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Constructing narratives as a means of legitimizing political power: Contextualizing the propaganda model in Iraq

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This article examines the media coverage produced by several international news organizations about four bombings carried out in Baghdad in the months preceding Iraq’s national election conducted in March 2010. In particular, it utilizes the propaganda model postulated by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman to analyse the construction of narratives of various government actors, and it seeks to determine the extent to which select news organizations were complicit in propagating an elite view. Iraqi and US government and military elites had a strong incentive to co-opt the media as they sought to convince, particularly the Iraqi public, that insurgent activity could not undermine the security that the Iraqi army and police forces maintained. Moreover, applying the five filters comprising the propaganda model suggests that elites positioned themselves to disseminate their narratives due, in part, to the high reliance by the media on official sources. Although the media coverage generally did not challenge various elitist views and did not provide alternative viewpoints, this article demonstrates that elites nevertheless failed to establish a homogenous consensus view. Several observations suggest that elite narratives lacked credibility because of incomplete, contradictory or false information. By revealing the inconsistencies within and between various elite narratives, the media thus fulfilled its basic functions as the fourth estate.
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Keywords: Iraq; democracy; manufacturing consent; media; military; propaganda

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Strategic Communications Manager 2: Catholic University of Korea

Publication date: 2012-04-30

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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