Morgan Stack


THE ‘WAR ON TERROR’ has surely been one of the most analysed phenomenona in political communication during the first decades of the 21st century. That this might be so is perhaps unsurprising given its prominence and its impact on domestic and international politics during this period. It has increasingly been regarded as the new ordering principle of international relations (Archetti, 2004).The phenomenon has been identified as a ‘master frame’ akin to the ‘cold war’ (Hackett, 2001; Kuypers, Cooper and Althouse, 2008) which dominated political discourse in the latter half of the 20th century. Snow and Benford (1992) originally used the term ‘master frame’ in their analysis of social movements to signify ‘political and cultural shorthand, used to unify a broad movement and instil political agency’. Meyer (1995) later sought to expand its significance beyond social movement politics, using the term to describe a more comprehensive worldview where a master frame will have resonance both within mainstream political discourse and movement politics (Meyer, 1995). In this regard Norris et al. (2003) note that the fall of the Berlin wall and the replacement of the Cold War frame with the newer ‘war on terror’ frame offered ‘a way for American politicians and journalists to construct a narrative to make sense of a range of diverse stories about international security, civil wars and global conflict’ (Norris, Kern and Just, 2003). This paper proposes to address a lacuna in the framing literature by studying how and in what context the master frame of the ‘war on terror’ was used in newspaper coverage.