Johan Galtung says that it’s not so much what is being said, but what is not being said. Today my class will be reflecting on the use of language and stories in the media.

Discussion questions:

  • how do stories in the media impact our understanding of the world?
  • how can we learn to “read between the lines”?
  • how can awareness of narrative help us be more critical of media and politics?
  • what is the story’s raison detre? ie why was a story told, what is the narrator is getting at?

Julia Bacha – One Story, One Film, Many Changes.


Chomsky – Manufacturing Consent (students to watch at home…)


Reading between the lines

Checklist for careful thinking:

  1. What is the source?
  2. What is the basic message?
  3. What is presented in support of the view?
  4. How is the message being conveyed?
  5. Who stands to gain? p. 28

Shaky foundations:

  1. Bold assertions
  2. Untrustworthy authorities
  3. Reasoning with the wrong facts
  4. Rationalisation
  5. Downright lying
  6. Faulty premise for an argument
  7. Hasty generalization
  8. Mistaking the cause
  9. False analogy
  10. Ignoring the question
  11. Begging the question
  12. Attacking the person not the argument
  13. Pointing to an enemy
  14. Misusing statistics
  15. Meshing fact with opinion
  16. Misusing terms whose meanings have changed p. 32-35

Formula for Propaganda: Scapegoat term = Groundless accusation in future + glittering generality. Eg Terrorists/Socialists threaten/plan to attack the political system/supermarket/middle class p. 58

Monitoring the media: prominence/space; use of photographs; sources; angle of the story; information provided; viewpoint of the reporter; reoccurring words p. 59

Propaganda techniques:

  1. Twisting and distortion; depicting black and white
  2. Selective omission
  3. Incomplete quotation
  4. Persuasive devices eg doctored/clipped photos , testimonials, generalities eg “He has American support because Americans always choose the wrong side”; name calling; innuendo eg. he had been promised a good job; baseless speculation

Between The Lines – Eleanor MacLean, 1981, Black Rose Books, Quebec

For further reading see my blog entry on Critical Discourse Analysis – click here