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Iraqi Civilian Death in American Mass Media: The Causes and Consequences of Silence Open Access

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Abstract of ThesisIraqi Civilian Death in American Mass Media: The Causes and Consequences of SilenceThis thesis sets out to explain the causes and consequences of American mass media silence on the subject of civilian death in Iraq in the 2003-2012 war. The thesis finds the principal causes of silence to be: The embedding program, the need for fast, marketable, American-sourced "officialdom", the cultural-political shift to the right after 9/11 and the rise of Fox News, the takeover of advertising interests in media executive management, and various psychological causes including group diffusion of responsibility. The thesis finds the principal consequence of media silence to be dehumanization through omission, effecting widespread American public ignorance (and consequent apathy) of civilian death in Iraq. The concept dehumanization through omission is introduced in this thesis as a variant of traditional dehumanization that can be either intentional or naturally occurring. In this particular variant, the absence of like-identification across ingroups and outgroups, the absence of socially supportive affiliates interested in forming a humanizing counter-narrative, the denial of and disinterest regarding ingroup sin, the denial of event importance, the denial of individual agency, occasional overt dehumanization, sustained infrahumanization, and finally the assumption on the part of the American people that their media was vigilant against civilian death paired with that media'sactual and complete absence of vigilance against death and against the delegitimizing and prevailing war narrative, form a dehumanization that is softer, quieter, and more elusive than overt propaganda, but which in all likelihood is just as fatal to those who suffer its consequences.

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