Covert Ideologies and Sign Manipulation: a Functional Semiotic Analysis of Western vs. Arabic News Coverage of New Zealand 2019 Mosque Carnage

Waleed Alsoufi, Naser N. Albzour


The primary concern of this comparative study is to explore sign manipulation in front page photographs and headlines in both Western and Arabic news reports in a humble attempt to determine how visual and verbal signs are purposefully presented to the target audience. The researchers precisely try to scrutinize and analyze covert ideological biases of such news reports not only as expressed verbally but also visually. This study exclusively hinges on the event of the New Zealand Mosque Massacre which took place during Friday Prayers on 15 March 2019 in Christchurch City, where an Australian terrorist opened fire on innocent Muslim worshippers and brutally killed fifty of them. The heinous crime has left the world in a state of mourning and utter shock. Media coverage of this attack overwhelmed the Western and the Arab newspapers as well as social media worldwide. Unfortunately, the Christchurch massacre has not been headlined as a terrorist attack by several Western news reports unlike Arabic ones. The source of the data in question mainly relies on 10 popular newspapers: five Western newspapers and five Arabic ones: Daily Mirror, The New York Times, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Sun, Addustour, Al-Jazirah, Al-Anba, Al-Quds Al-Arabi and AL-Sharq, respectively. The data represent a random sample, so the content does not necessarily represent attitudes or perspectives of all Western and Arabic newspapers. Following the Peircean semiotic triadic model, this study tries to unveil basic ideological features and manipulative strategies that clearly depict the Australian terrorist in some Western newspapers. In addition, it bluntly and objectively shows covert racial prejudice against Muslims in western newspapers. The findings show the significance of both verbal and visual signs in news story because they enable the reporters to express their perspectives towards major events such as New Zealand mosque carnage more effectively. As a result, the use of visual images in front page headlines does not merely serve to represent the reality of that horrible event in a visual form; rather, it is an essential tool of persuasion and tampering with the public opinion by means of insinuating some seriously embedded ideologies.


Codes, Ideologies, New Zealand Massacre, Semiotic Analysis, Sign Manipulation, Verbal Signs, Visual Signs, Terrorism

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