Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

The Us–cuba Policy Shift as Viewed by the New York Times: A Critical Analysis from the Island

Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

The Us–cuba Policy Shift as Viewed by the New York Times: A Critical Analysis from the Island

Article excerpt

Cuba in the US media and some theoretical reference to consider

Historically, the representation of Cuba in the US mainstream media has been, at least, highly controversial; very often, it has been, rather, blatant misrepresentation. This historical tendency can be verified in many works written in both Cuba and the US.1

It is well established that there can be various factors that influence the way discourse is built. In the case discussed in this article, the importance of two of them should be highlighted: the context of the historical and present-day bilateral relations between Cuba and the US, as well as the social subjectivity which encompasses ideology and beliefs, among other components.

Throughout the years, the bilateral relations between Cuba and the US have been characterised, to a great extent, by conflict, which accounts for the use of journalistic and media discourse in general as a weapon in that confrontation; nonetheless, that conflict undergoes certain modifications now, after 17 December 2014 (17D).2

With regard to ideology and social subjectivity in the US, it can be useful to look into the work of Jorge Hernández.3 Although there is a complex ideological spectrum within the US, often resulting in diverse views in the media, Hernández has put forth a characterisation of what he regards as the prevailing set of beliefs and world view of that country's dominant elite, which includes political, economic and mainstream media circles. For example, one of those beliefs is that capitalism is the ultimate system, of which they are the world leaders, and thus any attempt anywhere on the planet to provide an alternative is lashed out at and even considered dangerous to their national security. Other features described by Hernandez are liberalism, individualism, emphasis on private property, a messianic attitude, the manifest destiny, the restriction on the role played by the State, the conviction that the market and competition play a fundamental role in the regulation of social relations,4 and the strong belief that the US are a chosen people, among others. Broadly speaking, Hernández argues, conservatism thrives in the US within a liberal matrix.

The research and brief notes on the methodology used

In this context, we analysed the discourse of The New York Times (NYT) in the period between 17 December 2014 and 28 December 2015, that is, over the first year after the beginning of the new US Cuba policy. While conducting the analysis, a key scientific question has been whether the NYT s discourse somewhat reflects Hernández's views on the predominant beliefs in US elite groups. A total of 190 articles were studied from the NYT website on Cuba.5

It is relevant to analyse the discourse of NYT due to the three reasons listed below, among others:

* This newspaper cleared the way, in the mainstream media, for the new policy, by publishing a series of editorials that drew attention to the issue and promoted the policy change towards the island.6

* Subsequently, NYT has followed up on the evolution of the talks and the change derived from the new policy, thus becoming a sequential record of the events and prospects, from the ideological perspective of the journal.

* NYT is a very influential newspaper, both in the US and the world.7

Critical discourse analysis (CDA) has been used as a method created from an interdisciplinary approach aimed at revealing intention, ideology and other components of social subjectivity in discourse, as well as unveiling strategies used to discursively build a negative image of other social groups and their ideology or world view, and/or a positive image of the speaker/writer's social group and his/ her ideology or world view.

Therefore, the consideration of the ideological dimension has been crucial, although other dimensions have also played a role in achieving a comprehensive analysis: the pragmatic dimension focuses on the intention of what is said, the linguistic means used according to that intention, and the context; the semantic dimension is relevant when it comes to the meaning of the words used and the concrete manifestation of that meaning in discourse; the semiotic dimension considers the sense existing in discourse beyond what is said verbally, that is, implications and presuppositions which often require a greater intellectual effort to be uncovered; the political dimension takes into account the political interests, motivations and relations that may be causes of what is said; the historical dimension provides the necessary view on the antecedents and evolution of the phenomena discussed in discourse; the logical dimension examines the logical connections of what is said; and the cultural dimension looks at the most general cultural basis of the discourse built. …

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