Virtuous wars and virtual enemies. The construction of self, other, and conflict in Black Hawk Down and other mass media representations
The present thesis looks at the relationship between cultures, mass media representations, war, and peace. The main research question is how self, other, and conflict are presented in artefacts of contemporary US popular culture - war and action movies in particular - and what impact such representations have on the attitudes, conceptualisations, and, ultimately, the behaviour of individuals and collectives during conflicts. Preliminarily, the necessary terminology and theoretical concepts are introduced. Culture is defined, and its relation to mass media communication conceptualised, before attention is directed to processes of meaning generation on the basis of cultural artefacts. Theories of conflict, violence, and peace serve to assess the possible impact of representations on behaviour in conflicts, while the concept of cultural memory helps to assess the influence of historical imagery on collective identity. It will be argued that mass media representations matter, that they have the capacity to naturalise particular ideological subtexts and, thereby, influence interpretative communities. Mass media representations which convey a bellicose subtext (re)produce violence. They form the cultural pretext for justifications of war. Secondly, the empirical material is introduced. Focus is directed on the Black Hawk Down media complex, a conglomeration of mass media representations concerning the events in the Somali capital Mogadishu in 1993. I look at which ideological content is implicitly conveyed, and how this is achieved. Subsequently, attention will be directed to visualised representations, primarily a movie. It is assessed how self, other, and conflict are represented. The findings are conceptualised as Alien Aesthetics, a combination of particular narrative elements and cinematic techniques applied in mainstream war and action movies to determine audience connotations. It will be argued that representations adhering to the concept give rise to a myth, and impact the paradigm of alternatives available for individuals and collectives during struggles. As a third step, the findings are contextualised. I ask the question of who might have an interest in the perpetuated (re)production of a violent discourse of conflict by means of the mass media. This section assesses connections between the production side of the Black Hawk Down media complex and its belligerent subtext on the one side, and military institutions and interests on the other.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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