A Monadic Effect for Press Freedom in Lethal international Conflicts
The preceding analyses have shown that shared press freedom is clearly associated with a reduced propensity to engage in international conflicts; in fact, shared press freedom produced the strongest results. Exploring the role the news media played in the dehumanization of an international opponent added the idea that the transition from nonlethal to lethal actions represented a critical threshold in international conflicts. Chapter 5 demonstrated that press freedom seems to have an effect on the transition over this threshold and it appears to prevent lethal international conflicts between states that share press freedom.
This chapter extends the dehumanization argument further, exploring the possibility that press freedom, regardless of whether it is shared by the opponent, has a modest effect in preventing dehumanization. Press freedom, even when it is not shared by both states in the conflict, might reduce a state's propensity toward lethal crisis escalation. Press freedom might have this effect because, despite the tendency toward leadership dominance of the sources of news in free press societies, the diversity of voices with access to the news media outlets in a free press creates a modest obstacle to a leader's efforts to form dehumanized enemy images. It is clearly not an insurmountable obstacle, as free press states do go to war. However, in less severe international confrontations, the leaders of states with free presses should occasionally be prevented from forming enemy images that are sufficiently dehumanized to justify lethal conflict.