Florian Zollmann

The Yemen and Crimean interventions in the ideological prisms of the 'liberal' Anglo-American press

In their classic works, The political economy of human rights (first published in 1979) and Manufacturing consent (first published in 1988), Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky compared news media coverage of state violence conducted by so-called 'enemy' countries of the West (such as the former Soviet Union, Poland, North Vietnam, Cambodia and the former Republic of Yugoslavia) with coverage of comparable state violence by the US or 'friendly' client-states (such as Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Turkey and Indonesia). Herman and Chomsky (2008: 34) concluded that the news media 'consistently portray[s] people abused in enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will be unworthy'. These findings, they argued, result from dichotomised media selection choices: casualties of state violence are only worthy to be covered by the news media if victimisation meets 'the test of utility to elite interests' (ibid: 31). As a result, Western states and their 'clients' are shielded from public scrutiny, whereas so-called 'enemy' states are shamed until they are forced to integrate into the dominant order.

A paired example in which the news media reproduced such reporting patterns can be seen in Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen in 2015 and Russia's intervention in the Crimea in 2014



  1. Amnesty International (2015) Ten ways that Saudi Arabia violates human rights. 6 March. Available online at https://www.amnesty.org.uk/saudi-arabia-human-rights-raif-badawi-king-salman#.VnA4BUqLQdU, accessed on 15 December 2015
  2. AFP (2015) WHO warns of Yemen health crisis as death toll tops 900, Yahoo! News, 21 April. Available online at: http://news.yahoo.com/yemen-violence-leaves-944-dead-3-487-injured-000724908.html, accessed on 15 December 2015
  3. Bloomberg Business (2014) Ukraine accuses Russia of invading Crimea as airports seized, 28 February. Available online at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-02-28/russian-presence-in-crimea-region-is-aggression-turchynov-says, accessed on 15 December 2015
  4. Chomsky, Noam and Herman, Edward S. (1979a) The Washington connection and Third World fascism: The political economy of human rights: Volume I, Nottingham, Spokesman
  5. Chomsky, Noam and Herman, Edward S. (1979b) After the cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the reconstruction of imperial ideology: The political economy of human rights: Volume II, Nottingham, Spokesman
  6. Dyke, Joe (2015) Is the Saudi war on Yemen legal?, IRIN, 3 April. Available online at http://www.irinnews.org/report/101320/is-the-saudi-war-on-yemen-legal, accessed on 11 December 2015
  7. Elliott, Francis and Loyd, Antony (2014) Officials gather in London to draw up sanction hit list, Times, 11 March p. 1
  8. Foster, Peter, Loveluck, Louisa, and Mojalli, Almigdad (2014) UK 'will support Saudi-led assault on Yemeni rebels - but not engaging in combat', Daily Telegraph, 27 March. Available online at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/11500518/UK-will-support-Saudi-led-assault-on-Yemeni-rebels-but-not-engaging-in-combat.html, accessed on 15 December 2015
  9. Harding, Luke, Lewis, Paul and Traynor, Ian (2014) Crisis in Ukraine: If your troops invade there will be costs, Obama warns Putin, Guardian, 1 March p. 4
  10. Herman, Edward S. and Chomsky, Noam (2008) Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media, London, The Bodley Head, third edition
  11. Kirkpatrick, David D. (2015) Arab nations to form military force to counter Iran and Islamist extremists, New York Times, 29 March. Available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/30/world/middleeast/arab-leaders-agree-on-joint-military-force.html?_r=1, accessed on 15 December 2015
  12. Lichfield, John (2014) EU leaders agree on package to punish Russia, Independent, 7 March pp 12-13
  13. Mandel, Michael (2005) Pax Pentagon: Wie die USA der Welt den Krieg als Frieden verkauft, Frankfurt am Main, Zweitausendeins
  14. Milne, Seumas (2014) The clash in Crimea is the fruit of Western expansion, Guardian, 5 March. Available online at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/05/clash-crimea-western-expansion-ukraine-fascists, accessed on 15 December 2015
  15. Nezemroaya, Mahdi Darius (2015) The war on Yemen: Where oil and geopolitics mix, GlobalResearch, 9 April. Available online at http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-war-on-yemen-where-oil-and-geopolitics-mix/5442423, accessed on 15 December 2015
  16. Rees, Madeleine (2015) Military intervention in Yemen: The international system in crisis, openDemocracy, 9 April. Available online at https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/madeleine-rees/military-intervention-in-yemen-international-system-in-crisis, accessed on 11 December 2015
  17. Reuters (2015) Scores of Yemeni civilians killed in Aden as loyalists try to resist Houthi rebels, Guardian, 6 May. Available online at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/06/scores-of-yemeni-civilians-killed-in-aden-as-loyalists-try-to-resist-houthi-rebels, accessed on 15 December 2015
  18. Roberts, Dan and Shaheen, Kareem (2015) Saudi Arabia launches Yemen airstrikes as alliance builds against Houthi rebels, Guardian, 26 March. Available online at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/26/saudi-arabia-begins-airstrikes-against-houthi-in-yemen, accessed on 11 December 2015
  19. Roberts, Dan and Traynor, Ian (2014) West imposes sanctions on Russia as Crimea cuts loose from Ukraine, Guardian, 7 March p. 1
  20. Spiegel Online (2015) Menschenrechte: Amnesty prangert Hinrichtungswelle in Saudi-Arabien an, 5 May. Available online at http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/saudi-arabien-amnesty-kritisiert-lage-der-menschenrechte-a-1032276.html, accessed on 15 December 2015
  21. Tancredi, Antonello (2014) The Russian annexation of the Crimea: Questions relating to the use of force, Questions of International Law, 11 May. Available online at http://www.qil-qdi.org/the-russian-annexation-of-the-crimea-questions-relating-to-the-use-of-force/, accessed on 16 December 2015
  22. Washington Post (2014) Condemnation is not enough, 1 March p. A14
  23. Yemen scholars (2015) A statement on Saudi Arabia's attack on Yemen, Counterpunch, 16 April. Available online at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/04/16/a-statement-on-saudi-arabias-attack-on-yemen/, accessed on 11 December 2015

Note on the contributor

Florian Zollmann is a lecturer in Media and Director of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies at Liverpool Hope University. He holds a PhD in Journalism from the University of Lincoln. His PhD thesis assesses US, UK and German press coverage of US/Coalition 'counter-insurgency' operations in Iraq. Florian is currently contracted to write a monograph on international news coverage of human rights issues during a range of contemporary conflicts for the international publisher Peter Lang. Additionally, he is conducting research on the ethical implications of propaganda and surveillance in liberal democracies and press-state relations in the 21st-century news media environment. Florian's research has been published in international academic journals and edited collections. With Richard Lance Keeble and John Tulloch, he jointly edited Peace journalism, war and conflict resolution (Peter Lang, 2010). Florian is a board member of the Institute of Communication Ethics and the Orwell Society. He is writing a bi-monthly report on media affairs for the German ecumenical magazine, Publik-Forum, and a monthly op-ed column for the Latin American multimedia platform, teleSUR.