Elisa Vogel: An analysis of polarized media during the Kavanaugh/Ford Hearings
From Emily Bush-Clark on April 16th, 2020
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My thesis examines the rhetoric of cable news networks in the context of the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey Ford hearings in September of 2018. By analyzing the networks’ framing methods, rhetorical devices, and use of character and ethos, we can look at how network bias bleeds through to rhetoric and contributes to polarized political discourse. Fox News Network takes a very direct style of rhetoric, creating a narrative and discourse rooted in attacking and mistrusting the other side. MSNBC takes a more indirect approach, encouraging its viewers to elaborate and creating more resilient attitudes while discrediting the other side of the aisle. Both networks’ political bias is evident in the techniques they use, illuminating how networks are incentivized to create political polarization in order to maintain a steady viewership base and profit.
Data were sourced from the news networks Fox and MSNBC. The selected articles and transcripts provided coverage in a two week period surrounding the date of the hearing from September 20-October 4, 2018.
A qualitative approach was used for this project. Articles and transcripts were read and analyzed for their use of rhetorical devices and framing as well as for how these devices were used to display network bias and political agenda. I am interested in both the type and quantity of rhetorical devices used - whether one network uses more of one device than the other, for example, or how networks apply the same device in different ways.
This examination will be useful to show how media bias and framing affects their viewerships’ perception of political events and how this contributes to partisan polarization and public political discourse in the United States.