US news

Nikolaev and Porpora examine how US newspaper editorials and opinion pieces debated the attack on Iraq. Obviously, a lot has happened since the War on Iraq. Attitudes may have changed. Full article is attached as PDF

Pick two US news cites (CBS, Fox, NBC, Huffington Post, the Blaze, NPR, CNN, etc.). Search for a war-related topic like “War in Afghanistan” and view the 15-20 most recent articles or editorials on the subject. Write a 2-3 page paper addressing the following:

Which news cites did you select?

How many editorials were pro-war? How many anti-war? How many neutral? Were there differences in the news cites you observed? Report both frequencies (actual numbers) and percentages.

Evaluate time: Were recent articles more or less in favor of your selected topic?

On page 229 of Nikolaev and Porpora’s article, there is a list of arguments for and against the war. Construct a similar table for the articles you observed. Table is attached at a image.

Were your results similar to Nikolaev and Porpora’s findings? What differences did you observe?

How do your findings apply to Habermas’s concepts (see Nikolaev and Porpora)? Habermans concept are: Op-eds are not just a form of public talk. As a body, they represent one of the central forums that constitute what Habermas referred to as the “public sphere.” As indicated, the public sphere is an institutionalized site (or sites) of citizen discourse operating between the state and market. Ideally at least, in the public sphere, citizens from all levels of the social hierarchy abandon their official ranks to come together as equals to discuss and debate the national interest. Along with other sites, such as electronic discussion groups, the op-ed pages of the press fit this model in various ways. First, the op-ed pages are an institutionalized forum. Second, as such, the op-ed pages bring together politicians, generals, journalists, academics, writers, and others, writing not in an official capacity but as private citizens. Third, in the op-ed pages, writers address each other, the government, and the public at large on matters of public interest. They do so, finally, in the form of rational argument. In such a way, the op-ed pages are, as Calhoun (1996:1) describes the public sphere generally, “an institutional location for reason in public affairs.” According to Habermas, whereas public opinion polling registers only passive, prereflective distributions of attitudes, the very practice of argument in the public sphere is a process of collective will formation. In the process of rational public argument, according to Habermas, a citizenry develops what Rousseau called a “general will” in a way that makes it a rational subject of history, a concrete embodiment of the Hegelian Geist. If, as Kant believed, there is some mechanism that makes democracies less inclined to war with each other, it is their distinctive responsiveness to their respective national public spheres. The major theoretical question about the public sphere is not whether it exists. Even many critics of Habermas, like Fraser (1996:111), concede “that something like Habermas’s idea of the public sphere is indispensable to critical social theory and democratic political practice.” The major question, rather, is how close to Habermas’s ideal the public sphere actually functions. Habermas himself was not sanguine about this matter. Ideally, according to Habermas, the public sphere should constitute an “ideal speech situation,” in which all members of a society have equal opportunity to be heard without regard for rank or distinction. Under such circumstances, Habermas TALKING WAR (1993) maintains, the only social force that operates is the “unforced force of the better argument.” Societal decisions, then, are determined by reason rather than power.

To the extent that speech situations depart from this ideal, they tend toward what Habermas (1984) describes as communication that is “systematically distorted” as, for example, by agenda setting (see Lukes 2004). The question then about any forum of the public sphere is the extent to which residual sources of inequality operate to systematically distort the pattern of communication. Residual sources of inequality certainly do operate in op-ed pages, especially in the op-ed pages of the nation’s elite news publications. In our corpus, for example, 25% of the op-eds were editorials, written by the publications’ editors, with another 50% written by the publications’ regular columnists. Thus, only 25% of the op-ed space was allocated to voices unafFiliated with the publications. About half of this space was occupied by politicians, generals, or other public figures. Lesser-known people were without equal access to the op-ed pages of the nation’s elite news publications. If unequal access to a speech situation is likely to produce systematically distorted communication in that situation, then one question to ask of elite op-ed pages is how communicatio

Last Updated on February 10, 2019

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