Differentiated visibilities: RT Arabic’s narration of Russia’s role in the Syrian war

Dajani, D., Gillespie, M. and Crilley, R. (2019) Differentiated visibilities: RT Arabic’s narration of Russia’s role in the Syrian war. Media, War and Conflict, (doi: 10.1177/1750635219889075) (Early Online Publication)

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Abstract

This article focuses on the social media content of RT Arabic – formerly Russia Today – the Russian state-funded international news media organization. It presents results of a qualitative analysis of social media posts in order to assess whether and how RT Arabic constructs a strategic narrative of its involvement in the war in Syria. It also contributes to conceptualizations of how state-sponsored strategic narratives operate in practice and can be mobilized as a soft power resource. Our key finding is that, while Russia’s military presence is rendered almost invisible on RT Arabic, its role as a political and diplomatic actor is highly visible. Although Syrian civilians feature as the most prominent actors, they do so mostly as helpless victims and passive witnesses. Syria is represented as a non-sovereign, dysfunctional state, vulnerable to incursion by foreign forces that are vying for power and control in the region. In RT’s representation of the conflict, Russia is portrayed as coming to the aid of Syrians and Syria, as a benign presence promoting the establishment of good governance and skilfully managing the complex diplomatic relations surrounding the conflict. Rather than using straightforward propagandistic or hard-line ideological narratives, RT Arabic creates its own style of persuasive soft power on social media. This style is characterized by the differentiated visibilities afforded to Russia’s military, diplomatic and political roles. Deftly balancing exposure and concealment, RT Arabic performs a legitimating function – rendering Russia’s presence and power in a positive light.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was part of the ‘Reframing Russia for the Global Mediasphere: From Cold War to ‘Information War’?’ project and funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, ref: AH/P00508X/1. We would also like to acknowledge the financial support of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at The Open University, UK that enabled Dr Deena Dajani to work with Prof Marie Gillespie and Dr Rhys Crilley and in so doing extended their research programme.
Status:Early Online Publication
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Crilley, Dr Rhys
Authors: Dajani, D., Gillespie, M., and Crilley, R.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Journal Name:Media, War and Conflict
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN:1750-6352
ISSN (Online):1750-6360
Published Online:12 December 2019

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