2009: Volume 2, Issue 1, pp. 7-24

Discourses of Dehumanization:
Enemy Construction and Canadian Media Complicity in the
Framing of the War on Terror

Erin Steuter and Deborah Wills



This paper examines the Canadian news media’s coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, Canadian newspaper headlines are examined for the way in which an image of the “enemy” is constructed and framed in dominant media discourse. An analysis of the data reveals a pattern of dehumanizing language applied to enemy leaders as well as Arab and Muslim citizens at large in the media’s uncritical reproduction of metaphors that linguistically frame the enemy in particular ways. Particularly, the paper argues that the Canadian media have participated in mediating constructions of Islam and Muslims, mobilizing familiar metaphors in representations that fabricate an enemy-Other who is dehumanized, de-individualized, and ultimately expendable. This dehumanizing language takes the form of animal imagery that equates and reduces human actions with sub-human behaviours. This paper argues that the repeated use of animal metaphors by monopoly media institutions constitute motivated representations that have ideological importance. The consequences of these representations are more than rhetorical, setting the stage for racist backlash, prisoner abuse and even genocide.



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