All You Will See Is the One You Once Knew: Portrayals from the Falklands/Malvinas War in U.S. and Latin American Newspapers

Article excerpt

In April 1982, most of the world was taken by surprise when Argentina invaded the Falkland/Malvinas Islands thus initiating an international conflict that escalated into a war with Great Britain. The cause of the war was a struggle for the sovereignty of islands claimed by both Argentina and Great Britain. Ten weeks after the initial invasion, the war came to an end with Argentina's surrender on June 14. However, the dispute at its root, the question of sovereignty, remains unresolved.

The Falkland/Malvinas War was reported as a major news story all around the world and the media's depiction of those events represented the war for those not directly engaged by it. Those media accounts formed narratives that "acquire[d] layers of meaning in the course of their use in everyday life; some ... authentic, others ... contrived [but] all are constructed" (Aulich, 1992, p. 3). Thus, news became (versions of) reality.

This research explores the portrayals of the main narratives of the Falklands/Malvinas War presented by four major American1 newspapers: Excelsior (Mexico), El Mercurio (Chile), El Universal (Venezuela), and The New York Times (United States). We situate the work both theoretically and methodologically. Then we present contextual information regarding this specific war, the countries, and the newspapers analyzed. A literature review of previous rhetorical studies about the Falklands/Malvinas War is followed by a description of our method. Finally, the textual analysis is followed by a discussion of how the discursive strategies perform ideological work.

Theoretical Framework

When Edward Said published Orientalism in 1978, it marked an end to a particular kind of area studies (i.e., an unselfconscious abandon). In international mass communication research, no less than in formal area studies, former paradigms such as development and communication, diffusion of innovations or even dependency studies were problematized. If the MacBride Report of 1980 was the apogee of comparative communication research, it also signaled the desire for full participation of Third World countries in communication policy matters, their own and globally. However, the MacBride Report also suggested, perhaps because of its cacophony, that international mass communication research and policy had become mired in local politics.

The advent of a critical postmodernism (Best & Kellner, 1991) and the articulation of post-colonialism as a theoretical position gave new life to the ways in which critical international media research could be conceived and conducted. While both remain controversial, their articulation and the new research directions stimulated and reinvigorated international media research. Even before those movements became part of the North American academic vocabulary, in Latin America in particular, the '60s and '70s saw on the one hand, a plethora of research into the diffusion of innovations, and on the other a critical reaction to this research stream (Marques de Melo, 1988). Postmodernist discourses had also long been explored by Spanishlanguage artists and researchers. (Anderson, 1998) African and Asian researchers also have introduced particular perspectives and struggle to be heard by the global research community.2 This article makes a contribution to comparative communication research and Latin American area studies, by incorporating some of the insights of postmodernisms while retaining a critical perspective (Best & Kellner, 1991). It is comparative but with a difference discussed below.

The four newspapers' coverage of the Falklands/Malvinas War is examined; categorizing them exposes examples of why comparative media research must now be self-critical. Of the four countries/newspapers studied, three are Latin American (formerly Spanish colonies), two are North American (Mexico and the United States), three are written in Spanish, one in English, and the news story under scrutiny concerns a dispute over what was heretofore (and is presently) part of the British Empire. …