Framing the foreigner : a close reading of readers' comments on Thought leader blogs on xenophobia published between May and June, 2008

Mwilu, Lwanga Racheal (2011) Framing the foreigner : a close reading of readers' comments on Thought leader blogs on xenophobia published between May and June, 2008. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

This study was conducted to identify and analyse Mail and Guardian Online moderation outputs which contradicted the platform‟s own stated policy on hate speech and other forms of problematic speech. The moderation outputs considered were a battery of readers‟ comments that were posted in response to Thought Leader blogs on xenophobia published between May and June, 2008. This was the same period a series of xenophobic attacks was taking place in some parts of South Africa, leaving an estimated 62 people dead, more than 30,000 displaced, and countless victims injured and robbed of their property. The attacks were a catalytic moment that enabled a whole range of discursive positions to be articulated, defended, contested and given form in the media. They also made visible the potential tensions between free speech on the one hand, and hate and other problematic speech on the other. Using qualitative methods of thematic content analysis, document review, individual interviews, and an eclectic approach of framing analysis and rhetorical argumentation, this study found instances of divergence between the M&G policy and practice on User Generated Content. It found that some moderator-approved content advocated hate, hatred, hostility, incitement to violence and/or harm, and unfair discrimination against foreign residents, contrary to the M&G policy which is informed by the constitutional provisions in both section 16 of the Bill of Rights and section 10 of the Equality Act. Based on examples in the readers‟ comments of how „the foreigner‟ was made to signify unemployment, poverty, disease, unfair competition, and all manner of deprivation, and bearing in mind how such individuals have also become a site for the violent convergence of different unresolved tensions in the country, the study‟s findings argue that the M&G – a progressive paper dealing with a potentially xenophobic readership (at least a portion of it) – should have implemented its policy on acceptable speech more effectively. The study also argues that the unjustifiable reference to foreigners as makwerekwere, illegals, illegal aliens, parasites, invaders and border jumpers, among other terms, assigned them a diminished place – that of unwanted foreigner – thereby reproducing the order of discourse that utilises nationality as a space for the expurgation of the „other‟. The study argues that the use of bogus (inflated) immigration statistics and repeated reference to the foreigners‟ supposedly parasitic relationship to the country‟s resources also unfairly constructed them as the „threatening other‟ and potentially justified action against them.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Xenophobia, Hate speech, Freedom of speech, Mail & Guardian, Thought leader, Blogs, South Africa, Online journalism
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN4699 Journalism
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Journalism and Media Studies
ID Code:2589
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:11 Apr 2012 07:39
Last Modified:11 Apr 2012 07:39
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