From the Orient to the Occident: An analysis of the underlying global media discourse

A new global “media ecology” is currently emerging, with political and economic powers in non-Western parts of the world, such as India and China, playing a more substantive and independent role in the global media sphere (Khorana 2012, p.39).

Despite this shift from traditional geo-political powers in the West, a neo-Orientalist framing in Western mainstream media continues to exist (Khorana 2012, p.40). This is reflected in the familiar racial undertones in Western media in which foreign native cultures are essentialised through age-old parochial stereotypes (Khorana 2012, p.40). This can be attributed to the deeply ethnocentric assumptions held by society at large, which are manifested in all facets of life. In an educational context, for example, ethnocentrism is evident in the way international students are perceived as weak, helpless and in deficit (Marginson 2012, p.5). Such stereotypes are often perpetuated in films, as revealed in the musical comedy movie Pitch Perfect whereby the Asian characters are represented as submissive and meek, as well as cold and non-assimilating (Chang 2013).

The Australian media’s reporting of the Indian media’s coverage of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne epitomises this neo-Orientalist framework (Khorana 2012, p.39). Australian accounts focused on the use of graphic imagery rather than factual knowledge in Indian television networks, who arguably invoked a “Bollywoodisation” of news rather than engaging in an informed debate (Khorana 2012, p.45). Khorana argues that such criticisms of Indian media reflect an underlying neo-Orientalist discourse in which India is perceived as inferior, with lower standards of factual truth-seeking and literacy (2012, p.45) and a less rational view of the world (2012, p.44).

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A reaction to this underlying media, and political, discourse was evident in the foreign media coverage of the racial riots in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, where Russian and Iranian media printed scornful remarks about the police responses to the protests (Piven 2014). This reporting was subjected to similar criticism to that directed at the Australian coverage of the Indian racial attacks in Melbourne, albeit a form of “Occidentalism” in which there is a focus on negative representations of the Western world (Buruma & Margalit 2014).

US media coverage of the Ferguson riots was also subject to criticism, with claims that it was “superficial, sensational and lacking context…feeding well-worn stereotypes and narratives” (Youngblood 2014). This challenges one of the premises of the neo-Orientalist framework, which suggests that Western journalism outlets uphold the “fourth estate” function of media (Khorana 2011, p.44). At the same time, it also indicates the way news is particular to each country – unlikely to share the same frame of reference due to its “domestication” according to the historical, cultural and political sensibilities of audiences (Clausen 2004, p.27).

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Screen shots of foreign media coverage of the Ferguson protests

With the growth in media power accruing outside the West, the challenge will be for these new media capitals not to mimic Western media but to position themselves as global players, developing a cosmopolitan orientation by overcoming difference and diversity while reviving serious journalism free from the implicit cultural stereotypes evident in existing media discourse.

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Reference List:

Buruma, I & Margalit, A 2004, ‘Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies’, Foreign Affairs, vol.83, iss.2, accessed 13 September 2014, <http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/59557/g-john-ikenberry/occidentalism-the-west-in-the-eyes-of-its-enemies>.

Chang, Y 2013a, ‘Lucy Liu and Pitch Perfect: how “Girl Power” masks racist media’, Gender and Popular Media – Thoughts by Yuri, weblog post, 3 February, accessed 13 October 2014, <http://yoodychang.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/lucy-liu-and-pitch-perfect-how-girl-power-masks-racist-media/>.

Chang, Y 2013b, ‘Screenshot of Asian characters’, image, Gender and Popular Media – Thoughts by Yuri, accessed 13 October 2014, <http://yoodychang.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/lucy-liu-and-pitch-perfect-how-girl-power-masks-racist-media/>.

Clausen, L 2004, ‘Localising the Global: ‘Domestication’ Processes in International News Production’, Media Culture Society, vol.26, iss.1, p.25-26.

Fobes, JB n.d., ‘Riot police move in on protesters in Ferguson, Missouri’, image, People, accessed 13 September 2014, <http://www.people.com/article/ferguson-protests-michael-brown-barrack-obama-video>.

Hollings, M n.d., ‘June Flairillustration’, image, Creative Match, accessed 19 September 2014, <http://www.creativematch.com/flair_largeImage.cfm?flairID=5090>.

Khorana, S 2012 “Orientalising the Emerging Media Capitals: The Age on Indian TV’s ‘Hysteria’”, Media International Australia, no.145, p.39-49.

Marginson, S 2012, ‘Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience: International education as self-formation’, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne, p.1-11.

Piven, B  2014a, “‘Afromaidan’: Foreign media cite Ferguson as evidence of US ‘failed state’”, Al Jazeera America, 19 August, accessed 13 September 2014, <http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/19/ferguson-foreignmediaviews.html>.

Piven, B  2014b, ‘Screen shots of foreign media coverage of the Ferguson protests’, image, Jazeera America, 19 August, accessed 13 September 2014, <http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/19/ferguson-foreignmediaviews.html>.

‘Thousands of protesting Indian students at a rally in 2009’ n.d., image, ABC News, accessed 13 September 2014, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-09/indian-students-rally/5012480>.

Youngblood, SL 2014, ‘Steven L. Youngblood: The media went overboard in Ferguson’, Kansas City Star, 24 August, accessed 13 September 2014, <http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readers-opinion/as-i-see-it/article1278337.html>.

 

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One thought on “From the Orient to the Occident: An analysis of the underlying global media discourse

  1. Reblogged this on jonathan1723 and commented:
    As regards the following quotation: “With the growth in media power accruing outside the West, the challenge will be for these new media capitals not to mimic Western media but to position themselves as global players, developing a cosmopolitan orientation by overcoming difference and diversity while reviving serious journalism free from the implicit cultural stereotypes evident in existing media discourse.”

    This reads to me as “overcoming partisanship” via an abstract ideal of universality and impartiality. The article is certainly a thought-provoking one; but while objectivity can be a very good thing, I doubt that a cosmopolitan “impartiality” is likely to any more authentically impartial than the “International” (sic) community” and “International (sic) Criminal Court,” which latter both primarily serve the interests of selected individual persons from relatively dominant countries.

    However, it will be interesting to see whether any Chinese media outlets will, like Russia Today, make an impact in English-speaking countries; or indeed France, Germany and other regions.

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