Ideologies of Arab Media and Politics: a Critical Discourse Analysis of Al Jazeera Debates on the Yemeni Revolution
Al Kharusi, Raiya
Critical discourse analysis investigates the ways in which discourse is to abuse power relationships. Political debates constitute discourses that mirror certain aspects of ideologies. This study aimed to uncover the ideological intentions in the formulation and circulation of hegemonic political ideology in TV political debates that occurred in the 2011-2012 Yemen revolution, examining the question of how ideology was used as a tool of hegemony. The corpus of the study consisted of fifteen debates (73915 words) from four live debate programmes (The Opposite Direction, In Depth, Behind the News and the Revolution Talk) staged at Al Jazeera Arabic TV channel between 2011 and 2012. Al Jazeera was selected as the focus of this study because of its position as the most popular TV in the Arab world and due to its strong presence during the Arab revolutions. Two debate sides were identified: government, representing the president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his regime, and protesters, who represented the discontent populace gathering squares who demanded the abdication of the president. Data were also obtained from interviews conducted with the Al Jazeera staff who managed the debates. Analysis was conducted on the verbal discourse aspects of four debates, one debate from each programme, using critical discourse analysis: aspects from the van Leeuwen’s (2008, 2009) Social Actor Network model, supplemented by additional linguistic features. The results were triangulated using computer-assisted corpus analysis for the entire corpus, the fifteen debates. AntConc (version 3.2.4w) was used to process the keyword lists, word concordances and collocations. The results of the analysis were then compared with the interviews with AJ staff. The main research finding was that although results of the critical discourse analysis correlated with those of the computer-assisted corpus analysis, they differed to a marked degree from the perceptions of Al Jazeera staff. Also, evident is that Al Jazeera and the protesters had similar ideological intentions, including glorifying the revolution and inciting protests, which was not the case with the government speakers. Overall, the findings show that Al Jazeera displayed evident bias, excluding the government from its debates in a way that runs counter to its mission statement and the tenets of objective journalism. The findings of this study illustrate the powerful role that language plays in shaping ideological media intentions and influencing the media audience.