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Media 'militant' tendencies; how strike action in the news press is discursively constructed as inherently violentTrade union endorsed strike action is systematically demonised in reports in the popular mainstream UK press (see for example Davies 2014), despite public opinion not reflecting this level of antagonism towards industrial action. One consistent strategy used to (mis)represent strikers is to habitually relate this form of protest to threats of intimidation and violence by using militarised discourse. We assert that a key word in the discursive construction of strikes is ‘militant’ and its variant forms (e.g. ‘militants’ and ‘militancy’) which is routinely used to express a negative attitude towards strikes in an attempt to smear them as a legitimate form of protest. We draw on the theory of semantic prosody to show that the sense of ‘militant’ is tarnished through its repeated use in reports of terrorism, often in the same edition used to report on strike action (for instance, the junior doctors’ strike in the UK). We use the WMatrix corpus tool to show that in the 21st Century, ‘militant’ unequivocally appears in semantic domains of violence and aggression in a 274,122 word corpus of news articles from 2000-2015, and therefore this sense is carried over to trade activity when used to report on strike action. This strategy contributes to a neoliberal ideology which promotes individualism, competition and the free market, at the expense of collective action and protection of workers’ rights.
Stark choices and brutal simplicity: the blunt instrument of constructed oppositions in news editorialsThis chapter uses a typology of oppositional syntactic triggers (e.g. ‘either X or Y’, ‘X but Y’) to show how the conflicting positions of opposing political parties are reproduced and perpetuated by the UK press as simplistic mutually exclusive binaries in General Election campaigns. The premise is that political discourse is predisposed to representing complex moral positions, policies and practices as simple polarised ‘stark’ contrasts, often reducing them to a rudimentary choice between GOOD and EVIL, POSITIVE and NEGATIVE, US and THEM. Using a corpus of data from the daily editorial (or ‘leader’) columns of UK national newspapers in the 2010, 2015 and 2017 UK general election campaigns, the chapter shows how the conflict can be constructed through discourse by the artificial prising apart of more ambiguous and intricate political positions and is strongly facilitated by the very nature of the syntax available for representing alternative views, disguising any shades of grey which are likely to exist. A search for syntactic frames and triggers based on a typology developed by Davies (2012, 2013) and Jeffries (2010), show how oppositions are used to promote Conservative policies at the expense of the Labour Party by constructing ‘stark contrasts’ between them.