“Them” like “Us”?: Investigating representation and interpretation of the Arab Uprisings in Dutch Televised News Media through theories of Modernity and Orientalism
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This thesis focuses on Dutch News media representation and interpretation of the Arab Uprising, which began in 2010 with Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution. The predominant focus will be on explaining a perceived ‘shift’ in European response from democratic hopefulness to a more pessimistic attitude towards Islam’s incompatibility with democracy. This research contains analysis of ideology in interpretations and representation by examining the use of particular language in Dutch talk shows and connecting this to theories of MENA (Middle East North Africa) misrepresentation: Joris Luyendijk’s theory concerns faulty mechanisms in Dutch news production, which are systemic issues in media representation; Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism focuses on ways through which Europe historically shaped the world through its relationships with others, which I believe contributes to misrepresentation and subsequent misinterpretation. Said’s theory is concerned with expressions of ‘othering’, and as such, connects this othering to language and ideology. Said explains that the idea of a ‘backward Islam’ is constructed through European self-identification as the opposite of the Orient, and as such, must be compared to European self-identification of itself as modern. Given that the Arab Uprisings represent initial European hope concerning democracy in ‘the Arab world’, the Arab Uprisings provide a proxy for investigating the role of modernity in how Europe interprets itself and its relationship with the other. This thesis departs from the expectation that particular definitions of modernity play a role in explaining the shift from European hope to pessimism on prospects of democracy. Findings indicate that this shift is less drastic than it initially appears, revealing that both predominant interpretations have similarities seemingly invisible in liberal ideology. Furthermore this research finds that modernity plays a significant role in informing cultural domination, and concludes with recommendations based on the analysis of representation.