Coleraine researchers explore 'The Propaganda of Peace'

A new book by University of Ulster researchers has questioned whether the Northern Ireland media's focus on the peace process came at the expense of engagement with wider political issues.

‘The Propaganda of Peace’, written by Dr Greg McLaughlin and Dr Steve Baker, from the Centre for Media Research at Coleraine, examines how much influence the media and culture have had in shaping the peace process from the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 to the present.

Although specific to Northern Ireland, the book’s key arguments resonate internationally at a time when President Obama tries to kick-start the Middle East peace process and Spain responds to the recently announced ETA ceasefire.

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The researchers reveal the media here played a key role - for good and ill - in setting the agenda for negotiations and agreements right up to the St Andrew’s Agreement and restoration of devolution in 2007.

Dr McLaughlin said: “When political opponents Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were confirmed as First Minister and Deputy First Minister of a new executive in May 2007, a chapter was closed on Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

“A dramatic realignment of politics had brought these irreconcilable enemies together and the media played a significant role in persuading the public to accept this startling change.

“Our research analyses this incident and others in a wider study of the role of the media in conflict resolution and transformation.”

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Co-author Dr Baker added: “With analyses of factual and fictional media forms including journalism, film and television drama, situation comedy and museum exhibitions, The Propaganda of Peace proposes a radically different approach to the media’s role in reporting and representing the process.

“In this book we conclude that the ‘propaganda of peace’ actually promotes the abandonment of a politically engaged public sphere at the very moment when public debate about neo-liberalism, financial meltdown and social and economic inequality make it most necessary.”

The Propaganda of Peace was launched at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, earlier this month.