This study examines and critiques the discursive construction of a Hobbesian “war of all against all” in North American commercial news magazines. The prevalence of war metaphors and related adversarial news schemas is documented over a twenty year period, from 1981 to 2000, through an analysis of TIME and Newsweek, along with their Canadian counterpart Maclean’s. After documenting the pervasiveness of these discursive constructs, the paper discusses the underlying causes and potential consequences of these patterns in commercial news discourse. The paper concludes by asserting that this discursively constructed “war of all against all” is highly problematic and unsustainable in an age of increasing social and ecological interdependence. Accordingly, scholars who are interested in peace and conflict resolution would do well to take into account the role that news discourse and other forms of mass-mediated communication play in the perpetuation of social conflict.

Author Bio(s)

Michael Karlberg is an assistant professor of communication at Western Washington University. His research and writing focus on the relationship between communication, culture, and conflict. He recently published a book entitled "Beyond the Culture of Contest: From Adversarialism to Mutualism in an Age of Interdependence" (2004, Oxford: George Ronald). He can be reached at karlberg@cc.wwu.edu.

Leslie Buell is a recent BA honors graduate from the Department of Communication at Western Washington University.


Hobbesian “war of all against all”, Maclean’s, mass-mediated communication play, news discourse, Newsweek, North American commercial news magazines, peace and conflict resolution, perpetuation of social conflict, TIME, war metaphors

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