Newspapers follow suit when Danish politicians go to war

Apr 11, 2014
Newspapers follow suit when Danish politicians go to war
The Danish media has paid little attention to the Danish soldiers' actual experiences in combat zones like for instance the Helmand Province in Afghanistan

Danish newspapers mirror to a high degree the viewpoints of the political elite when Danish military participation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya has been on the public agenda during the past 10 years. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have tested the so-called 'elite-driven media' theory on editorial viewpoints on the military engagements and the results may help explain why support for the war efforts have been remarkably consistent in the small and hitherto less belligerent nation.

While political discussions concerning the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have been heated in many countries, political parties and public opinion in Denmark have generally been supportive of the war efforts during the last decade, despite the high level of involvement by Danish forces and – relatively speaking – high level of casualties.

A newly published Danish analysis, conducted by media researchers from The University of Copenhagen, covers five national dailies and their editorial stances on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

"Our research demonstrates, as the 'elite-driven media' theory suggests, that the editorials reflect dominant viewpoints among the political elites: When the elites are in agreement, the newspapers display a similar agreement and reproduce dominant arguments. When political elites disagree, it makes room for a higher degree of diversity among the newspapers," says Professor Stig Hjarvard who has conducted the analysis with his colleague Associate Professor Nete Nørgaard Kristensen. Their findings have been published in the April issue of the international journal Media, War & Conflict.

Limited focus on the soldiers' experience

The four national newspapers Jyllands-Posten, Berlingske, Politiken, and B.T. have generally been supportive of the Danish military efforts, particularly in the case of Afghanistan and Libya. During the invasion of Iraq there was disagreement among the newspapers – mirroring the political divisions in the Danish parliament and public opinion in general. However, when dominant political parties reached consensus about the subsequent deployment of Danish troops in Iraq, critique in the newspapers became less dominant.

"The analysis clearly shows that the arguments in favor of military efforts have to a large extent concerned humanitarian ideals and general international obligations towards alliance partners in the 'war against terror'. The editorials of Danish dailies have only to a limited extent dealt with the specific assignments, problems and consequences Danish soldiers have been facing during the three wars, explains Nete Nørgaard Kristensen who points to the niche newspaper Information as the only media in the analysis that departs from the overall pattern. To a higher degree, this newspaper has been able to develop and sustain editorial viewpoints independent of existing consensus among the political establishment.

"Such niche media as Information may, therefore, play an important role for sustaining alternative arguments when the and the major display a high level of consensus," she says.

Stig Hjarvard concludes: "Considering the important role of national news media in framing the public agenda during these three wars, the existing news supply may not be sufficient to ensure a diverse representation of arguments and viewpoints when politicians have decided to go to war."

Explore further: Study examines mental health toll exacted on civilians working with military in war zones

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Digital media technology changes nature of war

Sep 21, 2010

Dr. Sebastian Kaempf, from UQ's School of Political Science and International Studies, says he believes that digital new media technology has altered the nature of war.

Some biologists shun new media

Mar 08, 2013

An online survey of neuroscientists in Germany and the United States found that, although in both countries researchers believe "new media" such as blogs and online social networks are important in influencing public opinion ...

Recommended for you

Computer games give a boost to English

9 hours ago

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

14 hours ago

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

Healthy working environment is a salvation

16 hours ago

Contract workers in Norway often face the worst and most unpredictable working conditions. But good management and support from colleagues makes these workers more robust.

Why marvellous isn't awesome any more

16 hours ago

Using the Spoken British National Corpus 2014, a very large collection of recordings of real-life, informal, spoken interactions between speakers of British English from across the United Kingdom, Cambridge ...

User comments : 0