The Events of September 11 in the French-Canadian Press

By Belkhodja, Chedly; Richard, Chantal | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Events of September 11 in the French-Canadian Press


Belkhodja, Chedly, Richard, Chantal, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


ABSTRACT/RESUME

Following the tragic September 11 attacks, Canadians felt a need to understand the causes and consequences. In the face of such dramatic events, the media began to produce informative content in an effort to reassure a worried public. The first part of this study presents the results of a statistical analysis of the main French-language newspapers in Canada. The second offers an interpretation of a content and lexical analysis. Three themes--representations of Islam, immigration, and multiculturalism--were studied.

Les evenements tragiques du 11 Septembre ont provoque un grand besoin de comprehension de la part de la population canadienne. Cette etude a pour objectif d'analyser le contenu de la presse francophone. Une premiere section du travail presente des resultats d'une analyse statistique de certains journaux francophones du Canada. Une deuxieme section propose une interpretation sommaire des resultats de l'analyse de contenu et lexicale. Nous avons retenu trois themes analyses dans l'etude de John Biles et Humera Ibrahim (2003), soit les representations de l'Islam, l'immigration et le multiculturalisme.

INTRODUCTION

Following the events of September 11, Canadians felt a need to understand the causes and consequences. Confronted with the magnitude of the tragedy, North American journalists found it extremely difficult to grasp this new course of history; the result was errors, easy value judgments, and confusion between religion and extremist politics. (1) Any news directly or indirectly related to the Arab world and the Near East was [translation] "linked to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington" (Maurice 2002, 1). The media bad to clearly define the boundaries of an international scene that had been changing drastically since the end of the cold war, one that was now confronted with new threats such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and the rise of radical Islamism. In the face of such dramatic events, the press began to produce informative content in an effort to reassure a worried public. Major French language newspapers such as Le Devoir and La Presse called upon a plethora of experts, scholars, and researchers. These newspapers also received countless editorials that reflected ordinary citizens' desire to speak out and express some kind of solidarity with victims in New York and Washington.

The objective of this study is to analyse the content of the Francophone press. The first segment presents the results of a statistical analysis of the main French-language newspapers in Canada. The second offers an interpretation of the content and lexical analyses. We analyzed three themes chosen from a similar study by John Biles and Humera Ibrahim (2003) on the media coverage of September 11: representations of Islam, immigration, and multiculturalism. According to this research, it seems that the anglophone press was anything but subtle, especially the widely cited National Post, which took a right-wing, conservative stand. Biles and Ibrahim also referred to the annual report, Anti-Islam and the Media published by the Canadian Islamic Congress, which addresses the differences between the English and French press in Canada. According to the authors, the events of September 11 provided fodder for inward-looking people who had been presenting Islam as a major threat to the West. From this perspective, immigration benefits Muslim extremist groups, and some journalists presented Canada as a port of entry for terrorists. Multiculturalism is widely criticized for diluting the Canadian identity. From the early 1990s, this criticism was voiced by right-wing populist parties--the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance, and the Confederation of Regions Party (COR)--which considered the discourse of diversity as particularly harmful to the definition of a Canadian national identity (Harrison 1995; Laycock 2001; Patten 2002). A more progressive discourse is also represented in the press, one that highlights Canada's distinction from our neighbours to the south as a leader in diversity, tolerance, and pluralism; multiculturalism is presented as an alternative to the increasing homogenization of the western world. …

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