The Other World: Reading News as Myth to Imagine the British Nation
The socially formative role of international news can often
be overlooked in favour of editorial and commentary when examining its influence on the development of national identity. Because of its ancestry of objectivity and factual accuracy, the truly socially formative function of news is often regarded only in terms of bias, or as a tool of manipulation for authority figures. Benedict Anderson and other key scholars establish news as a site of imagining communities, often on a national scale. This thesis will examine international news as indicative of underlying knowledge and belief systems. The discursive power of international news can be likened to and analysed as that of modern mythology. It occupies a similar socially cohesive role, adheres to similar narrative structures, and has similar discursive impacts.
This thesis analysed foreign news articles that appeared in London newspapers, during the second world war, covering a moment of crisis and drama in Nazi Germany. The research involved the examination of three British newspapers and their coverage of the unsuccessful assassination attempt of Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944, which became known as “The July 20 Plot”. A textual analysis that read news as myth identified overarching themes in the characterisation of Germany: a nation in chaos; the German military and public rife with disloyalty; a government ruling with an iron fist; and Hitler as a fanatical madman. These themes were indicative of British citizens imagining their nation as a community in opposition to that of Germany.
The analysis was supported by reading the news articles as an “Other World” myth, through which characteristics of the nation imagined by Britons was observed as existing in opposition to that of the Germany portrayed. Implicit in the depiction of Germany was reverence of military discipline, democratic process, solidarity in times of hardship, and egalitarian camaraderie amongst all citizens and leaders. International news is thus solidi ed as a source of historical enquiry, as well as a site of discourse that can be examined as the expression of mythological knowledge that typifies a national imagined community.