The MNLA, Social Media, and the Malian Civil War
Chapter 5: Dominant Pro-MNLA Discourse Frames and Identity on Facebook
Of course, political discourse online is not always tame. The goal of such activism is often to create intellectually and emotionally compelling digital artifacts that tell stories of injustice, interpret history, and advocate for particular political outcomes.
—Philip N. Howard, The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, 20111
THIS CHAPTER APPLIES elements of discourse analysis to the content of Facebook postings in the survey’s dataset. Robert Entman’s conception of framing, supported by several concepts articulated by Teun van Dijk and other scholars of discourse analysis, forms the main theoretical basis of this chapter and provides the main lens for the following qualitative analysis of pro-MNLA Facebook postings. Finally, this chapter relies on Charles Tilly’s work to draw broader conclusions about the place of the discussed frames in characterizing the broader identity of the pro-MNLA Facebook community, its members, and the MNLA as a whole.
Qualitative analysis of media content has, of course, a scholarly history far too substantial to list fully here. However, because similar methods have been applied ←97 | 98→to the communications of political dissident groups operating in the Middle East and Africa, several examples are worthy of mention. Aaron Zelin’s 2015 study of the Twitter output of the Islamic State (mentioned previously) includes a section in which Zelin discusses the “eleven key types of messages disseminated in the Islamic State’s releases” and analyzes what Zelin identifies as the top six messages.2 Chiluwa and Adegoke’s 2013 article (also previously mentioned) discusses pragmatic...
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