Political Communication in the Age of Dissemination

Media Constructions of Hezbollah

by Taroub A. Khayyat (Author)
©2016 Monographs X, 284 Pages


This book addresses the concept and forms of dissemination in political communication and news media. It studies the new age of dissemination in global communication manifested in a new relationship between political communication and media systems.
The broad aim of this study is to investigate the «media reality» of political communication in this new age. Working within the sphere of political communication and interconnected media systems, the study examines how the information in news source texts and responses to them are recontextualised and disseminated worldwide and fed back again through recursive communication. Specifically, this work also considers the ways in which the aims of the political phenomenon of Hezbollah are disseminated and connected across various news media outlets. In particular, the process of recursive dissemination of communication is analysed in three news media outlets, namely Al-Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • 1.1 Definition of the Theme of Dissemination
  • 1.2 Reflections on Theory
  • 1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study
  • 1.4 Overview of the Structure of the Study
  • 1.5 Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 2: Dissemination in the New Age of Political Communication
  • 2.1 Defining Political Communication
  • 2.2 The Historical Development of Political Communication since 1945
  • 2.3 The Concept of Dissemination
  • 2.4 The Age of “Dissemination”
  • Chapter 3: Orders of Discourse and Intertexts
  • 3.1 Approaches to Discourse
  • 3.2 Discourse and Ideology
  • 3.3 Discourse and Communication
  • 3.4 Intertextuality and Dissemination
  • 3.5 Translation and Dissemination as a Political Communication Process
  • 3.6 Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 4: Methodology
  • 4.1 Dissemination, Recursivity and Qualitative Methodology
  • 4.2 Selection of Data Sources
  • 4.3 Data Collection
  • 4.4 Corpus Design
  • 4.5 Data Instruments
  • 4.6 Data Genres and Ideology
  • 4.7 Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 5: Data Analysis
  • 5.1 Contextual Framework
  • 5.2 Recursivities and Framings: Al-Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN
  • 5.3 The Self-Representations of Hezbollah
  • 5.4 The Role of Translation within the Recursive System
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • 6.1 Main Findings of the Study
  • 6.2 Main Contributions of the Study
  • 6.3 Further Research
  • Bibliography
  • Corpus Data
  • Secondary Literature
  • Index


I would like to express my gratitude to all those who gave me the possibility to complete this work.

This work, which has grown out of a PhD thesis, would not have been possible without the generous financial grant of The Yamani Cultural and Charitable Foundation (YCCF), presided by H. E. Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani, former Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, to whom I am deeply appreciative and indebted.

My heartfelt thanks go to Professor Colin Grant, the editor of this series, to whom I am particularly indebted not only for his belief in my research project, but also for the support, guidance, patience, encouragement, and invaluable feedback he has provided throughout the years of working on this project as my lead supervisor. I would also like to thank the team at Peter Lang for all their efforts during the production of this work.

Finally, my sincere thanks go to my family and friends for their support and encouragement. ← ix | x → ← x | 1 →



1.1   Definition of the Theme of Dissemination

I take it as axiomatic that politics pervades every aspect of human thought and activities to a greater or lesser degree. We are governed by politics and politicians, democracy at one extreme, monarchy or its modern form, dictatorship, at the other […] Politics is the most general and universal aspect and sphere of human activity.

—Newmark, 1991: 146

Today the international arena is witnessing radical social and political changes. Although the role of communication in political growth is not new, its quality has altered (Volkmer, 1999). The shift in political communication has “profound political and sociological effects. Of critical significance among these is the rearrangement of power relations among key message providers and receivers […] and the ‘mediatization’ of politics” (Blumler & Kavanagh, 1999; Castells, 2000, 2001; Edwards, 2001; Luhmann, 2000; Meyer, 2002, in Crozier, 2007: 2).

The crux of the theme of this study is the notion of dissemination (a term borrowed, mutatis mutandis, from Jacques Derrida, 1977: 9; see also Grant, 2007), as a dynamic (in the sense that suggests change and instability and movement but not in a particular direction) and fluid concept, exemplified in the recursivity (Grant; Luhmann) of political communication and news media. This thesis investigates a new age of dissemination of global communication, which is exemplified in a new relationship between the political communication system and the media system. This is a phenomenon that can be seen in general terms on a global scale and in Lebanon in particular. That is, one in which the political messages are recontextualised, transformed, and thus disseminated ← 1 | 2 → through the media system – with ideological implications. The notion of the recursivity of communication is vital to this study in the sense that it emerges more strongly with mass mediatisation; however, Luhmann maintains that “communications are possible only within a system of communication and this system cannot escape the form of recursive circularity” (Luhmann, 1990: 145–146, in Grant, 2003: 113), and thus perceives recursivity as more inherent property. Contrary to Luhmann’s understanding of recursivity, this study argues that “the new age” is marked by mass mediatisation and the web. Thus, recursivity is intensified and disembodied from original speeches producing a new quality and intensity of the dissemination process. Dissemination has always been present in communication, but it now reaches radically new heights. Recursivity (that is, political communication and media systems that play back on each other in feedback and feed-forward loops, thereby adding intensity), is a form of circulation of communication in the age of dissemination. As such, dissemination is placed on a higher level and functions as a more global concept, meaning that recursivity is a facet of communication systems and a property of dissemination.

The case study of this thesis concerns the media construction of the Lebanese organisation Hezbollah (Arabic lit.: [Hizb Allah] Party of God). In the process of dissemination, Hezbollah is subject to contested and conflicting media representations, intertexts, and ideologically determined interpretation from media organisations that report on its activities. These media presentations and representations will be investigated in the news coverage of three media outlets: Al-Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN, because of their global pre-eminence in news broadcasting and for their particular dominance in the Middle East. Reference will be made to Al-Jazeera’s English output rather than Al-Jazeera Arabic for the sake of conducting a comparative analysis with the English outputs of the BBC and CNN.

My reason for adopting this approach is precisely because Hezbollah is newsworthy worldwide; indeed, according to Karagiannis, “no other Islamist group has provoked more controversy” (2009: 365). Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite political party and guerrilla force, but, as noted above, it has been labelled in Western terms a “terrorist movement”. In short, it sits on an ideological fault line in the Middle East, in global politics, and in ← 2 | 3 → media representations. Moreover, Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, is a charismatic and eloquent Shiite political speaker. His speeches are highly newsworthy for media coverage and they are represented across contexts in various media outlets, undergoing variation and change in the process of dissemination. It is asserted in this respect that the political phenomenon of Hezbollah is newsworthy for news media coverage across the world as a key – and deeply contested – actor in Middle East politics.

Nevertheless, the Lebanese political context also has special regional significance. Lebanon has been described as the crossroads of Arabic-based information (McEnery and Wilson, 2001: 63). Lebanon’s political system has a unique character and it is a distinctive case of intense ideological “dialogism” (Gondalez-Quijano, 2003: 63). The communication system is uniquely intertextual owing to its inherently historical and religious roots, and the country’s confessional political regime, and these features are heightened by intense media scrutiny. Media content in Lebanon manifests clear-cut political orientations (Kraidy, 2012).

1.2   Reflections on Theory

The empirical subject matter of this thesis relates to a particular set of media representations which have profound political relevance for the present age. Hezbollah is referred to either as a terrorist organisation or as a political player in the Lebanese political process. Since 9/11, this particular interface of the war on terror and the “Arab Spring” has acquired new saliency and greater relevance for news media. One can argue that the relevance is nowhere more acute than in Lebanon. Lebanon’s external relations in relation to Hezbollah are exemplified in the relationship with countries that have the most influence in one way or another with respect to the politics of Lebanon, namely Syria, Iran, Israel, the USA, the EU, and the Palestinian Territories.

In order to conceptualise the representation and self-representation of this organisation, this work will carefully consider the following: ← 3 | 4 →

As Grant argues, the representations of Hezbollah are recursive, and that recursivity expands, which means that self-representations by Nasrallah are received and modified by media outlets from different ideological perspectives, and are reported on by the BBC and CNN into different ideological perspectives and feed back into Hezbollah’s self-understanding. All three media outlets interact to create the political reality of Hezbollah.

A cluster of concepts will be brought together from a range of different theoretical approaches, which will provide a conceptualisation of media communication. The theoretical framework will be based on three building blocks: dissemination, political communication, and discourse and intertexts. These concepts connect strongly with the methods used to undertake a qualitative analysis of data. Thus, discourse analysis will be an appropriate tool for data analysis because this study looks at subtexts, legitimation, framing, representation, and schematisation in the data, dimensions which are very useful trends in identifying shifts across the three media organisations. The significance of the work stems from employing these different concepts to offer new analytical insights into complex communications. Furthermore, there is a conceptual history to interpenetration; this conceptualisation will be used in a much more empirical way, in addition to their implications for the framing of a highly newsworthy actor such as Hezbollah. These concepts provide useful insights into the process of recontextualisation and dissemination in media political news, and help the study by enriching its framework of explanation in many ways.

The concept of ideology will be considered because it is central to an understanding of Hezbollah and its media representations. All media outlets frame their objects; nevertheless, Hezbollah is framed in various different ways. Language is used in news media as a highly “constructive mediator” to “form ideas and beliefs”, “presuppositions and ideology” (Fowler, 1991: 1). Thus, dissemination of political communication brings about changes in the structure of political reality. In this context, Luhmann’s binary codes and rules of schematisation, Foucault’s exclusionary mechanism, and the polarised ideological square of van Dijk are essential parts of texts, and contribute efficiently to exploring the treatment of Hezbollah in those recursive processes. ← 4 | 5 →

The concept of intertextuality provides a rich area for exploring certain aspects of the process of dissemination in political communication. Intertextual allusions in political discourse(s) can be effective instruments of persuasion. Whereas dissemination operates at the level of media communication systems, intertextuality has a complementary focus, namely the text or the voice. Intertextuality operates in the texts of media organisations. Thus, the conceptual relationship between recursivity, intertextuality, and discourse is vital.

Translation, as a “mediated communicative event” (Baker, 1993: 243) in news media and political communication is adopted as a new contribution in this field. Besides, drawing on Bell’s theory of audience design in political news is a trend that has rarely been adopted in exploring translation in political global news. This theory is particularly helpful to this study because “audience design” is a key notion in understanding “how the text producers gear their output to receivers” (Hatim and Mason, 1997: 12). In addition, the notion of audiences appears striking in this study, since the data corpus is newsworthy; it entails multiple audiences worldwide, including news media systems and various political systems. These political speeches are especially rich and helpful in the analysis of discourse and style shifts in news translation or text production in news media, because they target a multiplicity of audiences.

The above concepts therefore fit well with the overall methodology of this study, which is founded on these conceptual formulations and analytical perspectives. The insights of the notions of recursivity and dissemination of political communication are applied to the context of the news media and to insights into political communication.

The importance of data analysis is that it demonstrates the usefulness of the analytical power of the concepts discussed in the theoretical part, precisely in connection with the power of the notions of recursivity, dissemination, and recontextualisation.

The above concepts are useful in explaining shifts across media organisations throughout the processes of recontextualisation that operate in the body of this work. These shifts provide plenty of room for news recontextualisation and dissemination across various media channels in the new age of dissemination. Moreover, they have a profound impact on political ← 5 | 6 → reality worldwide. For many lay and expert observers, the dissemination of reality in news media is their only reality, where the “object of truth” is displaced.1

1.3   Aims and Objectives of the Study

This study has three primary objectives. First, to reconceptualise specific forms of communication as a system of recursivity and place communication in the historical context of the new age of dissemination. In other words, it investigates the process of recursive political communication as a media reality. It examines how the production, representation, and responses to representations of the political messages in the spheres of political communication and media systems are recontextualised and disseminated worldwide, and fed back again through recursive communication. Second, it aims to investigate appropriate approaches for the study of those communications in terms of the relationship between discourse and ideology as belief systems, framings, and competing framings which create new realities; this fits well with the conceptual framework of the recursivity (that is, political communication and media systems play back on each other in feedback and feed-forward loops, which add intensity), and dissemination (that is the hallmark of contemporary communication systems in which technologies play a key role; it is placed on a higher level and functions as a more global concept). Third, this work aims, through its data analysis, for a more sophisticated understanding of Hezbollah as a ← 6 | 7 → highly newsworthy phenomenon, by creating a multicontextual political context of recursive framing.

The specific aims are fivefold:


X, 284
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (June)
Media systems Political communication News media Global communication Hezbollah
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. X, 284 pp.

Biographical notes

Taroub A. Khayyat (Author)

Taroub A. Khayyat is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Faculty of Languages and Communication at the American University of Madaba (AUM) in Jordan. She attended the University of Bath, UK, where she received a PhD in Language and Political Communication from the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies. She also attended Heriot-Watt University, UK, where she received a Master of Science (MSc) in Translation and Intercultural Communication (with Distinction). She was previously involved in the Muslim-Christian Interfaith Dialogue with the West at the Royal Academy in Jordan and was also a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and the Language Centre at the University of Jordan.


Title: Political Communication in the Age of Dissemination
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