MASTER’S DEGREE PROGRAMME
Framing Sub-Saharan Africa:
a shift in discourse and ideology?
A Critical Discourse Analysis of written news items published by The Economist between 1990-2020
Thesis supervisor: Dr. Ansgard Heinrich
Second reader: Dr. Richard Stupart
January 16, 2023
DECLARATION BY THE CANDIDATE I hereby declare that this thesis, “Framing Sub-Saharan Africa: a shift in discourse and ideology? is my own work and by my own effort and that it has not been accepted anywhere else for the award of any other degree or diploma. Where sources of information have been used, they have been acknowledged.
Name: Denise Overkleeft Date: 15-01-2023
Over the past 30 years, scholars have criticized international media for reproducing and maintaining racist stereotypes and preconceptions about Africans. This has led to the academic conceptualization of an Afro-pessimism as a discourse that frames events happening in sub-Sahara Africa. However, in recent years, scholars have recognized a shift towards an Afro-optimist discourse that is more positive about Sub-Saharan Africa and lifts its inhabitants out of their socially-constructed inferior position. This thesis analyses whether there has indeed been a shift from an Afro-pessimist discourse to an Afro-optimist discourse and if so, whether this shift has ideological implications. Through a critical discourse analysis of three special issues of The Economist, this thesis shows that the Afro-optimist discourse has placed itself in the discourse order, but this development has not changed the existing power structures: Sub-Saharan Africa and its inhabitants continue to be subordinated to the West and its citizens. Despite the shift towards more optimistic coverage, development continues to be defined and measured in Western terms.
Introduction ... 7
I. Theoretical Framework I – Framing...11
I.I Framing ... 11
I.I.I News Framing Process ... 12
I.I.II Foreign News Framing ... 14
I.I.III News Frames ... 16
I.I.IV Framing Dimensions ... 17
I.II Discourse ... 18
I.II.I Order of discourses ... 19
I.II.II Ideology ... 21
I.II.III Fairclough’s approach of CDA ... 23
I.II.IV Intertextuality... 25
II. Theoretical Framework II – Sub-Saharan Africa’s media representation ...27
II.I Social Practice: Modernization Ideologies ... 27
II.I.I 19th century European nation-state ideology ... 28
II.I.II 20th/21st century African Renaissance-ideology... 31
II.II Discursive practice: a shift? ... 34
II.II.I Afro-pessimist discourse... 34
II.II.II Afro-optimist discourse ... 38
II.II.III A change of discourse order ... 43
III.I CDA Movement ... 49
III.II Fairclough’s CDA Model: ... 51
III.III Case Study ... 54
III.IV Key Concepts ... 56
III.IV.I The Afro-pessimist discourse ... 56
III.IV.II The Afro-optimist discourse... 56
III.V Data Collection and sampling ... 57
III.VI Limitations: ... 59
IV. A cda of The Economist ...60
IV.I 2004 Issue: First get the basics right ... 61
IV.I.I Textual dimension ... 61
IV.I.II Discursive practice dimension ... 64
IV.I.III Social practice dimension... 66
IV.II 2013 issue: A hopeful Continent ... 67
IV.II.I Textual dimension ... 67
IV.II.II Discursive practice dimension ... 71
IV.II.III Social practice dimension ... 75
IV.III 2020 Issue: The African Century ... 78
IV.III.I Textual dimension... 78
IV.III.II Discursive practice dimension ... 82
IV.III.III Social practice ... 84
IV.IV the discourse order analysed ... 85
Appendices I: Color Coding 2004 issue ...91
I - Article nr 1: First get the basics right – PIC ... 92
I - Article nr. 2: The rule of big men or the rule of law? ... 93
I - Article nr. 3 Breathing life into dead capital ... 97
I - Article nr. 4: Plenty of mistakes to learn from... 100
I - Article nr. 5: Coping with conflict ... 101
I - Article nr. 6: Love and death... 104
I - Article nr. 7: Opportunities, mostly missed ... 107
I - Article nr. 8: An addictive lullaby... 110
I - Article nr. 9: Africa's engine... 111
Appendix II: Color Coding 2013 issue... 114
II – Article nr. 10: A hopeful continent... 115
II – Article nr. 11: Tired of war ... 118
II – Article nr. 12: Bye-bye Big Men ... 118
II – Article nr. 13: Courage, mon brave ... 125
II – Article nr. 14: Doing it my way ... 128
II – Article nr. 15: The wealth beneath ... 133
II – Article nr. 16: Cheerleaders and naysayers ... 135
Appendix III: Color Coding 2020 Issue ... 137
III – Article nr. 17: Africa is changing so rapidly, it is becoming hard to ignore ... 138
III – Article nr. 18: Africa’s population will double by 2050 ... 139
III – Article nr. 19: Migration is helping Africa in many ways ... 141
III – Article nr. 20: Parts of Africa will remain unstable for decades ... 144
III – Article nr. 21: African countries must get smarter with their agriculture ... 145
III – Article nr. 22: Many of Africa’s economies are doing well ... 148
III – Article nr. 23: Why are some African countries improving and others not? ... 151
Appendix IV: Codebook ... 153
XI. Bibliography ... 156
Over the past 30 years, scholars have criticized international media for reproducing and maintaining racist stereotypes about Africans. In general, news media have been condemned for treating Africa as one country, thereby neglecting the differences between the many ethical and social groups on the continent. Furthermore, journalists are criticized for reducing the identity of the people - especially in Sub-Sahara Africa - to the role of passive victims, corrupt and incompetent politicians and of brutal animals who slaughter each other (Nothias, 2014: 13-14, Franks, 2013: 151). These negative representations of Africa are materialized through international media coverage that is scarce, lacking in context and episodic (Franks, 2013: 167). As Zerai (2010) puts it: “Stories are largely event-based and crisis-oriented,”
(Zerai, 2010: 89). According to Nothias (2014), this flux of news production is a reflection of an Afro-pessimist discourse, which does not provide any prospect of future development in Sub-Saharan Africa (Nothias, 2014: 15).
In the early 2010s however, scholars recognized a shift in news coverage of Sub- Saharan Africa by international media (e.g. Franks, 2017; Paterson, 2017; Havnevik, 2015: 1;
Flamenbaum, 2017; Wright, 2017; Wrong, 2015). More and more journalists have embraced an Afro-optimist discourse, which is characterized by focus on Africa’s positive development in terms of improved democratic governance and economic growth (Beattie, 2014). Michela Wrong (2015) referred to this transformation towards Afro-optimism and its Africa Rising narrative as “the obligatory catch phrase applied to the continent… It’s fashionable, these days, to be upbeat about Africa,” (Wrong, 2015). But whereas the new flow of news coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa is characterized as somewhat more positive by some scholars (Hunter- Gault, 2006; Wrong, 2015; Bunce, 2017), there are several scholars who argue that Afro- optimism is problematic for Africa’s media image (Havnevik, 2015: 1; Flamenbaum, 2017:
122; Joye, 2017: 52; Wright, 2017: 152 Bunce, Franks, Paterson, 2017: 4).
But how exactly do these discourses [both Afro-pessimist and Afro-optimist]
materialize in news content? Can such a discourse-shift be identified in publications? And if so, what are the consequences of such a shift in discourse-use for the power structures that Sub-Saharan Africa is subject to? This thesis will discuss these questions to further our knowledge about how journalistic publications cover Sub-Saharan Africa.
Before delving deeper in the existing literature on the beforementioned shift, it is important to understand why a significant amount of scholars write about the image-making of Sub-Saharan Africa. Bebawi and Evans (2019) explained that due to the physical and cultural distance between the mostly Western audience of international media and Sub- Saharan Africa about which is written, the former is highly dependent on journalists for information about this region in the world (Bebawi & Evans, 2019: 30). Journalists therefore function as important intermediators who interpret events and inform their audiences about them and in this process, they yield considerable framing power. As such, journalists are key players in the production of Sub-Saharan Africa’s image and the influence that comes with this, stretches beyond the journalistic field (Nothias, 2014: 257).
In fact, the portrayal of a region or country in the media influences the global flows of finance, trade, tourism and intercultural relations that it experiences (Bunce, Franks, Paterson, 2017: 2; Mogae, 2007: 69). In the scholarly field, there are different voices who argue that a negative media image, including the use of racialised and stereotypical representations, prevents Sub-Saharan Africa from generating trade and investment. The lack of such economic flows fuels underdevelopment and reinforces the power structures that were prevalent during the colonial era (Mogae, 2007: 68; Bunce, Franks & Paterson, 2017: 2;
Nothias, 2014: 253, Wright, 2017: 148). How journalists frame Sub-Saharan Africa thus has important ideological consequences.
When looking at the existing research, it becomes clear that most scholarly work has analysed whether a shift from Afro-pessimism towards Afro-optimism has taken place (Joye, 2017; Bunce, 2017; Scott, 2017) and whether the Afro-optimist image of Sub-Saharan Africa is realistic (Bunce, Franks & Paterson, 2017; Havnenik, 2015, Flamenbaum, 2017). Certain scholars have drawn conclusions about consequences of such discursive practices for the power structures. According to Havnenik (2015), Afro-optimism “aims at legitimising the continued exploitation of Africa,” (Havnenik, 2015: 16). Similarly, Flamenbaum (2017) concluded from his research on Afro-pessimist discourse-use by Ghanaians themselves, that
“discourses [that] are transposable with Rising Africa narratives Afro-optimism, [they do] not visibly disrupt the logic that contends Africa was lower to begin with,” (Flamenbaum, 2017:
While the scholarly field does touch upon the ideological implications of the possible shift and the consequent change of discourse order [the hierarchy of discourses, ranked by
framing power], these arguments are mostly unsupported claims that lack sufficient explanation and examples from journalistic work. To fill this gap, this thesis aims to answer the following research questions: (1) how has The Economist’s coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa changed between 1990 and 2020 in terms of the use of an Afro-pessimist versus Afro- optimist discourse? and (2) how has the development of the order of discourse, as produced by The Economist, influenced the ideological power structures? To answer these questions a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) has been conducted of three special issues including 23 articles on Sub-Saharan Africa, published between 1990 and 2020 by The Economist, an international newspaper that covers global affairs (The Economist).
CDA provides a useful tool to “explore how discourses are realised linguistically in texts to constitute knowledge and social relations, such as relationship of involvement, identification or compassion with a distant other”, (Joye, 2017: 53). In his book on Orientalism, Said (1978) explained this ideological power of communicative texts: “language plays a central role in the perpetuations of norms, values and stereotypes; and it can operate to support and perpetuate oppression by the powerful” (Said, 1978 in Bunce, Franks, Paterson, 2017: 2).
Due to its prestige, quality and major readership, The Economist is widely regarded as an influential medium with a significant impact on people’s opinions and world views, especially in the West (Havnevik, 2015: 3), which makes it an interesting case study.
Moreover, The Economist, is regularly referred to as an example of a journalistic outlet which has made a 180 turn-around in terms of its coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa (Bunce, Franks &
Paterson: 3). On the cover of its December 2011 issue for instance, one can read the words
“Africa is Rising”. The volume is fully devoted to the growth of the African continent, especially in economic and technological terms. As such, it stands in stark contrast to an issue published by The Economist in 2000, titled “The Hopeless Continent”, which focuses solely on the so-called four D’s of the African Apocalypse: despair, disease, disaster and death (Hunter-Gault, 2006: 107). These two issues of The Economist have already been touched upon by different scholars (e.g. Hunter-Gault, 2006; Havnenik, 2015; Bunce, Franks &
Paterson, 2017) and are therefore not included in the research sample of this thesis. In my opinion, it is more fruitful to analyse journalistic publications that have not been researched yet.
To analyse the material, Fairclough’s three-dimensional model (1992) of communicative events is applied. This model enables an exploration of the textual dimensions and framing practices, as well as how discourse practices (re)shape power dynamics regulation Sub-Saharan Africa’s media image. The Afro-pessimist image of Sub-Saharan Africa is embraced as starting point against which the language and power structures produced by The Economist in their special issues, is compared. Since ideology is embedded in discourse, the latter continues to be the centre of focus. Yet, where other researches base their conclusions regarding power relations on an analysis of the discursive practice, this thesis moves a step further by also analysing the social practice.
Through affirmative action, journalists have the tendency to reproduce the socially accepted frames in the field, while this does not per se reflect reality. Through an analysis of The Economist’s coverage of the region, this thesis therefore aims to shed light on the dominant frames used by this international magazine. By doing so, I hope to make journalists, reporting on Sub-Saharan Africa, aware of the discourse order that they are subjected to and with that awareness, to enable them to take a more active role in objective, balances reporting.
In this way, this thesis aims to contribute to a more realistic understanding of Sub-Saharan Africa by both the journalists and their audiences. Following Hunter-Gault’s (2016) way of thinking, such realistic portrayals hopefully result in more understanding by the audience for the Sub-Saharan African peoples, the decisions made by their leaders and the events happening in the region (Hunter-Gault, 2016: 118-119).
This thesis starts with a theoretical chapter on framing theory, with an emphasis on the functioning of the news making process. Topics such as foreign news coverage, news frames, and framing effects are discussed. This chapter continues with an exploration of Fairclough’s CDA. The second theoretical chapter touches upon the Afro-pessimist and Afro-optimist discourses, the ideologies driving them and the shift in discourse order. As preparation for the methodology, this theoretical chapter also outlines the framing devices that journalists use.
These linguistic features are the directly detectable features of the used discourse(s) and ideologies and therefore function as starting point of the analysis. In the methodological chapter, CDA and Fairclough’s model of communicative events are discussed and made fit to serve as method for conducting the research. The three research chapters follow Fairclough’s three-step model of analysis, whereby each chapter is devoted to a different special issue in chronological order, after which the conclusion aims to answer the research questions and provides suggestions for further research.
I. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK I – FRAMING
To analyse a possible shift in discourse-use and the corresponding ideological consequences, it is first and foremost important to understand how discourses and ideologies influence the news making process. According to D’Angelo and Shaw (2018), this happens through the practice of framing. By means of structuring principles, journalists produce a specific interpretation of reality which they present to their audiences (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 205).
This chapter touches upon the building up, functioning and effects of the framing process of news, which enables a better understanding of (1) how discourses and ideologies materialize in news content, (2) how they can be detected, and (3) how they practice image making power.
Any form of communication is limited in terms of the information that it can provide. This forces the communicator to foreground certain aspects of an issue or event, while side-lining others. This process, referred to as framing, does not happen randomly. “Different frames endow the same reality with different meaning and serve different political -ideological or otherwise persuasive purposes,” (Baden, 2019: 232). Reality is thus purposefully constructed in such a way as to serve a specific ideological purpose. The recipient of the communicated message in turn, uses the frames already known to them, to make sense of and convey meaning to the presented reality (Baden, 2019, 231-232).
Framing theory emerged in the 1970s and is attributed to the work of sociologist Erving Goffman, who was one of the first to use frame analysis to explain social phenomena.
In his book “Frame analysis: an essay on the organization of experience”, Goffman (1974) defined a “frame” as “definitions of a situation [that] are built up in accordance with principles of organization which govern events – at least social ones – and our subjective involvement in them,” (Goffman, 1974: 10-11). According to Goffman, such frames can either take the shape of primary or secondary frameworks. People use “primary frameworks”
to make sense of events that that they come across in their daily lives. These frameworks are part of a larger culture and are shared by all members of the social group within the culture
(Goffman, 1974: 26-27). As a consequence, primary frameworks are taken for granted by the user and are not in any way dependent on other frameworks. Secondary frameworks refer to specific interpretations of primary frameworks, provided by others. Through such keying as Goffman calls it, individuals intentionally try to transform the social reality as constructed by culture (Goffman, 1973: 45-47).
In the following decennia, framing theory was applied across different disciplines and in diverging ways. Entman (1993) introduced framing theory to the field of communication sciences. He pointed to the “scattered conceptualisation” of framing and the lack of a solid theoretical basis that lays out “how frames become embedded within and make themselves manifest in a text, or how framing influences thinking,” (Entman, 1993: 51). To overcome this lack of clarity and work towards frame analysis as a solid research paradigm, Entman (1993) came up with his own definition of framing, based on the concepts of salience and selection:
To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described (Entman, 1993: 52).
By highlighting certain bits of information, the communicator makes the message more salient; he or she enhances the probability that the receivers of the message notice, attach meaning and remember the highlighted information (Entman, 1993: 53).
According to Entman (1993), frames play an important role in the exercise of political power. He explains that the process of political communication is dominated by a competition for image making power (Entman, 1993: 55). “Power” in this sense refers to the capacity or ability to frame the world for others. Such framing power enables the communicator to push the receiver of the message to perceive and define the world in accordance with the communicated vision (Wicks, 2000: 85-87).
I.I.I NEWS FRAMING PROCESS
In the academic field of journalism, framing has become an important subject of study.
Journalism is even perceived as a form of framing itself. “When media researchers refer to framing, by and large they are talking about analysing journalism,” (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018:
205). Baden explains that journalists’ main task in the news making process is to decide what information to include, exclude and what associations to draw between the selected bits of information (Baden, 2019: 229). In other words: their main task is to frame news events for their respective audiences. However, journalists are not the only actors who participate in this process of framing.
As illustrated in Figure 1.1, journalists are provided with frames from different sources, such as political, activist, specialist, and corporate entities (Baden, 2019: 229). Since each actors tries to shape reality in a way that serves him or her, the field of image making has become a competitive space in which the participants strive for the power to construct the dominant image (Entman, 1993: 55; Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 11-12). Such image making power allows one to push the audience to perceive and define the world in accordance with the vision of their medium (Wicks, 2001: 85-87). To influence the news making process, the sources purposely provide a specific frame over another, through for instance opinion pieces and policy statements (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 211-213). In the process of crafting these so- called issue frames, sources rely on their expertise, interests and perspectives (Baden, 2019:
Figure 1.1 Model of News Framing Process (Baden, 2019: 230)
After this process of frame building, as visualized in figure 1.1, Journalists select the source frames they consider newsworthy, basing their choice on their beliefs and values. Two
types of journalistic frames can be distinguished: (1) professional frames that give meaning to journalistic roles, norms and ideologies, and (2) news frame templates that guide the routines, resources and constraints of the news industry (Baden, 2019: 229-230). It is important to take into account that these frames are not individual-specific, but instead constructed in the newsroom (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 210-211).
The published journalistic work subsequently constitutes the news frames that journalists use to contextualize a person, topic or event. These frames can take shape through different forms of communication, such as written words, visuals and sound (D’Angelo &
Shaw, 2018: 214-216). The journalistic output in turn, influences the beliefs, attitudes and behaviour of a wide range of actors, such as the general public, politicians, sources and other journalists (Baden, 2019: 230). These audience frames are rooted in the news receivers themselves and refer to the organized associations of written words and visuals with the beliefs and conceptions already held by the audience (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 213-214).
This step of journalistic framing is often driven by so-called “affirmative action”: the reproduction of already known and existing frames which prevents the order of discourse from changing (Entman, 1993: 55). Gamson (1992) explains the functioning of such practices: “Once a term is widely accepted, to use another is to risk that target audiences will perceive the communicator as lacking credibility-or will even fail to understand what the communicator is talking about. Thus the power of a frame can be as great as that of language itself,” (Gamson, 1992, in Entman, 1993: 55). For a frame to have significant influence [framing effect, see figure 1.1] on the audience, it has to be dominant. ‘Dominant’ in this context refers to “a particular framing of the situation that is most heavily supported by the text and is congruent with the most common audience schemata,” (Entman, 1993: 56). As visualized in figure 1.1, the audience schemata consist of the beliefs, attitudes and behaviour that the audience already holds. These factors influence how the audience interpretate the news frames, but they are also affected by the frames.
I.II FOREIGN NEWS FRAMING
The coverage of foreign news, including The Economist’s coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa, follows the same framing procedures as visualized in figure 1.1. However, the image making power dynamics are expected to be somewhat different from what I have just explained. Due to the distance between the audience and the news events, the audience is expected to have
less access to information. The consequent dependence on journalists for information, grants journalists increased power to frame the situation or issue.
To understand what is meant by distant events, this thesis borrows Berglez’ (2008) definition of foreign reporting as the coverage of events happening in another country or transnational region than the home country of the news outlet (Berglez, 2008: 254). Hannerz (2012) built on this conceptualization of “foreign” as a spatial place, by adding news that is alien to the audience in cultural terms – these events are taking place in a context unfamiliar to the audience (Hannerz, 2012: 32). It is the distance that provides the media with the power to construct the social reality of the event and its location through ideologically-driven framing practices (Bebawi & Evans, 2019: 30).
For the sake of this research, it should also be taken into account that The Economist is specialised in foreign news coverage. With its extensive networks of correspondents, stringers, fixers and freelancers, The Economist has eyes and ears all around the world – also in places unknown to its audience (Medium, 2017). The audience of The Economist consists for 91% of people from the West, which in this case refers to North America, Europe and the UK (Ponsford, 2020). In general, many Western people do not have much knowledge or relations with Sub-Saharan Africa: news coverage is foreign in terms of location, but also in terms of culture. Consequently, they are more dependent on journalists for their image making and interpretation of events happening in this region of the world (Bebawi & Evans, 2019:
30). In fact, with a foreign desk in Johannesburg – it’s single office in Sub-Saharan Africa - The Economist is expected to have much more access to sources, stories and facts than its audience.
The distance thus gives the journalists a more dominant position in the framing process of Sub-Saharan Africa. This is very relevant, since The Economist strives to drive changes in image-making. In an internal interview, Robert Guest, The Economist’s foreign editor said that “each week we try to give them a selection of things that they didn’t know,”
(Medium, 2017). This statement clearly shows the editorial’s aim to inform the audience about unknown events and developments – they strive to create a more complete image of distant places, among them Sub-Saharan Africa.
I.I.III NEWS FRAMES
This research focuses on news frames or media frames, referring to the structuring principles that journalists deploy to contextualize a person, topic or event (D’Angelo & Shaw: 210-216).
An example is the quotation of Western sources in foreign news coverage of culturally and physically distant places by Western media: “François Lecointre, chief of staff of the French armed forces, has said his troops will be in the Sahel “for the next 30 years,” (Appendix III, article nr. 17). The structuring principle of citing compatriots of the audience, enables the latter to relate more easily to the people in the story (Joye, 2017: 55) – a feature of domestication which is explored more deeply in the second theoretical chapter.
Based on beliefs and stereotypes (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 205), journalists deploy specific communicative modalities that take the shape of frames of emphasis. This type of framing is very important, because it influences how the audiences think and act towards the topics and people reported on (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 206). D’Angelo and Shaw (2018) distinguish between (1) generic new frames and (2) topic-specific news frames. Informed by journalist frames and newsroom frames, generic news frames guide the formal procedures that journalists use to contextualize issue frames. This type of framing consists of organi sing and structuring features that are generally applicable to all topics and time periods. In other words, generic news frames concern what journalists do to the information provided by sources (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 215). Examples are the use of certain quotation verbs or the contextualization of the provided quotes.
While topic-specific news frames also emerge from journalistic profession frames and news frame templates, they are different from generic frames in the sense that they are only applied to specific issues. In other words, topic-specific news frames inform journalists on how to approach specific events or topics. Hereby, journalists’ own subjective thoughts on the matter play an important role (D’Angelo & Shaw, 2018: 216). Examples are specific, recurring angles to a topic and the generalization of the course of action from one event to another (De Vreese, 2005: 55).
This research focusses solely on topic-specific news frames. The aim of this thesis is in fact, not to analyse the general journalistic procedures guiding the output of The Economist, but to understand and explore the issue-specific frames that The Economist uses to cover events and developments in Sub-Saharan Africa. Scholars use a range of different analytical tools to detect the existence of news frames. These so-called ‘framing devices’, which have
been listed in the codebook, rely upon specific textual and visual elements (D’Angelo &
Shaw, 2018: 215).
I.I.IV FRAMING DIMENSIONS
In the news framing process, journalists provide both primary as secondary frameworks. They serve as primary definers by providing their own personal frames, which constitute the journalistic frames [professional frames and news frame templates] as listed in figure 1.1. An example of a primary frame, is a specific newsroom routine that The Economist uses to cover foreign news, such as the drawing of comparisons between different countries (Medium, 2017): “Yet it is in looking at the detail of how otherwise similar countries have taken different paths that lessons can be learned,” (Appendix III, article nr. 23).
Journalists serve as secondary definers through the selection, mediation and commentating upon the issue-frames provided by others. For instance, the inclusion and contextualization of a policy statement of a prominent Sub-Saharan African politician (D’Angelo & Shaw: 211-213): “Almost all governments now say they want to see more private businesses flourish, though there is still what Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni calls an “anti-business bias” in many African bureaucracies,” (Appendix I, article nr. 6).
In terms of framing by The Economist, it is important to understand that both primary and secondary frameworks are produced in a unified manner among its editorial, instead of being constructed by individual journalists. On its website, the magazine clearly emphasises this unified voice as part of its editorial philosophy:
It is written anonymously because its collective voice and personality matter more than the identities of individual journalists. This ensures a continuity of tradition and consistency of view. (The Economist Group)
Taking this collective voice of The Economist into account, the analysed frames can be seen as a reflection of the editorial’s philosophy instead of an individual’s product.
For a full exploration of both primary and secondary frames, it is necessary to conduct interviews with the journalists working in the newsroom of The Economist, while also conducting a linguistic analysis of the journalistic work; articles in this case. However, since these articles – containing the linguistic features of secondary frames – have been produced through primary frames, a linguistic analysis suffices to analyse both framing dimensions.
As mentioned before, framing is not a random process, but instead driven by different purposes (Baden, 2019: 232). Walker (1995) has contributed to this argument by stating that framing practices are given meaning through knowledge frameworks, which he refers to as discourses (Walker, 1995: 425). Fairclough (1992) has built on this conceptualization by stating that such a knowledge framework is put in practice through the performance of language. By means of the formal linguistics of a text, such as vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 8), journalists can frame an event or issue (Entman, 1993: 52). Such discourse-use is the result of social relations and structures, but also offers the possibility to change the social world. In light of this research, discourse is performed through the publication of published language or articles by The Economist. These discourses can be either less or more ideological (Fairclough, 1992: 87) , which will be explained later.
According to the website of The Economist, their journalistic work stems from their classical liberal roots: “For 179 years we have championed free markets, open societies, and individual liberties as the foundation on which human progress thrives. Their defence is as relevant as ever,” (The Economist Group, n.d.). To analyse the specific discourses at play in the journalistic reporting of Sub-Saharan Africa by The Economist, this thesis uses Fairclough’s (1995) dimensions of discourse. In any analysis, discourse - as research subject - has two main features that should be explored: (1) the communicative event: any performance of language, e.g. in the form of an online news article, an audio recording or a or a video, and (2) the discourse order: the combination and arrangement of different types of discourses within a specific social institution (Fairclough, 1995b: 66; Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 7).
When deploying Fairclough’s research approach, it is important to take into account that he has used different conceptualisations of ‘discourse’ across his works. In concrete terms, discourse is used as a count noun [a discourse, the discourse, the discourses, discourses]. In this sense, discourse refers to a type of communication which takes the form of a conversation, for example: a postcolonial discourse or a feminist discourse. Such a discourse can be differentiated from other discourses. Secondly, discourse refers to the specific use of language within a particular field, such as economic discourse or medical discourse. For the sake of this research, these references to discourse are excluded from the analysis. In fact,
only Fairclough’s (1995) third conceptualization of discourse - as social act through language use (Fairclough, 1995a: 135; Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 7), will be used since this conceptualization fits with the research aim to analyse the knowledge frameworks behind The Economist’s coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa and its ideological drivers and implications.
To understand how discourse functions as a knowledge framework, it is important to look into its interaction with the social world. Phillips & Jørgensen (2002) recognized three important functions of discourse. Through its ideational function, discourse contributes to the construction of knowledge systems and meaning. In a similar way, discourse contributes to social relations through its relational function and to social identities through its identity function (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 7). In terms of discourse use by The Economist, the ideational function refers to the use and creation of a knowledge framework concerning Sub- Saharan Africa. An example of a belief that stems from this knowledge framework is the idea that the region is unable to maintain stable democracies. This belief is underpinned by specific constructions of the social identity of Sub-Saharan Africans, such as the idea that they are uncivilized and unable to take care of themselves (De B’béri & Louw, 2011: 339).
Characterising Sub-Saharan Africans as inferior to Western citizens in turn, further underpins the belief that Sub-Saharan African countries do not have the capabilities to maintain the stable democracies that Western countries have. This example shows that instead of seeing these three functions of discourse as separate, they are operating mutually: the ideational function consists of the relational and identity function. In practice, this means that discourse does not only provide an understanding of issues and places, it also defines the identities of people and the social hierarchy.
I.II.I ORDER OF DISCOURSES
Before one can analyse the discourses at play, it is important to understand how discourses develop. According to Hall (2018), discourses internalise over time through social and historical processes (Hall, 2018: 291). Nyamnjoh (2017) explains that humans are social beings who want to belong to a group. By reproducing the accepted practices – including the dominating framing procedures - journalists can associate with each other and their profession (Nyamnjoh, 2017: 33). It must be taken into account that discourses do not consist of a stable embodiment of meanings, but instead represents the most powerful meaning that is valued as
‘truth’ at the moment, due to its domination in the debate surrounding the discourse (Foucault, 1977: 27).
According to Fairclough and Chouliaraki (1999), discourses function in a certain order. Such a discourse order functions like a system, which contains a configuration of all discourse types - genres and discourses - at play in a specific social field. In their book, Fairclough and Chouliaraki (1999) define a field in line with Pierre’s Bourdieu theory (Fairclough & Chouliaraki, 1999: 101). According to Bourdieu, society is a complex system made up of different, interacting fields, such as journalism, economics and politics. Each field in turn, is also a smaller social system, with its own logic. Actors of such a field take part in a struggle for power in which the powerful can shape the field of which they are part. However, the power struggle does not only take place within these smaller social fields, but also between the fields (Bourdieu & Wacquent, 1996: 94) – a process which was already visualised in figure 1.1. In his model, Baden (2019) shows how journalists compete among each other in the news framing process, but also how they compete with actors belonging to other fields, like politicians and interest groups.
Similarly, there are different actors that participate in the power struggle to set the global news image of Sub-Saharan Africa. Earlier in this chapter, the argument was brought forward that Western journalists, including the ones working for The Economist, have more power in the news framing process of Sub-Saharan Africa than actors belonging to other fields, in particularly their Western audience. In fact, due to the physical and cultural distance between the audience and the place of coverage, the audience is more dependent on journalists to understand this region in the world, (Bebawi & Evans, 2019: 30). This grants journalists the power to shape the field. However, there are many different media companies that report on Sub-Saharan Africa. Even in the internal struggle for meaning making power, The Economist stands out as an important and influential actor. It is one of the most prestigious and respected magazines worldwide with a major impact on people’s opinions and world views, especially in the West (Eriksen, 2015: 3). Taken the influence and prestige of The Economist, the magazine is expected to have a significant influence on the order of discourse regulating the media image of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fairclough and Chouliaraki (1999) emphasize the discursive aspect of the beforementioned power struggles. Instead of concentrating on the struggle between individual actors, they suggest that we should see discourse order as a struggle between different
discourses in which the more powerful discourses rule over the others (Chouliaraki &
Fairclough, 1999: 114). As such, the discourse order controls what discourse types are available in communication. In the power struggle regulating the media image of Sub-Saharan Africa, two discourses seem to be dominant: Afro-optimism and Afro-pessimism. This research aims to uncover exactly what discourse currently dominates the field and what ideological implications this has.
It is important to take into account that discourse orders do not develop by themselves.
Communication participants can also influence a discourse order, by using discourse styles from other discourse orders or by applying already existing discourse styles in new ways. In other words, communication or a communicative event and the order of discourse operate in a dialectical relationship, in which the one is shaped by the other. On the one hand, a discourse order takes the form of a structure, which shapes all communicative events , e.g., the knowledge framework driving the journalist work of The Economist. On the other hand, language users shape a discourse order through the performance of communicative events (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 11), e.g., the journalists working for The Economist influence the discourse order through the publication of articles.
Phillips and Jørgensen (2002) bring attention to the inequality within an interdiscursive order. Despite the multiplicity of discourse types and the absence of a dominant one, some discourse types are still more powerful than others, creating a hierarchy within and between discourse orders (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 13). However, according to Fairclough, not all discourses and genres have the ability to change the relations of domination. He distinguishes between more ideological and less ideological discourses: the former can contribute to the maintenance and transformation of power relations, while the latter cannot (Fairclough, 1992: 87).
To understand this discussion, it is important to conceptualize ideology itself. Fairclough (1995) defines ideology as “meaning in the service of power” (Fairclough, 1995b: 14). In other words, ideology is a system of beliefs and ideals through which people make sense of the social world. In this regard, it does not seem any different from discourse. However, not all knowledge frameworks change the power relations within a discursive order. Ideology
does contribute to the shaping and reshaping of power dynamics, and so do ideological discourses. In other words, discourses are knowledge frameworks that give understanding about social world and ideologies can be ingrained in discourses to create knowledge frameworks aimed to change the power dynamics in the social world. According to Phillips &
Jørgensen (2002), this idea of ideology as ingrained in discourse is based on John Thompson’s (1990) perspective of ideology as a meaning making practice through which relations of power are produced, reproduced and transformed (Thompson, 1990, in Philips &
Jørgensen, 2002: 13). As part of this research, the aim is to analyse the development of the media image of Sub-Saharan Africa over time. If there has been a change of discourse, the goal is to find out whether this change of discourse order was ideological – whether it changed the portrayal of Sub-Saharan Africans and consequently, their position in the social order.
To understand the functioning of ideology, it is important to understand how the concept developed. For this theorization, Fairclough draws on Marxist perspectives. Many Marxists treat ideology as a system of beliefs which binds people together and consequently, contributes to the stability of the social order. In line with this perspective, language users are regarded as passive and powerless ideological subjects, while ideology is presented as a totalizing entity (Philips & Jørgensen, 2002: 14). This would mean that journalists are fully subjected to the ideology dominating their field, while not having any say in its production and reproduction. Fairclough opposes this idea of one all-encompassing ideology and instead points to the existence of multiple ideologies. It is through the competition between these ideologies that meaning is being negotiated. The ideological hegemony is thus not permanent, but flexible and deficient (Fairclough, 1992: 93).
This underpins Fairclough’s second critique, namely that the theorization does not do justice to the capabilities of communication subjects to oppose ideological forces: they can choose from different meaning potentials of texts, to interpretate and as such, socially construct, their own social world (Fairclough, 1992: 91). In other words, the actors involved in the meaning making of Sub-Saharan Africa have some sort of choice about whether to accept or reject ideological forces. While it is important to take this into account, we already came to the conclusion that the power of the audience to do this is rather limited due to their distance towards the region.
I.II.III FAIRCLOUGH’S APPROACH OF CDA
To analyse the discourse order and ideologies shaping and shaped by The Economist’s coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa, this thesis uses Fairclough’s model of Critical Discourse Analysis. According to Fairclough, every communicative event consists of three different dimensions as illustrated in figure 1.2: (1) text, (2) discursive practice and (3) social practice.
When analysing a communicative event, all three dimensions of this model should be explored. It is only through such an interdisciplinary approach, combining both textual and social analysis, that light can be shed on the discourse order and the ideological forces driving it.
The first dimension [text] originally encompasses the formal linguistics of a text, such as vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 8). These features serve as the reasoning devices that journalists use to frame an event or issue (Entman, 1993: 52). In fact, these news frames are the only directly observable features of the discourses used. It is in the textual dimension that knowledge systems are put to practice, which fits with Fairclough’s ideational function of discourse. As was mentioned before, this ideational function has the relational and identity function of discourse embedded in it. This is also illustrated in 1.1: news frames are the product of all other steps in the news framing process, including journalistic framing. In short, the first dimension simply analyses how language is used to give meaning to Sub-Saharan Africa and its inhabitants. The linguistics of text serves as starting point of this research, since it has both discourse and ideology embedded in it. Text can take shape in different forms, such as written, visual imagery, speeches and discussion.
The second dimension [discursive practice] focusses on the practice of discourse through the production and consumption of a text (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 9). In other words, it captures the ways in which the creators of texts use existing discourses to produce the communicative event(s), and the ways in which the consumers of texts draw on existing discourses to make sense of the communicative event(s). To do this, this dimension categorises the news frames into existing discourses. Such an analysis of the discursive practice, enables the exploration of the knowledge frameworks at play (Walker, 1995: 425).
Accordingly, it reveals the norms, values and ideas that the journalists working for The Economist have adopted, but more importantly: it sheds light on the maintained beliefs about Sub-Saharan Africa and its inhabitants.
Figure 1.2 Fairclough’s three dimensional model for critical discourse analysis (1992: 73)
To continue, the third dimension [social practice] involves the larger social practice of which the communicative event is part and the ways in which the discursive practice of text reproduces or reshapes the social relations and structures (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 8-9). In other words, this dimension analyses the ideological aspect of the articles of The Economist and their relation to the broader power dynamics regulating Sub-Saharan Africa’s media image. To fully understand the ideological powers at work, analysis focusses on the news frames which journalists purposefully use to change the power dynamics and the social hierarchy. This dimension thus analyses the relational function of discourse: how Sub- Saharan Africans are characterised in relation to people from the West and in particularly, to The Economist’s Western audience. Through the use of news frames the order of power can be either maintained or changed. Focus of this step in the analysis is thus on the detection of change in the social hierarchy that is being created, by comparing the news frames to the currently ruling image of Sub-Saharan Africa and its inhabitants.
While these three dimensions should be analysed separately, they operate interactively. In their overview of Fairclough’s model, Phillips and Jørgensen (2002) explain how this interaction takes place: “Hence it is only through discursive practice - whereby people use language to produce and consume texts - that texts shape and are shaped by social
practice,” (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 9). In other words, a communicative event can only interact with social practice, when text is put into operation through its production and consumption.
To explore a discourse change and a possible change in power relations through the force of ideology, it is necessary to analyse discourse-use by The Economist over a longer time period.
Philips & Jørgensen (2002) explain this through the idea of intertextuality: “text can never be understood or analysed in isolation - they can only be understood in relation to webs of other texts and in relation to the social context” (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002: 9). In other words, communicative events are part of an intertextual chain - a sequence of texts in which each text incorporates aspects of earlier texts (Fairclough, 1995b: 77). The concept of intertextuality should therefore be understood in historical perspective, according to which history influences communicative events, while the latter also influences history and in that regard, contributes to continuity or change (Kristeva, 1986: 39, in Fairclough, 1992: 102). Through an analysis of a series of texts, or online articles in this case, intertextuality can shed light on the development of the discursive practices shaping the production of communicative events. In practical terms, this means that one can analyse the discourses and ideological practices, influencing the journalists working for The Economist.
Intertextuality can take the shape of interdiscursivity: the condition whereby multiple discourse styles are combined and put together in a single text. The performance of such a communicative text can happen in conventional ways, which contributes to the stability of the order of discourse(s) or in creative ways, thereby contributing to a change within or between discourse orders (Philips & Jørgensen, 2002: 12). On the one hand, a change of boundaries can thus take the shape of socio-cultural change, e.g. the transfer of power from Western journalists to African sources concerning the ability to create Sub-Saharan Africa’s media image. On the other hand, a maintenance of those boundaries strengthens the already existing social order (Fairclough, 1995b: 56), in which e.g. Western journalists have the power to frame Sub-Saharan Africa in their news output. Yet, due to the force of dominant power relations of existing discourse orders, the possibilities of change are limited (Fairclough, 1993: 137).
Before delving deeper in the ways that interdiscursivity can be performed, it is important to decide on a starting point: the widely accepted media image of Sub-Saharan Africa at the start of our research period. The knowledge framework of 1990 maintained an Afro-pessimist image of Sub-Saharan Africa, which depicted the region as one country and reduced the identity of its inhabitants to the role of passive victims, corrupt and incompetent politicians and of brutal animals who slaughter each other (Nothias, 2014: 13-14, Franks, 2013: 151). In terms of social hierarchy, Sub-Saharan Africans were put in an inferior power position vis-à-vis the Western audience of The Economist. This is a brief summary of the discourse of Afro-pessimism, which will be elaborated on in the next chapter.
For now, it is important to understand in what ways interdiscursivity can be performed. Firstly, this Afro-pessimist image of Sub-Saharan Africa can be reimplemented and even strengthened, which would probably mean that the power relations remain unchanged. The discourses used can be ideological, but only as force that strengthens the status quo. Secondly, the Afro-pessimist image of Sub-Saharan Africa can be overthrown by an Afro-optimist one – a practice widely observed by scholars. Such a change of discourse can also bring along an ideological change of power relations: the social status of Sub- Saharan Africans is improved, which might even result in an equal status with the Western audience.
To summarize this chapter, journalism uses framing to make sense of reality. These news frames are constructed through knowledge frameworks, so-called discourses. These discourses can either function ideologically or not. Ideological news frames have the ability and aim to change the dominant power relations in the field. By means of Fairclough’s three- level model of critical discourse analysis, this thesis aims to uncover whether a discourse change has taken place concerning the framing of Sub-Saharan Africa and whether this change has ideological implications. To do this, the Afro-pessimist image of Sub-Saharan Africa is embraced as starting point against which the language produced by The Economist is compared. In this way, it is possible to see whether this image is either maintained or whether a more Afro-optimist image is created. To start, the linguistic features of news articles have been analysed, after which the maintained discourses were detected, followed by a deeper exploration of the influence of the discourse-use on the maintained power relations.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK II– SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA’S MEDIA REPRESENTATION
In the previous chapter, Fairclough’s model of Critical Discourse Analysis was presented as framework through which this thesis aims to analyse the development of the discourse order regulating Sub-Saharan Africa’s media image. For each article, three dimensions are analysed: text, discursive practice and social practice. To be able to do this, it is important to understand the discourses and ideologies at play in the field and how they are put in practice through linguistic framing.
According to Wolff (2017), international media coverage is highly influenced by political discourse, which is in turn dominated by Western hegemonic ideologies, such as imperialism and the European ‘Project Nation’ (Wolff, 2017: 2). These pillars of modernization theory stand at the basis of the image making of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Therefore, space is devoted to the main ideologies that have developed from modernization theory: the 19th century European nation state-ideology and the 20th/21st century African Renaissance-ideology. What follows is an exploration of the two dominant discourses - the Afro-optimist and Afro-pessimist discourse – and an enumeration of the framing devices used to perform these discourses as social action.
Understanding the discourses and ideologies dominating the field makes it easier to detect and analyse the (ideological) discourses used by The Economist to cover Sub-Saharan Africa. On top of that, such a thorough theoretical exploration enables a complete understanding of the starting point of the discourse order regulating Sub-Saharan Africa’s media image. This is important, because this image is compared to the found images presented by The Economist. Through this comparison, this thesis aims to analyse whether a shift of discourses has taken place and whether this has ideological implications.
II.I Social Practice: Modernization Ideologies
To start, this chapter looks into the power dynamics regulating the media representation of Sub-Saharan Africa – the social practice dimension of Fairclough’s model. Through an exploration of the dominant ideologies, this section shows how Sub-Saharan Africans have been characterised over time, in particularly in comparison to people from the West. In other words, it sheds light on the social hierarchy.
As mentioned in the introduction of this chapter, the field of international media coverage is dominated by Western hegemonic ideologies, such as imperialism and the European ‘Project Nation’ (Wolff, 2017: 2). Despite political independence around 1960, the image representation of Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be dominated by the West.
According to Wolff (2017), this is caused by the strong ideological impact on communication and journalism. He differentiates between two different ideologies that govern discourse on the development of Sub-Saharan Africa: (1) the 19th century European nation state-ideology and (2) the 20th/21st century African Renaissance-ideology.
II.I.I 19TH CENTURY EUROPEAN NATION-STATE IDEOLOGY
The first position, referred to as the 19th century European nation state-ideology, is based on a particular Western mind-set: WEIRD [Western-European-Industrialized-Rich-Democratic].
This mind-set, which is rooted in the historical and cultural experiences of Europe, is driven by three main convictions: (1) European exceptionalism, (2) Eurocentrism, and (3) the European model of nation-states. Together, these convictions have created a political discourse, which puts the West in a superior position vis-à-vis the rest of the world (Wolff, 2017: 9).
Wolff (2017) conceptualises exceptionalism as the perception that a country, society or institution is exceptional and therefore not required to stick to the applicable rules (Wolff, 2017: 9). The notion of European exceptionalism developed during the Great Divergence – the socio-economic shift through which the West developed during the 19th century into the most powerful and wealthy human civilization ever (Wolff, 2017: 9). In this process, the idea developed that people from the West are implicitly better and as such superior (Wolff, 2017:
17). This idea of European supremacy is fuelled by Social Darwinist ideology: the belief that there are a priori evolutionary differences between human societies that make the one superior to the other (Wolff, 2017: 2).
These beliefs in European exceptionalism resulted in European ethnocentrism:
Eurocentrism. Hostettler (2012) conceptualized ethnocentrism as the process through which in-group values and norms are established and used to judge the out-groups (Hostettler, 2012:
28). As part of the European mind-set, this phenomena took the shape of Eurocentric lenses, which perceives the European or Western culture as the superior value-system against which the success of other systems should be measured (Wolff, 2017: 10).
The third conviction is modern European statehood ideology. According to the European notion of nation-states, a country should be characterized by linguistic, cultural and ethnic homogeneity, ideally inhabited by a single population (Wolff, 2017: 2). Western politicians and academia placed this Western success story in sharp contrast to the African socio-political situation. African countries are characterized by tribal particularism and cultural diversity, which pose a threat to their development and unity (Wolff, 2017: 2, 12-13).
The development of European exceptionalism and Eurocentrism went hand in hand with an orientalist attitude. Edward Said (1978) conceptualized Orientalism as European political ideology (Said, 1978: 27), which makes a clear distinction between the developed , rational and superior “West” [the Occident] and the undeveloped and static “East” [the Orient] (Said, 1978: 40). This distinction allows Europeans to create a global image of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, which can be controlled, studied and reproduced (Said, 1978: 12). In other words, Orientalism gives the West the power to generalize and mispresent the East for their own benefit. This thesis embraces Wolff’s (2017) conceptualization of Orientalism as an attitude which can also be applied to Sub-Saharan Africa.
The European nation-state ideology that developed out of these convictions was an important driver of imperialist politics in the 19th century. The beliefs of cultural prominence and racial exceptionalism fuelled the idea that the Western model of development is superior and should therefore be exported to the rest of the world (Wolff, 2017: 4). As such, European exceptionalism and ethnocentrism were used to legitimise European global hegemony (Wolff, 2017: 10), which resulted in the colonisation of overseas territories.
II.I.I.I Colonial depiction: “Dark Continent”
As the West colonized most of the African continent during the late 19th century, the continent was divided into countries in line with the European statehood ideology. The local cultures that the Europeans found, did not meet the standards of the superior Western value- system. For African countries to be able to reach the ideal of Western developed, nation state, they needed to be de-Africanized and freed from their internal diversity (Wolff, 2017: 2, 12- 13).
Meanwhile, the imperial powers developed a narrative – fuelled by the notions of Eurocentrism, European exceptionalism and Orientalism - to sell the colonization and enslavement of Africans to the Europeans at home (Nothias, 2014: 34). Havnevik (2015)
explained that a narrative reflects a process, colonialism and enslavement in this example, in a specific way in order to meet a set certain goals [here: wealth] (Havnevik, 2015: 4). The narrative of the so-called “Dark Continent” consisted of myths and racial classifications, depicting Sub-Saharan Africa as violent, savage, primitive and absent of culture or morality as opposed to civilized, educated and progressive Westerners (Spurr, 1993). In this way, the colonisers created an image of Sub-Saharan Africa as inferior, which allowed for civil and racial classifications (Nothias, 2014: 34).
Along with the European settlers, also journalists travelled to the African continent to report back to Europe. These journalists themselves were influenced by previous accounts of Africa, including the narrative of the Dark Continent. Consequently, they started looking for news events that reconfirmed the already existing prejudices and stereotypes (Spurr, 1993:
21). This had a massive impact on the representation of Sub-Saharan Africa among the Western audience. In fact, as most Europeans didn’t have first-hand experience with Sub- Saharan Africans nor with the continent in general, many were reliant on media coverage for their perception of Africa (Nothias, 2014: 37). This gave journalists the power to frame the news for audiences.
The media image that they produced, reflected the power dimensions as constructed through the WEIRD-mindset: it positioned the Western audience in a superior power position vis-à-vis Sub-Saharan Africa and its inhabitants. This was possible by means of an us-them rhetoric, which homogenised all Africans into a single racialist entity - depicting Sub-Saharan Africa as an inferior place, inhabited by violent, savage, primitive and immoral people (Nothias, 2014: 35-36).
While many African colonies gained political independence around 1960, mental and cultural decolonisation never happened (Wolff, 2017: 12). The patronizing WEIRD-mindset continues to dominate political discourse: it is inherent in current patterns of economic and political globalization and cultural imperialism (Wolff, 2017: 10). As such, the myths of European statehood ideology continue to discredit African societies in the broader ai m of maintaining Western supremacy (Wolff, 2017: 16). The social hierarchy still subordinates Sub-Saharan Africans to Western people. Throughout the analysis, this power structure is used as starting point of this research: the ideological frames produced by The Economist are compared to this hierarchy. In this way, it is possible to see whether power relations have changed.