Direct hate speech vs. indirect fear speech. A multimodal critical discourse analysis of the Sun’s editorial "1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis"


After the 2015 Paris attacks, hate speech against Muslims gathered momentum and further legitimized in popular media outlets across Europe. After “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion”, the United Nations accused some British newspapers of “hate speech” (ECRI 2016). Following on previous research (Sindoni 2016, 2017), this paper sets out to investigate how hate speech in mainstream British media is constructed both verbally and multimodally, with particular reference to the investigation of rhetoric inducing anti-Muslim and Islamophobic hatred. The paper adopts a multimodal critical discourse framework of analysis (Fairclough 2000; Machin, Mayr 2012). As a case study, the “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis” The Sun’s editorial reporting on a poll conducted by Survation and related multimodal materials will be investigated with a view to unearthing 1) linguistic strategies, such as classification of social actors, including, but not limited to, personalisation vs. impersonalisation, data aggregation, and structural opposition (van Leeuwen 1996; van Dijk 1993b); 2) visual strategies (Kress, van Leeuwen 2006; Bednarek, Caple 2012, 2015), including representational techniques (e.g. reactional processes, dimensional and quantitative topography), interactive perspectives, and organisational distribution of visual items. Considering the combination of linguistic and visual news value (Bell 1991; Bednarek, Caple 2014), the paper will ultimately suggest that 1) resources need to be investigated in their reciprocal interplay to scrutinize the covert agenda of media outlets that may promote indirect forms of hate speech and that 2) less explicit forms of hate speech are no less dangerous than explicit incitement to racial hatred in that they can foster a siege mentality by drawing on an us/them rhetoric.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v28p267

Keywords: hate speech; British tabloids; multimodality; multimodal critical discourse analysis; media representation of Muslims; fear speech; Islamophobia


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