an alternative manner or point of view
of theorizing, analysis, and application of what it aims to discover in a discourse ( p.
352). As such, Critical Discourse analysts often differ in terms of their methods and
theoretical frameworks as CDA constitutes various approaches. For the purpose of this
study, Van Leeuwens Social Actors Analysis, particularly his sociosemantic inventory,
as well as Wodaks model of discursive strategies from Discourse-Historical Approach
are drawn as approaches to CDA as they fit well with the research questions.
The following part describes Van Leeuwens sociosemantic inventory that are going to
be used in this study to identify how social actors are represented in the coverage of
Israel-Palestine conflict by different U.S media.


Van Leeuwans sociosemantic inventory of representation of social actors

One of the manners where specific attitudes, ideologies and standpoint are encoded
through language in discourses is through the representation of social actors involved in
the event (Adampa, 1999). Fairclough (1995) asserted that in the process of producing
the texts, text producers choose a number of representational strategies from the whole
array of strategies available to them and thus, these choices become ideologically

motivated as they construct the versions of reality desired by the text producer. Oktar
(2001) supported this view as he highlighted that media controllers convey their
versions of reality through their selections of representational strategies during the
construction of the discourses which is governed by their social positions, objectives
and intention Therefore, a representation analysis in a discourse centers on this choice
of representational strategies that text producers make..
Thus, this justify why studies of ideology in media discourses, particularly, are
commonly drawn on social actor analysis. For example, Nasser and Alireza (2012)
studied the representation of social actors involved in Irans nuclear activities to identify
conflicting ideology in four western newspapers with regards to the issue of sanctions
on Iran. By examining how social actors are represented in the four different
newspapers using Van Leeuwens representational strategies, the study found out the
reporting of Irans nuclear activities in the four newspapers had covertly imposed
ideological bias in representing the Iranian side on their readers (Nasser & Alireza,
2012). Meanwhile, Zuraidah and Alan (2013) analyzed how Irans top leader, Ali
Khamenei, is represented in pro government news media. The finding showed that the
way Ali Khamenei is represented has ideological motives in which to elevate his
authority by manipulating the religious belief of Iranian people. This was done
discursively for example, by positioning him as Gods representative on earth, the
discourse producers subtly imply to people, who by any chance, believe this, should
have undivided faith towards him as they would have towards God.
Van Leeuwen (1996)s model of representation of social actors offers systematic
theoretical bases for studying representation in discourses as described by Fairclough
(1995). In approaching the question of how social actors are represented in discourses,
Van Leeuwen (1996) in his framework, attempted to begin his analysis of representation
of social actors in unconventional way as linguists would commonly do where they tend
to launch linguistic operations in performing the analysis. Having said so, instead of
starting off from linguistic point of view, he began approaching the representation of
social actors in discourses from sociological point of view in which he described as to

demonstrate the sociological and critical significance of the classifications (p. 32).
Hence, the categories here refer to his systematic sets of representational strategies
in his framework that he termed as sociosemantic [italics in the original] inventory. In
light of this, Van Leeuwen (1996)s framework would see the manifestation of
sociological categories such as nomination and agency instead of linguistic
classifications such as nominalization and the omission of passive agent.
Nevertheless, despite his unconventional approach, Van Leeuwen (1996) stated that his
framework of representation of social actors still have a trace of variety linguistic
elements. Thus, Van Leeuwen (1996)s model of representation of social actors is
actually two-tiered with the first level draws upon the sociosemantic inventory available
in the system network as what have been described above. Hence, it is the second level
of his framework that provides an evident of linguistic operations in which he seeks to
find out the how a particular representation is realized linguistically soon after he
performs the sociosemantic inventory (Van Leeuwen, 1996). Van Leeuwen (1996)
quoted, each of the representational choices I shall propose will be tied to specific
linguistic or rhetorical realisations (p. 34). This is evident as Van Leeuwen (1996)
explained the operation of the sociological categories in the system network using
variety of linguistic and rhetorical phenomena such as nominalization, adjectivalisation
and transitivity, just to name a few.
For the purpose of this study, six sets of sociological categories from Van Leeuwen
(1996)s sociosemantic inventory are used to analyse the representation of social actors
in the reporting of Israel-Palestine conflict by two U.S news media in order to
deconstruct their underlying ideology respectively. Those six sets of categories are



functionalization/identification and personalization/impersonalisation.

Van Leeuwen (1996) highlighted that discourse producers include or exclude the
representation of social actors in their discourse to achieve the desired effect that they
want their choice to have on their targeted readers. On one hand, the exclusion of social

actors could be bias-free as when the text producers presupposed that the text
consumers are already well-informed about the particular details or the details are
believed to be irrelevant to the readers. Conversely, exclusion could also be
ideologically motivated as the text producers used it to achieve a particular agenda ( Van
Leeuwen, 1996). Van Leeuwen (1996) further categorized exclusion into suppression
and backgrounding in which he described suppression as radical and backgrounding
as less radical. When social actors are suppressed, there would be no trace of the
social actors anywhere in the text while when social actors are backgrounding in
describing particular activities, readers might still be able to identify who they are by
making inferences based on their inclusion in elsewhere in the text although they are
not mentioned during the illustration of the given activities related to them. Thus, in light
of this, Van Leeuwen (1996) highlighted that the social actors are not blatantly being
excluded, but it is more accurate to say that they are being de-emphasized and
positioned in the background (p. 39). Linguistically, suppression could be realized
through passive agent deletion, non-finite clauses and nominalization. Meanwhile,
ellipses in non-finite clauses can be used to background the social actors.
Moving onto activation and passivation, Van Leeuwen (1996) asserted that social actors
can play either active roles or passive roles in representation. Activation is described as
when the social actors are portrayed as the operating forces of the activity while
passivation is when the social actors are represented as being affected by the activity.
Hallidays systematic functional grammar particularly transitivity (Halliday, 1985) is the
linguistic device that could realize this particular set of representation categories.
Browsing further Van Leeuwen (1996) sociosemantic inventory, individualization and
assimilation is another set of categories that is used to represent the social actors. In
light of this, social actors thus can be denoted as either individuals which indicates
individualization or as groups which indicates assimilation. Thus, singularity signifies
individualization while plurality signifies assimilation. Assimilation can be achieved using
a noun symbolizing a group of people. For example, this nation in Is he entitled to
believe that this nation, which only recently shed White Australia Policy, is somehow

impervious to racist sentiment? (p. 49) might refers to the citizens of Australia or the
policy makers. Van Leeuwen (1996) further broke down the notion of assimilation into
aggregation and collectivization. Aggregation quantifies groups of participants while
collectivization does not. According to Van Leeuwen (1996), as it is socially sanctioned
in our society that the majority rules, aggregation is often utilized to ideologically signify
unanimous opinion. as Aggregation is described as quantifies groups of participants, it
is often realized through definite and indefinite quantifiers.
With regards to the next set of representation categories, Van Leeuwen (1996)
distinguished functionalization and identification in such a way that functionalisation
happened when social actors are referred to their action, occupation or role. There are
three ways of how functionalisation is realized linguistically. Firstly, by a noun formed
from a verb with the addition of suffixes such as er, -ant, -ent, -ian, or ee. For
examples, speaker, employee, driver. Secondly, by a noun formed from another
noun with the addition of suffixes such as ist and eer. For example, motorcyclist.
Lastly, by the compounding of nouns denoting places or tools closely associated with an
activity and highly generalized categorization such as man, woman, person, people.
For example, cameraman and chairperson (Van Leeuwen, 1996, p. 54). On the other
hand, identification happens when social actors are represented by who they are,
instead of what they do. Identification can be broke down into classification, relational
identification and physical identification. Concisely, classification refers to when social
actors are represented by major categories which are used by a particular society to
distinguish between classes of people. This includes age, gender, economic status,
race, beliefs and others. Meanwhile, relational identification occurs when social actors
are represented by their relationship with each other which is realized by set of nouns
denoting the relationship. For example, friend, aunt, and mother. Lastly, physical
identification happens when social actors are described in terms of physical
appearances which gives unique identity to them in a particular context. Linguistically,
physical identification is signified through nouns indicating physical features such as
blonde and redhead or through adjectives such as disabled and thin (Van Leeuwen,
1996, p. 57).

All those categories above which represent social actors as human beings are actually
indicate personalisation of social actors. Thus, Van Leeuwen (1996) emphasized that
social actors could also be impersonalised in which impersonalisation occurs when
representation of social actors are realized by non-human element. Van Leeuwen
(1996) introduced two categories of impersonalisation which are abstraction and
objectivation. Abstraction of social actors can be seen in the sentence of Australia is in
danger of saddling itself up with lot of unwanted problem (Van Leeuwen, 1996, p. 59)
where the phrase unwanted problem is actually impersonalized the migrants. As Van
Leeuwen (1996) highlighted that abstraction occurs when quality is used to illustrate a
social actor in a discourse, thus, in the example above, the quality of being problematic
is used to represent the migrants. Meanwhile, objectivation happens when social actors
are represented by a place or object they are related with or in terms of the activity that
they are currently associated with (Van Leeuwen, 1996). For example, when
Australians are substituted by Australia, this indicates objectivation in the form of
spatialisation. Another example of objectivation in the form of instrumentalisation is
showed in this sentence A 120 mm mortar shell slammed into Sarajevos marketplace
(Van Leeuwen, 1996, p. 60). In this example, the attacker is represented in terms of an
object which is the instrument used to accomplish the activity, a 120 mm mortar shell
(Van Leeuwen, 1996). In addition, somatisation is another type of objectivation in which
body part is used to represent the social actors such as She put her hand on Mary
Kates shoulder (Van Leeuwen, 1996, p. 60). In this sentence, Mary Kate is
represented in the phrase Mary Kates shoulder instead of just directly Mary Kate.
The last common form of objectivation is utterance autonomisation. Utterance
autonomisation is signified when utterances are used to represent the social actors.
Thus, the report and surveys in This concern, the report noted, was reflected in
surveys which showed that the level of support for stopping immigration altogether was
a postwar high (Van Leeuwen, 1996, p. 60) are actually impersonalised the social
actors who actually carried out the report and surveys. Thus, it can be deduced that
the claim that immigration is in urgent need to be stopped can be rooted to these social
actors instead of the report and survey. Hence, as explained above, objectivation

can manifest in five different forms namely spatialisation, instrumentalisation,

somatisation, and utterance autonomisation.
Next, Wodaks five discursive strategies of positive self-presentation and negative-other
presentation from Discourse-Historical Approach is explained in order to give
background information on how it is applied to study media ideology, specifically
positive-self presentation and negative-other presentation.

Wodaks discursive strategies of positive self-presentation and negative-other


In order to triangulate the study of media ideology, the ideology (which is viewed from
the angle of positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation) would not be
examined merely from the aspect of representation of social actors but from the
discursive strategies used by the media as well. In doing do, the study of discursive
strategies is based on Wodaks model of discursive strategies namely referential
strategies, predicational strategies, argumentation strategies, perspectivation strategies
and intensifying and mitigation strategies.
Referential strategies referred to the ways in which a person or a group of people is
named and referred to linguistically. Meanwhile, predicational strategies can be
described in terms of the traits, the qualities, and the characteristics, that are ascribed to
the person. For the purpose of this study, Van Leeuwens sociosemantic inventory of
representational strategies of social actors is borrowed in order to analyse the
referential strategies and predicational strategies used by the media to construct
positive or negative construal. Alireza and Rahman (2012) in their study highlighted that
Wodaks referential strategies and predicational strategies are indeed partially grounded
in Van Leeuwen (1996)s framework of actor analysis.
Meanwhile, argumentation strategies play a role in legitimation or de-legitimation of
social actors or action in a discourse. Thus, positive-self presentation and negative24

other presentation are inferred from this process of legitimation or de-legitimation

(Alireza & Rahman, 2012). Blackledge (2005) highlighted that the key feature of
argumentation strategy lies in Wodaks notion of topoi. Among the category of topoi








definition/name-interpretation, burdening/weighting down, law/right, culture, abuse,

authority, finance, equality, human rights and responsibility. Thus, topoi provide a tool to
identify discriminatory arguments that serve to construe own self positively while
emphasize the negative quality Others which are traceable in the discourse
(Blackledge, 2005).
Lastly, intensification and mitigation strategies can be defined as the strategies used to
strengthen or alleviate the illocutionary force of utterance (Wodak & Meyer, 2009). In
other words, the analysis of intensification or mitigation strategies look into how the
intention or ideology of the speakers or writers is articulated in the discourse, whether
implicitly or explicitly. Blackledge (2005) highlighted that intensification or mitigation
strategies can be used to express involvement in, or detachment from the sense of the
text (p. 25). For example, it is the mitigation strategies that are often used by speakers
or writers to find their way to the mainstream discourse to convey what is typically
regarded as unacceptable idea (Blackledge, 2005). Mitigation strategies can be realized
through lexicalization such as the use of phrase such as I think, I assume, it seems
as well as the use of mitigating verbs such as probably, fairly quietly and others,
just to list a few (Blackledge, 2005).

Section 3
Research Methods


3.0 Research methods

This section illustrates two crucial parts that constitute the methods of this study. They
are the dataset (sub-section 3.1) and the framework of the analysis of the dataset (subsection 3.2).


The corpus for the analysis comprises of two different genre of texts which are opinioneditorial (op-ed) articles and news reports that have been published in three U.S online
newspapers which are The Huffington Post, CNN and New York Times within July to
November 2014 as July 7th marked the starting point of Israels Operation Protective
Edge which is a term for the ground invasion in Gaza (Levs, 2014). The chosen of oped articles alongside the news reports as the corpus for this study is motivated by the
fact that op-ed articles generally portrayed detailed illustration of contexts, settings and
people in describing events or happenings (Oktar, 2001). Thus, this nature of op-ed may
contribute to argumentative, rhetorical and possible ideological implications (Van Dijk,
1995 as cited in Oktar, 2001, p. 321). Therefore, the use on op-ed as materials of
analysis would provide appropriate platform to study the ideology of news media. In
order to ensure the consistency of the topics chosen from each of the media outlet so
that better comparison can be carried out, the chosen of the op-ed articles and news
report are governed by three themes which are military actions, killings and peace
Meanwhile, the main motivation behind the selection of Israel-Palestine conflict by U.S
media as the topic of this study is that according to a poll conducted in June 2014,
American attitude towards Arab and Muslims are getting worse in which favourability
towards Arab-American fall to 36% compared to 43% in 2010. Meanwhile, favourability
towards Muslim-American fall to 27% compare to 36% in 2010 (Sabrina, 2014).
Therefore, as this study is analyzing the relationship between media and ideology, it
would be fascinating to find out whether American general attitude towards Muslim and

Arab is traceable in the ideological proposition of their media with regards to the
coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict.
In addition, the chosen of The Huffington Post, CNN and New York Times as the media
outlets over the other available options is based on the significant role they play as the
source of news and information, not just for America citizens, but for people from all
over the world as well. Until September, these three online news websites have
occupied comScores list of the worlds 10 most popular newspaper website. According
to the monthly statistics produced by comScore, The Huffington Post news website has
collected 68.5 million worldwide users which position it at the top of the list followed by
CNN with 67..7 million users and New York Times with 41.6 million unique visitors
(Sweney, 2014). The fact that CNN and New York Times have come under fire for a few
allegations of being biased in their coverage of Israel-Palestine conflict adds the
element of curiosity to this study as it would be fascinating to know whether these
allegations are accurate or otherwise. Nevertheless, it is crucial to note that, despite the
allegations, all three media would be regarded as ideologically neutral, until indicated
otherwise through the analysis done during this study.

Analysis of dataset

Each media text is examined and the common dominant social actors in the reporting of
Israel-Palestine conflict are identified. Due to the fact that different news media might
use different term to describe similar social actor, for example, New York Times might
use Israeli forces while The Huffington Post might use Israeli army, the social actors
will be categorized under general denominators such as Israeli forces, Hamas
militants, Palestine civilians, Israeli civilians, Israeli authorities, Palestine
authorities and Hamas.
In order to fulfill the research questions, the analysis of the dataset would follow the
structure of micro-macro analysis as illustrated in figure 1 below:

Micro analysis
1. Representation of social
2. Argumentation

Macro analysis
Positive self-presentation
and negative otherpresentation

Figure 1: Micro-macro analysis of dataset

Following the analysis framework above, the analysis would be bottom-up in nature as it
begins with micro analysis first then moving on to the macro analysis. The reason why
bottom-up approach is chosen is because the media outlets chosen are independent
of any party involved in the conflict as they are originated from U.S, which are neither
Israel nor Palestine. Thus, their ideology is unknown (without taking into account any
allegation of being biased thrown at them). Thus, micro analysis would be carried out
first in which representation strategies of social actors and argumentation strategies
would be examined using Van Leeuwens sociosemantic inventory as well as Wodaks
model of argumentation strategies as what have been described earlier in this paper.
During this micro analysis, the findings would be interpreted and categorized as
attributes demonstrating either positive construal or negative construal with reference to
the Palestine side and Israel side. Several themes would be created as to demonstrate
how the representation and argumentation embed positive connotation and vice versa.
Finally, the findings of micro analysis and macro analysis of each media outlets would
be compare with one another to highlight who the media regard as self and others.
For any similarity of the notion of self and others between any of the media, then
comparison would be made in terms of the micro strategies such as what is the most
used social actors representational strategy of Newspaper A in order to construct
positive-self presentation and negative other-presentation and how do this compare with

the representational strategy used by Newspaper B (which also has similar notion of
self and others). This goes the same for the comparison of the argumentative
During the discussion, the ideology of each media outlet would be inferred based on
who they portray positively (self) and who are being construed negatively (others). In
other words, a hypothesis of which side is favoured by each of the media outlet would
be made. Then, findings on how this ideology is intensified or mitigated would be
presented here as well.
Among the major limitations or challenges that might be faced in carrying out this study
is, it is going to consume a lot of time in order to fulfill the aim and the research
questions in particular as this study required detailed micro analysis for it to produced
accurate findings. In terms of financial, as the New York Times only allowed for ten free
articles per month, I might need to subscribe to the website as to have more access to
its articles thus enables me to have wide range of selection of the articles. Thus, this
might cost me some money. Another possible limitation that might arise is that as Van
Leeuwens sociosemantic inventory is not a straightforward and clear-cut framework of
categorizing the representational strategies of the social actors, some representational
strategies might be overlooked throughout the course of analysis due to lack of
knowledge and understanding with regards to the sociosemantic representational
categories. However, in order to overcome this, I would seek help from somebody who
is experienced in Critical Discourse analysis and particularly familiar with Van
Leeuwens sociosemantic inventory to validate my findings.


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