Pietrzak-Franger, Monika et al. – Narrating the Pandemic: COVID-19, China and blame allocation strategies in Western European popular press

Monika Pietrzak-Franger, Alina Theresa Helene Lange, Rebecca Söregi

Full Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/13675494221077291


Blaming the emergence and spread of COVID-19 on various social groups has been a central theme in narrating the pandemic. In such narratives, China has often emerged as a convenient scapegoat. However, systematic research into transcultural and culture-specific strategies of stigmatisation in the context of the corona pandemic is still scarce. With the help of a cultural studies perspective and multimodal analysis, we contribute to this effort by tracing the blame allocation strategies of the online platforms of three Western European newspapers – Daily Mail (the United Kingdom), Bild (Germany) and Neue Kronen Zeitung (Austria). We argue that, in their early accounts of the COVID-19 pandemic, all three newspapers perpetuated narratives of the pandemic outbreak that were then skilfully choreographed to support narratives of invasion that register anxieties over China’s potential rise to world dominance. While the strategies the venues apply show striking similarities, occasional differences account for the respective countries’ differing relations with and attitudes to China.

Keywords: Austria, blame allocation, China, corona pandemic, COVID-19, Germany, outbreak narratives, popular press, Sinophobia, UK

Pietrzak-Franger, Monika – A ‘Visiodemic’ : COVID-19, Contagion Media, and the British Press

Monika Pietrzak-Franger

Full Link: https://doi.org/10.33675/ANGL/2021/3/15


“No one is immune against images” (Franzen 2020) – their power stems from their immediacy, their lingering claim for truth, authenticity, and objectivity, from their role as a witness; but also from their ability to capture attention, to convey large amounts of information in a short time, and from their high emotional appeal (Cassinger and Thelander 2015; cf. Flynn 2019). This is also what makes them dangerous: even in our post-truth society (see e.g. McIntyre 2018), images continue to be taken at face value by a majority of the population. Still, images perform complex argumentative and rhetorical work. Since they can spread fast, especially in times of Web 4.0 and convergence culture (cf. Jenkins 2006), their rhetorical force should be taken into consideration, especially in the context of the recent pandemic. The corona pandemic is the most (medially) visible of all the pandemics so far. Indeed, in mid-February 2020, the character of reporting on the unfolding crisis changed: sparse, mainly verbal reports that speckled the ‘pages’ of the British press transformed into a visual deluge – a visiodemic – almost overnight. Highly affective imageries began to dominate online (and offline) spaces.