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Media, Propaganda and the Politics of Intervention

Florian Zollmann

Prominent media scholars have argued that the dissemination of propaganda is an important function of the news media. Yet, despite public controversies about ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’, there has been very little discussion on techniques of propaganda. Building on critical theory, most notably Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model, Florian Zollmann’s pioneering study brings propaganda back to the forefront of the debate. On the basis of a forensic examination of 1,911 newspaper articles, Zollmann investigates US, UK and German media reporting of the military operations in Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Egypt. The book demonstrates how ‘humanitarian intervention’ and ‘R2P’ are only evoked in the news media if so called ‘enemy’ countries of Western states are the perpetrators of human rights violations. Zollmann’s work evidences that the news media plays a crucial propaganda role in facilitating a selective process of shaming during the build-up towards military interventions. This process has led to an erosion of internationally agreed norms of non-intervention, as enshrined in the UN Charter.

“Florian Zollmann's study is a bracing antidote to those who see 'mainstream' journalism through its myths and deny its intrinsic role as an agent of vested power. His powerful dissection of the specious coverage of the crimes of our time, known as humanitarian wars, demands the attention of all aspiring journalists and their teachers.” John Pilger, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker

“This impressive research combines critical theory of media with abundant empirical evidence based on the comparative analysis of media contents in the US, the UK and Germany. Florian Zollmann perfectly blends academic rigor with courageous passion to name the horrors of the politics of intervention and unveil the role of the mainstream media in hiding and supporting the interests of new militarism.” Joan Pedro-Carañana, Saint Louis University-Madrid Campus