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