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Media, Myth and Terrorism is a rigorous case study of Blitz mythology in British newspaper responses to the July 7th bombings. Considering how the press, politicians and the public were caught up in popular accounts of Britain's past, Kelsey explores the ideological battleground that took place in the weeks following the bombings.



1. Introduction: The Politics of Remembering and the Myth of the Blitz

This book is about terrorism and mythological storytelling in British newspapers. By analysing press responses to the 7 July bombings, it provides some insight into the ways that war and conflict are portrayed in past and present contexts. Throughout the theoretical and analytical ground covered in this book, I will explore the ideological nuances of mythological storytelling and the highly politicised processes of remembering and recontextualising the past. This book will investigate some of the discursive mechanisms that construct the past and present contexts of mythologies. In doing so, I propose and adopt a discourse- mythological approach (DMA) to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), which I will return to in Chapter 2. This book is cross-disciplinary in its readership appeal and areas of academic interest, but it primarily serves two purposes: it shows how myth theory can be adopted in approaches to discourse studies, whilst showing mythologists how methodological approaches to discourse studies can enrich the scope and application of myth theory.
Darren Kelsey

2. Journalism, Storytelling and Ideology: A Discourse-Mythological Approach

This chapter will outline the theoretical and methodological framework of DMA. Whilst my previous work on 7 July has used CDA to analyse mythology, I have not proposed DMA as a unique approach within the field of critical discourse studies. I have always found CDA to be an ideal approach for analysing mythology and understanding the social and ideological role of language in media texts. However, more recently my analysis of British bankers as mythological tricksters (Kelsey, 2014a) has tackled the issue of discourse, mythology and ideology as three overlapping but distinctly different terms in more detail than previous work. Some detailed clarification of my approach to ideology was also necessary; stating the advantages of a neutral approach that is compatible with frameworks of mythology. It is here that I have provided more explicit attention to the ways in which discourse helps us to construct and understand archetypal conventions of mythology, which function as vehicles for ideology. I have also presented case studies that use CDA to analyse hero mythology and right-wing populism in the media coverage and rhetoric of Nigel Farage and UKIP (Kelsey, 2014b, 2015b). The rich, multidimensional, theoretical and analytical perspectives of my work to date justify the proposal of a systematic framework that adds to previous approaches to CDA and offers an analytical toolkit to researchers within (and beyond) the fields of critical discourse studies or journalism, media and cultural studies.
Darren Kelsey

3. Media and the War on Terror

Whilst much of the literature in this chapter does not directly discuss mythology, it makes an important contribution to this study. The three sections below share a topical focus on media and terrorism and a cultural focus on national identity, othering and orientalism. They provide my analysis of discourse, mythology and ideology with some important background context. Some of the literature considers Pearl Harbor as an historical analogy after 11 September; this media coverage shares some of the diachronic mechanisms that I explore in British discourses after 7 July. Whilst a discussion of media and terrorism could focus on research that has analysed coverage of many attacks and global conflicts, I provide an overview of 11 September media analysis since it connects to many of the discourses and ideological contexts covered in this book; it provides examples of discourses ‘legitimising’ military responses to terrorism and it is directly relevant to Britain’s involvement in the War on Terror. By also discussing theories of trauma, this literature addresses how the media are seen to have constructed discourses of patriotism, war and historical memory in response to terrorism.
Darren Kelsey

4. Statistical Analysis of British Newspapers after the 7 July Bombings

It is common for qualitative analyses to be complemented by quantitative data produced by conducting a content analysis. For example, Richardson (2004) provides a content analysis of his newspaper sample before conducting CDA on broadsheet stories about Islam. Other approaches to quantitative analysis in the field of discourse studies adopt the methodological frameworks of corpus linguistics and corpus-assisted discourse analysis (Baker et al., 2008; Costelloe, 2013). The latter are not adopted in this study. However, I would not discourage discourse researchers from supplementing large sets of qualitative material and analysis with quantitative data produced by any approach of this kind, depending on the researcher’s disciplinary background. A statistical dimension to discourse research can provide useful insights for researchers and readers since it introduces an overview of the sample (or corpus) and highlights the prevalence (or suppression) of discursive components. It might also be used to justify detailed attention given to particular discourses or areas of concern in the data. As a researcher from a media and journalism studies background, content analysis was a sufficient method for me to adopt in gathering the data that I present as an overview of the sample. Hence, I provide a brief explanation of content analysis as a methodology and clarify my approach to this discipline before presenting my statistical data. This methodological introduction to content analysis is important because I clarify what I do not intend to do with this data: this is not an attempt to supplement the subjective interpretation of qualitative analysis with ‘objective’ quantitative data. Once I have clarified this approach, I will present the data gathered on sources, lexical components and discursive fields in the sample.
Darren Kelsey

5. London Responds: Wartime Defiance and Front-Line Heroism

This chapter analyses how propagandistic slogans such as ‘London can take it’ and ‘business as usual’ contributed to constructions of defiance in the Blitz myth (see also Kelsey, 2013a). But these examples also account for instances where propagandistic slogans were mentioned in a critical context that questioned the ways in which this myth was invoked. Other articles also referred to elements of anxiety in discussions of ‘fear’ or the changing behaviour of Londoners in the number of people avoiding the Tube after the bombings. Hence, this chapter considers the conflicting complexities of discourses that defined Londoners and morale after the bombings through different contextual invoca-tions of Blitz mythology. I provide a case study of the column written by Tony Parsons the day after the bombings that invoked the Blitz myth through the context of war, retaliation and the hereditary identity of cross-generational defiance and wartime spirit. I then account for those contradictory perspectives that complicated this perception of British resilience that Parsons invoked. Then, after considering how these discourses functioned in 2005, I provide some current context in reflection of the coverage and symbolic roles of Paul Dadge and John Tulloch. Dadge and Tulloch are examples of figures who functioned as symbolic victims/heroes after the bombings.
Darren Kelsey

6. The FTSE Fights on: Discourses of the City, the Stock Market and the Economy

This chapter analyses Second World War discourses that discussed London’s defiance through analogies of the City and the economy. The current discourse on bankers and the City — since the credit crunch, banking crisis, subsequent recession and government austerity programme — provides an interesting contrast to some of the discourses after 7 July. Since then, City traders have often been heavily criticised and held responsible for the economic crisis (Kelsey, 2014a; Philo, 2012). I have argued that they now reflect the paradoxical traits of trickster mythology in the coverage they receive as immoral, foolish and reckless figures who are disconnected from the lives and values of the general public (Kelsey, 2014a). However, after the 2005 bombings (just two years before the credit crunch of 2007), there was a discourse that celebrated the status of City traders and used them as a metaphor for British spirit and defiance, favouring a particular view of the City that conformed to the archetypal mythological conventions of Blitz mythology. The stock market remaining relatively unaffected by the bombings became a metaphorical symbol for the resilience of London under attack. The City symbolically endorsed a mythological ‘victim as hero’ (Lule, 2001) status with the stock market’s resurgence following signs of an initial crash after the bombings.
Darren Kelsey

7. Rituals of National Narration: The Symbolic Role of Commemorative Events and the Royal Family

This chapter analyses discourses that evoked hereditary national unity and pride through the cross-generational ‘duties’ that Britain faces as a nation. The sixtieth anniversary commemorations of VE Day enhanced the concept of a recurring cycle in Britain’s national narration, constructing Britain as a country that faces persistent threats and conflicts throughout history, but has an in-built ability to respond. The pride and poignancy of the commemorative events drew parallels between the duties faced by past and present generations. The Royal Family played a symbolic role here. The characteristics of Blitz mythology that featured in accounts of the commemorative events are sensitive symbolic traits that evoke pride and patriotism through the remembering of past heroism and sacrifice.
Darren Kelsey

8. Discourses of International Unity: The ‘Special Relationship’ and Western Foreign Policy

This chapter analyses discourses of international unity and Western foreign policy. Some of this analysis has previously been published to demonstrate the ideological battleground of memory and how similar stories about the past can both suppress and mobilise critical discourses through political and journalistic sources (Kelsey, 2012a, 2013b). But as this chapter also shows, there were articles that quoted sources from other countries that expressed support for London. The Blitz myth is more than a domestic construction of identity; other countries use it to identify ‘Britishness’ and it is an internationally recognised myth. However, there was some speculation regarding the motivations behind the bombings in messages from other countries, which I also consider here. Messages praising London’s defiance became a global spectacle in the British press. Discourses of international unity implied a global consensus, condoning Britain’s role in the War on Terror and allegiance with America. Whilst this became a cohesive process between collective memories shared by Britain and America, this chapter shows that this relationship also mobilised critical discourses in the press. Tony Blair and George W. Bush were sometimes subjected to similar criticisms to those noted in the previous chapter. However, criticisms of foreign policy were less prevalent in Parliament than they were in the press: George Galloway was a lone figure in the House of Commons when he cited foreign policy as a cause for the attacks. Therefore, this chapter also explores the coverage that Galloway received and how he responded to criticism through a column he wrote in the Mail on Sunday. The latter will provide a compelling case of paradoxical persuasion and a complex interplay of ideological dilemmas.
Darren Kelsey

9. Soft-Touch Justice: Blaming Human Rights and Multiculturalism

This chapter is specifically concerned with right-wing discourses that occurred in articles ‘remembering’ Britishness during the Second World War. It shows how the Blitz myth mobilised nostalgic mechanisms which suggested that Britain had lost its spirit and strength of the past. Since most of the analysis in this chapter concentrates on the conservative press, reactionary columnists and right-wing opinion, I could be accused of relying on easy targets. However, this is not my intention. Columnists are expected to serve a specific purpose by delivering explicit arguments and provoking debate. My concern is that these discourses are symbolic of socio-political relations and opinions that are too important to be overlooked. I am not arguing that these discourses have necessarily gained more authority or consent in public opinion since 7 July either (although my conclusion to this chapter does account for the recent growth of Eurosceptic discourses, increased support for UKIP, and right-wing populism in British politics). What is important to note regarding the 7 July discourses in this chapter is the further contribution they make to a longitudinal, mythological spectacle of revenge and justice across (and beyond) the month of my sample. This chapter will account for discourses that opposed human rights laws, supported authoritarian legislation, discussed accusations of treason and called for the return of capital punishment.
Darren Kelsey

10. Conclusion: Mythologies of the Past, Present and Future

The analysis chapters of this book adopted DMA as a framework for analysing constructions of mythology. This analysis considered how the myth of the Blitz was constructed in responses by British newspapers to the 7 July bombings. In doing so, it has explored the ideological battleground that occurred through stories that invoked this myth. To conclude, I will now consider the contributions that these findings make to the theoretical and methodological fields of mythology and CDA respectively. This conclusion will show how theories of myth can be developed further from my observations in this book. I will also account for the continued importance of analysing mythological storytelling and provide some examples of cases when the myth of the Blitz has occurred since 2005. My analysis has shown that current models of myth are useful and applicable templates for understanding how myth functions through journalistic storytelling, historical memory and national identity. However, these approaches can be refined further still due to the historical and contextual nuances covered throughout my analysis. The discursive landscape I explored after 7 July became too complex for any single theory of myth to explain such nuances. On the one hand, mythological accounts of Britain in 1940 and contemporary perceptions of national identity reflect the dimensions of Barthes’ (1972) model, whilst replicating the archetypal conventions that other scholars of myth have explored (Campbell, 1949; Lule, 2001). But my work has also identified diachronic and synchronic complications that occur through recontextualisation in mythological storytelling; these being the discursive and ideological tensions that develop when a myth from one moment in time is reused in a different historical context.
Darren Kelsey


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