News, nations, and power relations : a study of newsmaking and policymaking as transnational practices
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In this dissertation, I examine the relationship between newsmaking and policymaking as interpretive practices that operate by making sense of the social world based on stocks of knowledge about the nation and its stature and role vis-à-vis other nations. To do so, I study the news coverage of “foreign aid” from four nations – the United States, Britain, India, and Pakistan – over a 15-year period (2001-15). I also examine foreign policymaking in the form of speeches delivered by the leaders of these nations over the same period at the United Nations General Assembly. While machine learning helps me conduct a broad exploration of my large-volume data, critical discourse analysis aided by natural language processing leads to a rich, contextually sensitive understanding of the data based on purposive samples. The analysis illustrates a mutually constitutive relationship between newsmaking and foreign policymaking in all four nations. Both the news media and the political elite in each of these nations draw upon similar conceptions of national identity, respectively. In addition, these conceptions are complementary and transnationally shared. Journalists and policymakers everywhere rely on the same discourses of neoliberalism as the natural economic order and unipolarity as the functional political order of international relations: featuring the United States as the global superpower that enforces a capitalist free trade regime, Britain as a secondary power that helps the U.S. maintain this regime, India as an emerging power that aspires to a secondary position of power similar to Britain’s, and Pakistan as a subordinate nation that values itself as an ally of the superpower. I thus show how nations become willing participants in their own subordination. I also argue that voluntary subordination takes place because newsmaking and policymaking reify nations as the basic building blocks of social reality – thus according ontological equivalence and agency to all the peoples of the world qua nations. Subordinate nations, in particular, value this illusory sense of equality and agency, but it paradoxically makes them complicit in maintaining a hegemonic international order that curtails their choices and leaves them open to exploitation.