international english: final written task



With English being a lingua franca (English as a lingua franca, 2019), there is no wonder it is English-speaking media in particular that reaches the furthest. All over the world English is being taught in schools and viewed on TV at home, and while it may have been the British Empire that started it all, it is English-speaking media that has perpetuated the influence and reach of the English language across borders. However, with influence comes great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.

The problem of media influence lies in the ambiguity around how to interpret this responsibility, as handling it incorrectly can result both in great confusion and great controversy.

For this very reason, what role the media plays in our everyday lives as well as what media is and is not has become important topics of discussion, but it is one thing we can know for sure; media affects everyone.

With the media being so important, the rhetoric used becomes even more so. An example is the 2016 presidential election, where the media’s treatment of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal as equally bad to Donald Trump’s rape allegations and blatant racism is being blamed for getting the current president elected (Sillito, 2016). Another example is the #MeToo-movement, which after receiving a substantial amount of attention in the media has become the cause of 201 powerful men getting fired (Carlsen et al., 2018).

Both topics have caused a polarization never seen before, both in America and elsewhere.

Statistics actually show that, over the past two decades, the percentage consistently liberal- or conservative in the U.S. has doubled from 10% to 21%, landing the new median republican as more conservative than 94% of democrats.

The same source shows a growing animosity between the parties as well, with 43% of republicans having a strong dislike of democrats compared to 17% in 1994, and 38% of democrats in 2014 having a strong dislike of republicans compared to 16% in 1994 (Doherty, 2014).

What has also increased is the use of media; there has been reported a near tenfold jump in use of social media in the past decade, and that’s only amongst adults (Perrin, 2015). Knowing all this, it is evident that the media has had and still has a major influence on public opinion- and divide.

However, to properly understand this influence, one needs to dig deeper and understand in which context and with which motives the piece of media is being presented. Does it come from a private organization or a state provider? Did the Islamophobic comment come before or after a terrorist attack?

Did the comment on Brexit come from England or Poland? Is the piece of media censored or not? Media Studies Professor at the University of Michigan Barry Rickles used the example of the Iraq War when discussing the importance of wording, stating “[CNN] labelled the conflict “War In Iraq”, whereas Arab sources, like the newspaper Dar Al-Hayat, regularly called the conflict the “War On Iraq””.

In America, the news of the Iraq War is being presented with the motive of separating America from the conflict, which is understandable considering how then-president Bush was being blamed for starting the war. In Iraq and its neighboring countries however, the news of the war are being presented in the context of conflict; the population feels the conflict both physically and psychologically, and the news outlets reflect this by using “on” instead of “in” and catering to the population’s feeling of being a victim.

A seemingly unimportant change in preposition can thus have a tremendous impact, functioning almost like a weapon in war. Knowing then, that the change in preposition is a result of different contexts- and motives, we can better understand the importance context and motives have. Understanding this is also key to staying critical to both international and national media.

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