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E-Political Socialization, the Press and Politics

The Media and Government in the USA, Europe and China


Edited By Christ´l De Landtsheer, Russell Farnen and Daniel B. German

This book examines the state of print and electronic media in the United States of America, Europe, and China. The latest mass communication advances demonstrate that we live in an increasingly media-centric world. The chapters include theoretical and empirical studies that shed light on the meaning of this development. The trajectory of people’s move to electronic communication is a global phenomenon affecting their daily life. Does this trend aid or impede democracy? Is there an emerging digital divide contributing to an increasing gap between the rich and poor people and nations? The four parts of this book explore various aspects of political socialization and its relationship with different media, including print, broadcasting, and the Internet.
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11 The Ukraine Media on the Orange Revolution

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Chapter 11

The Ukraine Media on the Orange Revolution

Natalya Krasnoboka and Christ’l De Landtsheer

University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium


This chapter is a part of a larger analysis of Ukrainian political transition. It reports the results of one case study. Based on the importance of media and their message in the country, we argue that media language helps us understand the process of political transition in a given society. Transition is inherently a political crisis. Thus, the language of transition is, by definition, a language of crisis. Crisis Communication Combination (CCC) theory is our major theoretical and methodological tool. CCC theory says that the language of crisis is less complex, more metaphorical, and directed toward the audience (demagogical). This lets us determine if the current language of Ukrainian transition can be qualified as a language of crisis. It helps us to register possible language diversity between different media outlets. It allows us not only to answer questions about language complexity, its metaphoric filling, and audience-directed modality use, but also to watch these trends evolve and compare them. The central questions of this chapter are: Does the language of Ukrainian media follow a crisis pattern? How does it change over time and between outlets? Our study confirms that the language of Ukrainian media follows a crisis pattern. This is particularly visible in less complex, more metaphorical language. As we expected, different media outlets showed different levels of crisis pattern.


In November-December 2004, a peaceful Orange revolution occurred in Ukraine. Despite the real danger and threats, weapons were not used. Instead, Kyiv celebrated its biggest carnival. There were many oranges, dances, songs, costumes, and words: words that united people and some that separated them; words that celebrated victory and others that promised unrest and bloodshed. Ukrainians believed it was a real revolution, using words as weapons. Another weapon was a color. There was a clear distinction between the words and colors of both camps: “white-and-blue Russian” for the outgoing regime and “orange Ukrainian” for the opposition. These “colorful languages” became factors of success or failure. Undoubtedly, the combination of a color-word struggle resulted in a highly picturesque rhetoric that was very symbolic and expressive.

Ukrainians like to use expressive, vivid language. It is a part of their national culture. Soviet censorship contributed to the development of a language of “hidden meanings.” Ever since its independence, Ukraine faced a period of transition, the critical nature of which only reinforces the use of expressive talk. The last years of Kuchma’s regime reintroduced censorship practices, pushing people to refresh their skills in using “coded” language. The Orange revolution became the highest point ← 221 | 222 → of the post-Soviet crisis. Thus, it would be reasonable to suspect that the expressiveness of the language reached its heights as well.

This chapter reports the results of one case study. Based on the importance of media and their message in the country, we argue that a media language helps us understand the process of political transition. Crisis Communication Combination (CCC) theory was our major theoretical and methodological tool (De Landtsheer and De Vrij, 1999, 2004).

Theoretical Framework

Evaluating the importance of language in politics, Feldman (1998, pp. 195-196) claimed that “language becomes an important instrument of power, a means for winning political office, a tool for influencing policy, and a weapon for mobilizing the public’s support.” It helps people change or influence political reality. “As people assess their environment, language is created which structures, transforms, or destroys the environment. Language serves as the agent of social interaction; as the channel for the transmission of values; and as the glue that bounds people, ideas and society together” (Denton and Woodward, 1998, p. 45).

While language helps people explain reality, it is as polyphonic as reality itself. Within its polyphonic nature, language is political based on who and what kinds of meanings are chosen for the linguistic signs. We believe polyphonic language is very important for a transition period characterized by an intense struggle for the country’s future directions, including future meanings of language signs. At the same time, within its social function, language “prescribes, constrains, socializes, reinforces, and conserves the status quo” (Corcoran, 1990, p. 70); when a society/regime strives for language stability (resulting from a group’s victory), it has a certain vision of reality. With its victory, this vision will be “fixed” in language status quo till the next transition. “Society produces different techniques in order to stop the floating line of signifiers which are called to overcome the horror of meaning uncertainty of iconic signs” (Barthes, 1989, p. 305) to have “one nation, one people, one society [which is] often simply translated into ‘ours’ – ‘our’ industry, ‘our’ economy, ‘our’ nuclear deterrent, police force balance of payments, etc.” (Hartley, 1982, p. 82).

Meadow (1980) finds several reasons to use symbolic discourse in political affairs: 1) symbols that contain a huge amount of information in a compressed form are adopted easily and get quicker responses from people than long messages; 2) symbols with many meanings can mobilize larger numbers of adherents; 3) even if there is always a danger of a symbol’s response to a wrong object, the behaviors that follow such responses may be “uniform” (Meadow, 1980, pp. 34- 35). What is its aim? “To arose groups and individuals to action” (Cobb and Elder, 1972, p. 85) and to support political decision. ← 222 | 223 →


Crisis heightens metaphoric use of a language (De Landtsheer, 1994, p. 77) and elevates the importance of symbolic discourse in real life (Kiew, 1998, p. 81). Pocheptsov (1997, p. 24) considers a function of the symbolic discourse during such times as a kind of psychotherapy “when society is in panic and trouble, it tries to find new ways out of crisis, it necessarily switches to the metaphoric language.” Voloshinov (1930, p. 27) suggested that only periods of social crises and revolutionary changes could open the real multi-accentual nature of the signs.

Research into the language of prosperity and crisis (De Landtsbeer, 1994, p. 77) concludes that “political language becomes more ornamental, emotive, and less similar to everyday-life language as economic recession progresses.” Kiew (1998, p. 81) sees the language of crisis as a terministic/dramatic screen, which “directs our attention and through which one sees reality.” The selection of words, symbols, and terms may make people experience reality in a certain given way and not any other. At the same time, Kiew stresses the power of crisis to “unite people around a plot and a narrative” (Kiew, 1998, p. 81).


We believe that political transition is one of the most vivid examples of political crisis with all implications this may have for its language. We also argue that transitional crisis differs from critical patterns in more stable societies. Language use in stable societies seldom goes beyond the boundaries of the existing social and political order. So even when language and society are seriously shaken by revision and changes in the discourse, the entire political system and language signification does not collapse and a “new order” is not created. On the other hand, transition can be characterized by its “intermediary” position between two political systems as well as their differences in language. Transition is a combination of a previous political system and a new (declared, but still rather vague and unknown) one. This leads to a combination of at least two discourses: the previous system’s and the new one’s emerging discourse. Moreover, the nature of transition itself leaves a vivid mark on a current situation and discourse.

Symbolic language holds society together and bridges the gap (Meadow, 1980), but it is possible only when a symbolic discourse is understood and recognized (if not by all, at least by many). A period of transition is characterized not only by a struggle of various political and ideological possibilities but also by a variety of language and symbolic patterns, many of which are understood and recognized only by a certain social group. In this respect, we can talk about a double crisis (of transition): a critical situation needs to be explained via the critical use of language, which finds itself in a period of crisis.

The countries of the former Soviet Union provide good examples of society-language crisis. The rapid, unpredicted shift from totalitarianism toward ← 223 | 224 → democracy produced quick and rather unforeseen changes in the people’s perception of reality. These countries are caught between the old and new myths (Pocheptsov, 1997, p. 40) of reality. The collapse of the Soviet Union came naturally, but too early for other alternatives to be ready to replace old system(s).

Post-communist dynamics cannot be explained by referring to the previous regime’s universally shared social, economic, cultural, and institutional structures. Negative “inheritances of the past can be overcome, and that a more nuanced explanations should be constructed in order to determine which legacies will and which will not play a role in shaping the direction of change” (Kopecky and Mudde, 2000, p. 527).

Based on the political transformation of former Soviet republics, we may expect that their languages undergo similar dramatic transformations. We assume that the language of transition is, by definition, a language of crisis. For this reason, we believe that applying Crisis Communication Combination (CCC) theory to our case study will be beneficial in several aspects: 1) we can determine if the current language of Ukrainian transition can be qualified a language of crisis; 2) we can register possible language diversity between different groups; 3) the combination in one theory of the three important indicators of semantic and cognitive use of language will allow us not only to gain answers to the questions of language complexity, its metaphor filling, and audience-directed modality use, but also to see the evolution of all these trends in their unity and comparison.

CCC Theory and Method

Crisis Communication Combination (CCC) theory is our major theoretical and methodological tool (De Landtsheer, 1998, 2004). It lets us theoretically and empirically examine the crisis (non-crisis) pattern in political speech (text). It assumes that crisis language is simple, is easily accessible, appeals to emotion rather than cognition, and addresses the audience directly. Political communication during crises is increasingly persuasive and demagogic. The CCC index reflects the level of crisis in political discourse.

De Landtsheer’s CCC theory was based on original methodology developed to study language complexity (Suedfeld and Bluck, 1988; Suedfeld and Tetlock, 1977; Baker-Brown, et al., 1992), metaphor power (De Landtsheer, 1994, 1998; Beer and De Landtsheer, 2004), and pragmatically ambiguous modals (Sweetser, 1990; Anderson, 1998). The final stage of analysis is the crisis communication combination index (CCC). It is measured in accordance with De Landtsheer’s methods: multiplying a metaphor power index (C) by empathic modals index (E+) and dividing this result by the cognitive complexity index (CC) multiplied by the content modals index (E-): CCC=(C*E+)/(CC*E-). ← 224 | 225 →

Language Complexity

The crisis pattern approach is based on assumptions and observations that language during periods of political, economic, or social crisis differs considerably from language in times of political or economic stability (Lasswell, 1949; De Sola Pool, 1956). Several studies on language complexity showed sometimes dramatic changes in complexity of politicians’ speeches during periods of crisis (Suedfeld and Rank, 1976; Suedfeld, et al., 1977; Wallace and Suedfeld, 1988; Suedfeld, et al., 1993; Wallace, et al., 1993; Wallace, et al., 1996). According to the theory of integrative complexity, 1ow levels of complexity in public speech represent black-and-white thinking; intermediate levels represent increasing differentiation between points of view; and high levels point to integrative thinking and the ability to synthesize. Low complexity of political speech makes the speech simple and accessible to a broader audience. The lower the complexity of the speech, the more it resembles the impressive rhetoric by demagogues who are only interested in their audiences (Windt and Ingold, 1987, p. xix). We symbolize integrative complexity via the CCC index.

Integrative complexity is measured on a 7-point scale: 1 is undifferentiated perspectives or dimensions toward a topic; 3 is a clear differentiation between alternative perspectives or judgments; 4 and above indicates different degrees of perspectives and dimensions of integration. To find integrative complexity (CC), divide the sum of all scored paragraphs by the number of paragraphs.

Metaphor Power

“Metaphors are emotive components of language that are highly reassuring as they simplify reality. [T]hey, beside, add particular desired subjective connotations to the subject which is discussed, and can therefore also have a mobilizing effect” (De Landtsheer and De Vrij, 1999, p. 6). Metaphors can be seen as broadening (non)complexity in political rhetoric. In metaphor theory, innovative and original metaphors are more intense and persuasive than commonly used ones. Metaphors taken from the “vocabulary” of sports, crime, violence, or illness are more powerful than those from the everyday or nature “vocabulary.” Based on these features, De Landtsheer’s theory measures a metaphor’s power index (of a text) as “a meter reader of anxiety in society” (De Landtsheer and De Vrij, 1999, p. 6). A period of crisis provokes an increasing use of metaphors; then, metaphors have stronger than usual expression and are linked to less everyday notions (e.g., crime, violence, game, disease, death). Trend studies for the European Parliament and the Belgian press confirmed that both political language during economic crisis and rhetoric by “extremist” politicians are more metaphorical than during periods of economic prosperity and speeches by “democratic” politicians (Landtsheer, 1994, 1998). To support these conclusions, one study of Ukrainian parliamentary rhetoric suggests a strong relation between metaphor use and mythical thinking. Extremist politicians ← 225 | 226 → use more metaphors and mythical thinking to criticize the present situation; they aim to destroy the logic of the present and its semantic discursive construction. Moderate politicians emphasize the merits of the actual situation, which they analyze logically (Taran, 2000). In a transitional political situation, the logic of the present and its discursive construction are continuously challenged. Metaphor relies on contrast, conflict, and a distorted perception of reality. With the past and present on fire, metaphor becomes any politician’s weapon in the struggle for a new reality and its discursive construction. Metaphor power in political rhetoric is symbolized by C.

The metaphor power index (C) is measured by multiplying the frequency of metaphors per 100 words (F) with metaphorical intensity (I) and the content score (D): C=F*I*D. Frequency is the number of metaphors (m) per 100 words from a general number of words (w): F=(m* 100)/w. Intensity (I), measured on a 3-point scale, is the sum of weak (w, value 1), normal (n, value 2), and strong (s, value 3) metaphors, divided by the total number of metaphors (t): I= (1*w+2*n+3*s)/t. Content score, measured on a 6-point scale, is a sum of popular metaphors (p, value 1), nature metaphors (n, value 2), political/intellectual metaphors (po, value 3) disaster/violence metaphors (d, value 4), sports/games metaphors (sp, value 5), and medical/illness metaphors (m, value 6), divided by the total number of metaphors (t): D=(l *p+2*n+3*po+4*d+5*sp+6*m)/t.


The content use of modals refers to the social or physical world a communicator experienced; the epistemic use of modals directs the audience’s attention to the communicator’s state of mind; the use of “speech act” modals aims at interaction with the audience. Anderson (1998) suggests that electoral politicians who try to collect support (to mobilize people) chose epistemic and speech act modals rather than content modals, contrary to totalitarian rulers for whom content use of modals is crucial. Applying these assumptions to the study of political speech in pre- and post-independent Russia, Anderson concludes that the Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime used only content modals, while post-Soviet political discourse is characterized by using a combination of three types of modals.

Modals “inject possibility, necessity, or obligation into unmodified utterances” (Anderson, 1998, p. 65). Anderson based his research on Sweetser’s (1990) concept of pragmatic ambiguity of modals. “Because some modals are pragmatically ambiguous, an audience encountering these parts of speech must think about, however momentarily, whether the speaker is communicating about the content of the message, the reasonableness of the speaker, or the relationship with the audience established by the utterance. Of course, resolution of the ambiguity goes unnoticed; the decision is overlearned and automatic. ... Nevertheless, this unnoticed decision controls the interpretation of the whole utterance. Control of the interpretation determines whether the audience attends to the event reported by the ← 226 | 227 → speaker, to the warrant for the speaker’s belief about the event, or to the linguistic interaction between the speaker and the audience” (Anderson, 1998, pp. 67-68). In other words, the speaker can choose to seek direct contact with the audience through the speech act use of modals or let the audience share some of his own thoughts through the epistemic use of modals; in which case, we say that the speaker’s use of modals is “empathic.” To the extent that the use of modals gets more emphatic, the rhetoric becomes the “impressive” type favored by demagogues (Windt and Ingold, 1987, p. xix). We symbolize the empathic use of modals by the E+ index. E+ is calculated on the basis of the general number of epistemic and speech act modals (e) per 100 words from a general number of words (w): E+=(e*100)/w. If the speaker uses the “content” modals and does not interact with the audience, the speech resembles the “expressive” rhetoric of doctrinaires. We symbolize this nonempathic use of modals by the E- index. E- is calculated on the basis of content modals’ use (c) per 100 words from a general number of words (w): E(c*100)/w.


Can CCC theory be applied to study the media’s language patterns? Nowadays, delivery of public speeches is mainly performed via the media. One study of media performance in international crisis suggests that democratic regimes use the mass media prior to a conflict to prepare public opinion for war.

Sorely (l998, p. 119) states that media “offer a linguistic rendering of events that is typically perceived as a proxy for an objective reality.” He also claims: “Given that media productions are perceived as objective representations of reality, they attain a status that enhances their legitimacy and ascendancy over alternative accounts and allows them to become a ‘material’ for construction of opinions, norms, and judgments.”

Based on the previous studies, we may argue that as well as the language of politicians, the language of media changes during politically and economically critical periods. We may expect that during such periods, a language of media is far removed from its everyday pattern (which in the case of media, means an unemotional, dry language of facts). We may also expect that in these periods, a language of media particularly highlights and emphasizes the issues and/or personalities most important and/or controversial for a current moment.

The importance and evolution of the media in the former Soviet Union lets us assume that media may be a major source of information for post-Soviet citizens on any issue. We assume that people seek answers in media outlets. Simultaneously, we realize that certain political and cultural groups (elites) successfully affect and manipulate media’s message. Media cannot be considered “innocent” transmitters of impartial, unbiased information, particularly when sensitive issues of a country’s identity and future are concerned. ← 227 | 228 →

Case Study: Orange Revolution

Ukrainian society’s euphoria on gaining independence in 1991 was replaced by deep pessimism, apathy, and distrust of possible rapid changes, once citizens realized that the country was falling into a new type of oppressive regime. Soviet totalitarianism was replaced by the transitional authoritarianism of Leonid Kuchma (who stayed in power for almost 12 years as prime minister and, later, president). At that time, Ukraine lacked serious political opposition and a strong civil society movement. After 1999 (Kuchma’s re-election for a second term), the independent media were stifled by the reintroduction of the Soviet practice of censorship. With very few exceptions, media outlets accepted practices of self-censorship and loyalty to the president. Those trying to resist were pushed to the “margins of information discourse” of the time: they moved online. The Internet paper Ukrainska Pravda has become the front post of media struggle for freedom of speech. In summer 2000, Internet media began to shape into the most visible and strongest civil opposition to the ruling regime. That was followed by the dramatic disappearance and murder of Ukrainska Pravada’s chief editor, Georgy Gongadze. In November 2000, Olexandr Moroz (the leader of Ukrainian Socialist) publicly accused Kuchma of masterminding the killing of the journalist. Mass protests and the creation of an oppositional coalition followed. By the time of 2002 parliamentary elections, the country was divided between two political and information realities: the regime and the opposition. These were two parallel realities, where the regime’s right hand was the opposition’s left hand. Media were discussing similar issues, highlighting similar events, but applying opposing discourses. Slowly, the general rather vague but highly expressive division within the country emerged. On one side, the ruling regime was openly supported by Russia and other post-Soviet authoritarian rulers. It controlled traditional media by predominantly using Russian language and focusing on their stronghold in the country’s east and south (where the majority of the ruling elite resided). On the other hand, the more or less united opposition was strongly supported by civil society groups and Internet media whose priority was European integration; their stronghold was in the country’s center and west with its predominantly Ukrainian speaking population. That division was reinforced by a so-called Soviet identity among the supporters of the ruling regime and a new Ukrainian national identity as a part of a broader European identity among opposition supporters.

This division continued until the 2004 presidential elections, which everybody saw as the most decisive moment in the country’s future evolution. According to the constitution, President Kuchma did not have any legal right to stay in power after 2004. By that time, the opposition had its national leader widely supported and praised around the country. Victor Yushchenko had an image not only of a democrat and a professional, but also of a highly moral and deeply religious person; these qualities were very important for Ukrainian voters. The ruling regime ← 228 | 229 → declared Victor Yanukovich as its candidate. In addition to his ruling class identity (Soviet type of manager, Russian-speaking, from the heart of Eastern Ukraine), Yanukovich was twice convicted and imprisoned during his youth. As a result of their respective backgrounds, the competition between Yushchenko and Yanukovich became a battle between good and evil, white and black. When Yushchenko was poisoned in the midst of the election campaign, it added yet another highly symbolic and emotional point to the struggle. Yushchenko won the first round of elections, but he did not get 51% of the vote; therefore, he and Yanukovich entered the second round of elections. When Yanukovich was announced the winner of the second round, the opposition called for mass mobilization of its supporters and mass protests. Millions of people went on the streets and did not leave them until the new re-vote was called and Yushchenko was proclaimed the new president of the country.

Media During and After the Orange Revolution

Ukrainian media is deeply divided; the 2004 presidential campaign and the Orange revolution reinforced these divisions. Although the Internet confirmed its position as the opposition’s major information tool, television continued to serve as the ruling regime’s major mouthpiece. Newspapers were more or less equally divided (quantitatively) between the opposition and the president.

Although it became rather obvious during the early stages of the presidential campaign that the opposition would not give up this time and in case of falsifications would call for civil mobilization and disobedience, the first days of the Orange revolution took the majority of the traditional media by surprise. They continued to obey the regime until occasionally individual journalists or small groups of journalists began to openly announce their support of the revolution. In contrast to the events of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, journalists as a professional class and intellectual elite were no longer in the vanguard of the civil movement. However, that did not prevent the ability of separate media outlets and journalists to become front posts of the revolution. The Fifth Channel has been named “the channel of the honest news.” On that channel, news was broadcasted non-stop on the huge TV screen on the Kyiv’s Independent Square. Interestingly, the position of this channel and a few other outlets and journalists has been self-presented as a civil position of citizens in contrast to a professional position of journalists. The later meant subordination to the will of authorities. Needless to say, the Internet was totally “Orange.” Internet journalists were doing their best to combine their civil and professional duties, to be on the Square, and to support the flow of information and news on their websites. As a marginal information medium of marginalized opposition yesterday, online media then became the major information tool and news source of the Orange revolution.

Post-revolutionary reality supplied (and continues to do so) media with another test of their civil position and professional standards. The new power proclaimed ← 229 | 230 → freedom of speech among its key priorities. Then, media proclaimed their independence from any political influence. What does it mean in practice? Both online and traditional media are struggling to find their ways. For online media, a major question is: Should we support the new authorities which we helped to bring to power by giving them time and an opportunity to evolve or should we “constructively oppose” any authority by definition because media belong to the civil society and ideally perform a watch-dog function? Traditional media ask: Should we believe that these authorities are qualitatively different and will not impose new controls over media, thus allowing media outlets to develop their own strategies or should we “change our color” and become mouthpieces of new authorities because no power would ever give up a chance to control media? Traditional media’s dilemma is complicated by the fact that, financially, most of them still belong to the former ruling regime and the current opposition.

This problematic, multidimensional situation raises the questions: How do media behave in such conditions? Do these political changes and transformations have any impact on them? And if so, what exactly is this impact? One way to answer these questions is to look at the content of media messages in its dynamics in the period between the presidential election, the Orange revolution and the former opposition’s rise to power, and its subsequent performance.

This study looks at the media’s language use. The key questions are: Does the language of Ukrainian media during the period between the 2004 presidential election and the subsequent performance of the new government follow a crisis pattern? Does this crisis pattern differ between outlets and change across time periods? In this study, we test a set of hypotheses applied in a study of crisis and non-crisis language patterns in political speech by De Landtsheer and De Vrij (1999, 2004); these hypotheses are known as the CCC theory. In some ways, this study diverges from the theory’s original application; in others, it stays intact with the original settings. Although it examines language patterns in the period of crisis (as well as shortly before and after it), this study applies CCC theory to a transitional society and compares patterns of language use between different media. Based on previously conducted content analysis of the 2002 parliamentary elections by different groups of Ukrainian media (Krasnoboka and Brants forthcoming), we concluded that “traditional media and most of the Internet provide a mirror reflection of each other in their reporting; but at the same time, this is a distorted reflection because different media highlight and ignore different parts of reality. In the most radical cases and situations, such differences between old and new media can result in the presentation of different political realities.” Also the study of the media content during the first wave of the political crisis in Ukraine 2000-2001 has shown serious differences between online and traditional media in their coverage of the former regime and opposition activities (Krasnoboka and Semetko, forthcoming). ← 230 | 231 →

We studied the crisis language pattern during the 2002 parliamentary election (Krasnoboka and De Landtsheer, 2004), revealing significant differences in crisis language patterns between different outlets; the Internet had the highest levels of crisis language use. That was explained by the highly oppositional nature of the Internet toward the ruling regime. At that time, newspapers featured the middle position (between Internet media and television); we argued that the newspapers’ position may make them more reliable and balanced sources of information for those who did not take any side. More interestingly, newspapers have chosen a position of the “country’s interest” and evaluated any occurrences from such a “safe tower.” In terms of metaphor use, the discourse of construction prevailed, reflecting precisely the situation in the country and job-to-be-done mentality. Another feature of that discourse was the “relocation” of the major “enemy” outside the country, positioning it more as an external threat. This external threat, according to the media discourse, might become a real challenge through the help of foreign satellites who “work” inside Ukraine and try to “sell” the country to the “overseas sellers of dog food” or to allow the “Russian tractor to plow our field.” These conclusions from our previous studies allow us to make certain assumptions about more general language patterns of media reporting.

Hypotheses and Expectations

We believe that the Orange revolution in Ukraine is a clear example of political crisis. This allows us to assume that political discourse during the revolution follows a crisis language pattern. Since the election campaign occurred shortly before the Orange revolution and was a direct cause of the public unrest, we expect that the rhetoric during the election campaign also reflects the crisis. For two “ordinary” time periods in our analysis, we expect to see a reverse picture.

We expect that the crisis language pattern will differ between online and traditional media and that this difference will change while the political situation evolves. We expect that online media will follow the “original” pattern of crisis, which will reach its highest point during the time of the Orange revolution and, to a lesser degree, the election period and then, it will go down. At the same time, we expect to see lower levels of crisis pattern in the traditional media during the period of the Orange revolution and in the election campaign. Traditional media will try to downplay the crisis, applying (among other tools) less critical discourse to preserve the feeling of stability and control of the situation.

Based on these assumptions, we expect that the mass media rhetoric of the Orange revolution (and, to a lesser degree, the rhetoric of the 2004 presidential election) will show the crisis pattern (high CCC index), with a (subsequently) low level of integrative complexity (low CC index), high metaphor power (high index), low use of content modals (low E- index), and frequent use of empathic modals (high E+ index). The crisis pattern will show up as more outspoken in the online media than in the traditional media. During the two “ordinary” periods, we expect ← 231 | 232 → no crisis pattern (low CCC index), with a high level of language complexity (high CC index), low metaphor power (low C index), high use of content modals (high E-index), and low use of empathic modals (low E+ index).

Selection Criteria

We studied the language patterns of two media outlets: an online paper, Ukrainska Pravda (UP), and a traditional newspaper, Den’. We selected four weeks for the analysis: a week prior to the second round of elections (November 15-21), called “election week”; a week of political crisis (December 1-7, beginning on Wednesday), called “revolution week”; a week after the new government was formed (February 7-13, beginning on Monday), called “ordinary week 1”; and a week in May after the so-called “100 days” of the new power (May 16-22, beginning on Monday), called “ordinary week 2.”

Quantitatively compared samples were composed from each outlet, which included only political news. We analyzed full articles for each outlet. As a result, a sample of the newspaper Den’ contains 194,663 words; a sample of the online paper Ukrainska Pravda contains 136,180 words.

We do not apply any differentiation between news and editorials because Ukrainian media are still, as a rule, very opinionated and, in most cases, do not correspond with the formats of Western media (e.g., distinction between news, analysis, and comments sections). Although this can be seen as a big challenge in terms of general media performance, it fits well the end of our study: we can treat selected news items as entire and comparable texts. There are few unscorable paragraphs in the texts.

In this study, we tested two hypotheses. The first predicts that during the period of the Orange revolution, the media’s language will follow the crisis language pattern. At a lower level, this pattern will also be preserved for the election week Two ordinary weeks will show lower (non-crisis) language patterns. Applicability of the CCC theory has been tested on each of its components, namely the metaphor index, use of modals, and language complexity, and on the general crisis communication pattern.

Metaphor Index

The highest score for the metaphor power index is 22.10 for the online paper UP during the “revolution week” and 25.22 for the traditional newspaper Den’ during the “election week.”

The metaphor power index of UP clearly follows the predicted pattern. It reaches its highest score during the “revolution week,” decreases during the election week, and declines further during the two ordinary weeks. The pattern of the traditional Den’ is different: its highest score is reached during the “election week” while the three other weeks (including “revolution week”) have similar, relatively low scores. These metaphor power index differences mainly arise from ← 232 | 233 → high frequencies of metaphors in Den’ (4.89) during the “election week” and high frequencies of metaphors in UP (4.18) during the “revolution week.”

Average frequency of metaphors is 3.90 for UP and 4.12 for Den’. Average intensity scores are 1.66 for UP and 1.55 for Den’. Compared to Den’, UP has a greater percentage of normal (34.15%) and strong (16.35%) metaphors against 26.38% of normal and 14.35% strong metaphors found in Den’. Both outlets have the highest intensity score during the “election week’’ (l.72 for UP and 1.65 for Den’). Both outlets also have an equal average score (3.10) for the content of metaphors. Distribution of metaphors is also similar between different content categories. The category “society” has the highest percentage (33.25% for UP and 34.71% for Den’), followed by the “everyday” metaphors (24.23% for UP and 23.65% for Den’) and “sport” metaphors (16.94% for UP and 16.66% for Den’). In the case of metaphors’ content, both outlets have their highest score during the “revolution week” (3.15 for UP and 3.16 for Den’).


In terms of modals’ analysis, we see a clear decline of empathic modals and a definite rise of content models for the traditional newspaper Den’ while the political situation changes from a crisis to more ordinary times. This pattern (but somewhat less clearly) can also be seen in the online newspaper UP.

Figure 1: Metaphor index (c)

On average, Den’ has higher frequencies of both content (0.38) and empathic modals (0.36). Most frequently, content modals appear in “ordinary week l” for UP (0.46) and in “ordinary week 2” for Den’ (0.45). Empathic modals are most frequent during “election week” for UP (0.37) and equally frequent during “election week” and “revolution week” for Den’ (0.39). ← 233 | 234 →

Figure 2: Modals - Ukrainska Pravda

Figure 3: Modals-Den ’

Language Complexity

Language complexity confirms our expectations in both cases: it has its lowest (almost equal) scores for both “crisis weeks” and much higher scores for both “ordinary weeks.” Average language complexity is 2 for UP and 2.68 for Den’. The lowest language complexity is observed during “election week” for UP (1.84) and “revolution week” for Den’ (2.20). The highest language complexity appears during “ordinary week l” for Den’ (3.42) and during “ordinary week 2” for UP (2.24). ← 234 | 235 →

Figure 4: Language complexity (cc)

Crisis Style Pattern

The average CCC index is 9.13 for UP and 8.08 for Den’. It reaches its highest during “revolution week” for UP (12.38) and “election week” for Den’ (12.30). “Ordinary week 1” has the lowest CCC index for both outlets (6.04 for UP and 3.65 for Den’).


This study clearly shows that CCC theory can easily be applied to a transitional society. There were also no difficulties in applying this theory to media outlets.

Our CCC index in both cases shows clear differences between “crisis weeks” and “ordinary weeks.” For UP, the difference between the highest CCC index during “revolution week” is twice as high as the lowest CCC index during “ordinary week 1.” For Den’, the difference between the highest CCC index during “election week” is more than three times higher than the lowest CCC index during “ordinary week 1.” Thus, the CCC index for UP completely confirmed our hypothesis about crisis language pattern during the Orange revolution. Den’ similarly confirmed our hypothesis but in more general terms, namely it shows great difference in CCC indexes between the “crisis weeks” and the “ordinary weeks,” but it has its highest CCC index during “election week,” not “revolution week” as we might expect. However, such “behavior” of the CCC index for the traditional newspaper Den’ confirms our second hypothesis which expects to find differences in language patterns of both outlets, particularly as far as the “revolution week” is concerned. Based on our previous studies of content and political/partisan differences between traditional and online media, we expected Den’ (as a “representative” of more traditional media) to somewhat downplay the significance of the Orange revolution. In this respect, the result of this study indicates that the CCC theory can be used not only to investigate crisis language ← 235 | 236 → patterns, but also the general political performance of the media, similar to the way in which such behavior is investigated using content or discourse analysis. The question then is: How do we link differences in crisis language patterns between two outlets with their more general role and performance within the political context of the country?

Figure 5: CCC index

The high CCC index of Den’ during “election week” can be explained by the following political factors. It is known that Den’ experiences two major political influences. One comes from the former head of the National Security Council, Evhen Marchyuk, who has not openly supported any candidate in the election race. However, neither has he expressed any concerns about obvious falsifications employed by the pro-presidential groups. The second influence comes from the members of the Social Democratic Party (united) who have been actively involved in the election campaign on the side of the pro-presidential candidate Yanukovich. These two influences may differ in their affiliation with the pro-presidential candidate, but in both cases, the possibility of any civil unrest or disagreement with the final results of the elections has been rejected. Therefore, “election week” was perceived and presented by the newspaper as the highest crisis moment in the recent political situation in the country.

Lower indexes of Den’ during the week of the Orange revolution can have several explanations. In our opinion, they confirm the fact that traditional media have failed to be in the vanguard of the civil movement; they were unprepared and did not believe in the possibility of civil unrest and disobedience. As a result, their message during this week was one of confusion, inability to take any side. Another possible explanation is that, based on its previous experience of “survival” during a period of unrest (as in 2000-2001), Den’ decided to downplay the importance of this protest as well. This approach can be most clearly seen in its metaphor indexes ← 236 | 237 → for “revolution week,” which is almost equal to its metaphor index of “ordinary weeks.” Hoping that this protest would not bring change in elites and that the ruling regime would ultimately regain control over the situation, the newspaper decided not to get at the frontline of protest but to safeguard its position as an “independent” witness. In this respect, discourse is similar to president Kuchma’s and Evhen Marchyuk’s (the political guardian of the newspaper), both of whom took a position “above the battle.” During the Orange revolution, Den’ did not openly and clearly support any of the two candidates, thus it followed in the footsteps of the persons to whom it remained loyal throughout all previous periods of contention.

On the contrary, Ukrainska Pravda has always been at the frontline of the civil opposition movement. Together with other civil groups and political opposition, it registered all violations of the pro-presidential candidate during the election campaign. From early on, this outlet supported the possibility of civil unrest and disobedience if the final results of the elections were falsified. Thus, it was not only prepared for the possibility of the Orange revolution, it prepared the very revolution. We suggest that the CCC index for the crisis language pattern of UP during “revolution week” would be even higher if its journalists and regular contributors had not become the most active participants of the revolution. They simply did not have enough time to write articles because they were spending days and nights on Independence Square in Kyiv or travelling through the regions. Their articles during this period are mainly short reports of the ongomg events which do not require a lot of thinking and beauty of style. However, even in such conditions, they managed to use highly crisis-like language.

Based on this analysis and more specifically the language complexity analysis, we noticed another interesting tendency in media performance: the online paper Ukrainska Pravda clearly serves a more partisan, but also more “watchdog,” function. Its very low language complexity score demonstrates that it does not provide different alternatives (which may correspond with different opinions and points of view), at least not in the same paragraphs. The UP follows a more black-and-white or zero-sum approach than expected if it had followed the objective, nonbiased liberal model of media performance. In comparison, Den’ shows higher levels of language complexity which are related not only to the presentation of different alternatives, but also to its attempts to find consensus between alternatives as well as to respect the position of non-involvement

In this respect, we would like to discuss the two “ordinary weeks” in our analysis. Indeed, very low CC indexes Den’ had during these weeks may be interpreted as a sign that finally, with the change of power in the country, media outlets (which are now free from any political pressure) are making rapid attempts to follow the Western liberal model of objective, unbiased journalism. However, the real political situation in the country is far from being settled and resolved. Already in May (“ordinary week 2” in our analysis), only six months after the elections, the new government and the president were facing unpleasant complaints ← 237 | 238 → and allegations, which are only increasing with time. Ukrainska Pravda has clearly taken the position of the uncompromising critic of the new power holders. As such, its position is reflected in higher (and rising) CCC indexes than Den’ for both ordinary weeks. Certainly, Den’ follows the same pattern of the CCC index rising in the last analyzed week, although at the lower rate. Which of these two tendencies will become decisive in the further logic of traditional media performance? Will they preserve the tendency to react to the critical moments in the country’s political life (as the rising CCC index suggests) or will they go back to the old practice of serving the man in power (as lower Den’ CCC indexes during the last two weeks suggest)? The current political and media situation in Ukraine provides an excellent opportunity to follow these (and possibly other) tendencies, Next spring, the country faces new parliamentary elections as well as a possible change in its political system from a presidential to a parliamentary republic, which can bring more new and interesting data into the analysis. Moreover, further analysis should not neglect television, the country’s most widespread and popular medium.


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