Framing terrorism and migration in the USA: the role of the media in securitization processes

Qadri, Syed Nasser (2020) Framing terrorism and migration in the USA: the role of the media in securitization processes. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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American security discourse has intensified profoundly since 9/11. For nearly two decades, anxiety about the threat posed by the foreign other against the American self has influenced policy debates, the legitimization (and execution) of exceptional measures and the public mood. These changes in security discourse have co-occurred with seismic shifts in the increasingly complex media and information marketplace. The proliferation of media actors has stimulated more targeted news produced for niche audiences, meaning that public processing of security issues has also changed dramatically. Cable news in particular has matured into a polarized genre of information that commands the widest audience in the US.

Through a cross-disciplinary approach that integrates securitization theory from International Relations and the broad framing scholarship from political communication, this thesis investigates the relationship of these developments. Specifically, it investigates the impact of media in the social (de)construction of security threats. Two illustrative case studies are considered across two presidential administrations from 2001-2016. First, the securitization of terrorism is explored with an emphasis on the discursive (de)legitimization of torture as an exceptional response. Even among exceptional measures, torture is exceptional: its practice has been banned both during and outside of wartime. That it is even up for debate – never mind that it briefly became “standard operating procedures” and nearly half of all Americans support it – is evidence of the successful securitization of terrorism. The second case study focuses on the securitization of unauthorized immigration, analyzing the contestation of competing remedy proposals and moral evaluations of the foreign other. Despite the oft-invoked immigration-terrorism nexus, American attitudes toward unauthorized immigrants have softened.

In both cases, press framing appears to have influenced public attitudes, above and beyond political elite signals, suggesting that the media can act as an independent and strategic actor. This has implications for securitization theory, which traditionally relegates media to a facilitating role, rather than an independent securitizing actor. This also has broader democratic implications as unelected press actors increasingly assume political roles and drive the (de)legitimization of exceptional measures. Further contributions of this project include the discovery of cross-sectoral patterns, such as the consequences of silencing and the effectiveness of euphemisms. Finally, this thesis demonstrates the value of synthesizing concepts in framing scholarship with securitization theory. Methodological tools commonly used in framing studies – content and public opinion analysis – empower securitization theory with quantitative sophistication and hypothesis-tested assumptions that have been previously overlooked.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: securitization theory, media, framing, public opinion, US foreign policy, immigration, torture, discourse analysis, content analysis, critical security.
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Karyotis, Dr. Georgios and Fogarty, Dr. Brian
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Mr Syed Nasser Qadri
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-77872
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2020 13:14
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2022 08:07
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.77872

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