Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Use of Rhetoric and the Mass Media in Russia's War on Terror

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Use of Rhetoric and the Mass Media in Russia's War on Terror

Article excerpt


Russian President Vladimir Putin has built his political career on fighting terrorism in Russia. The apparent early "successes" of the 1999 conventional military campaign in Chechnya have been replaced by drawn-out guerrilla warfare, which has become a terror campaign aimed at striking civilian targets in Russia. The mass media are an important instrument for both sides of this conflict, which are fighting for the hearts, minds, and sympathies of their audiences. The focus of this article is to examine how the Russian mass media present the key political actors' messages. This article focuses on matters such as the rhetoric used and the significance of the time and place that the statements were made.

The issues and rhetoric that surround terrorism in Russia can be most confusing. In the run-up to the second Chechen War, in 1999, domestic terrorism, perpetrated by Chechens, was considered to be a Russian problem. For their prosecution of "antiterrorist actions" in Chechnya, and alleged human rights violations, the international community criticized Russia. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, provided the Russian authorities with the opportunity to link Chechen terrorism with the global war on terror, which is being led by the United States. In doing this, the Russian authorities hope to reduce criticism of the Chechnya campaign, a calculation that seems to be working.

Rhetoric, and its use through the conduit of the mass media, is an important aspect of society, especially when society is stressed by conflict, which can have a cultural/ideological component to it. It is a war over hearts and minds-that is being waged in the public information space. This is a war that is being fought over the perception of reality, rather than "hard facts." In this information/ideology war, there is a struggle to maintain acceptance and legitimacy for policies and actions. This article is divided into a number of sections that deal with a small section of the broader questions of how and why the mass media issues certain statements. It begins with a brief description of rhetoric and its use, starting with a historical perspective and the use of rhetoric in a more contemporary sense. By doing so, the foundations of analysis for how the various extracts from the mass media are given. Another important aspect that needs to be explained early is the definition of the media's role in the war on terrorism. This section starts with the Western "good practice" definition. However, another definition is also given, the definition of how the Russian authorities view the mass media's role.

Some basic facts and figures on Russia's casualties as a result of terrorist acts are given. Then terrorism and terrorists are defined. Because of the emotions and politics that surround this issue, it is particularly contentious and has a tendency to cloud our understanding and judgment. It starts with the Russian authorities definition of terrorists and terrorism, before finishing with an academic definition.

The article then analyzes various rhetorical frames that are being used by key Russian actors. The first of these looks at the issue of "normalizing" the Russian war on terror in the international arena. Then the lack of understanding and double standards are examined, which is followed by calls for unity in the war on terror. The article concludes with attempts to close the rhetorical gap between Russia and the West through examples of shared history and mutual suffering. It should be noted that a number of extracts could contain more than one of the rhetorical frames.

Rhetoric: A Brief Description

In a classical sense, rhetoric relates to the discussion of a special topic, which is influenced by emotion and character. In this sense: "Let rhetoric be the power to observe the persuasiveness of which any particular matter admits"; additionally, proof is achieved more effectively when speech uses a real or an apparent aspect of a particular subject. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.