Mapping the Enemy Image through Different Conflict Stages
When a state enters a war or commits mass atrocities against a particular group, the mass media are believed to be essential in mobilizing the public for the upcoming violence in their name. This process can include the creation of enemy images so stripped of their human qualities that their destruction becomes justifiable and even desirable. But what happens when conflicts are ending and the political will emerges for peace and reconciliation? Does the mass media reflect the changing intensity of conflict through its depiction of the enemy and help to rehumanize groups that were previously dehumanized? This paper addresses these questions though an analysis of the media frames used to describe the adversary through different stages of conflict from pre-violence to peace and reconciliation. It does this in three sections. The first defines enemy images and related concepts such as demonization and dehumanization and also reviews some of the relevant literature on these topics. The second describes the methodology of the study, which involves a media content analysis of five case studies involving US military engagement from World War Two to the 2003 Iraq War. The content analysis is based on categories that emerged from the literature and case study media content. The final section reviews the findings to identify how the media’s framing of the adversary changes through different conflict stages and to determine if rehumanization takes place as conflicts shift into peace and reconciliation.