Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler

Dr. Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler

Associate Fellow
Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler

Dr. Alexandra Herfroy-Mischler is an Associate Lecturer at the Department of Communication and Journalism of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an Associate Researcher at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the CNRS/CRFJ. She completed her PhD at the Media Studies Department , Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, (Paris3), France. Her research focuses on identifying the various role of an event's narrative when framed by old and digital journalism practices. So far her research has identified the role of narrative in building post-transitional collective memory (2013; 2015), impose silences in intelligence events (2016) or foster conflicts in Jihadism (2017). Her research can be read in Media, War & Conflict Journal as well as Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism.

Research abstract: "The 'Blame Game Frame' in the Middle East"

The proposed research aims to understand the relationship between the expectations of the various actors in a peace process and the use of 'blame' when peace negotiations fail. Utilizing discourse and media studies perspectives, the purpose of this study is twofold:

1. To understand the reason for using blame in peace negotiations failure;
2. To identify which specific actors are using blame and how blame discourse is characterized within media coverage.

Blame is generally formulated when one side of the conflict underlines a specific expectation which has not been fulfilled by the other side or when a process unfolds differently than expected. Needless to say, this blame dynamic is encountered consistently when studying peace processes of protracted conflicts. Interestingly, blame avoidance strategies have been identified much more thoroughly than the dynamic of blame itself. These strategies include shifting of blame to an offended party (Kampf, 2009), victim-perpetrator reversal, denial, attempts to shift blame, and the creation of scapegoats, discursive strategies of act, control, goal and intention denial, mitigations, down-toning, minimizing, or euphimization of negative action (Van Dijk, 1992). Nonetheless, the discourse of blame, a central aspect of epideictic rhetoric, which, to seem accurate, often relies on traditional collective stereotypes and negative images of the enemy (Wodak, 2015) has been understudied despite its pivotal role in international relations (Church, 2010).

In order to understand how the discourse of blame is constructed, it is crucial to identify what are the expectations of each side and how these expectations are compromised. We suggest looking at official documents as a textual site which allows for tracking such expectations. Official peace resolution texts aim at solving conflicts by identifying what both actors need to perform in order to achieve sustainable peace. Once agreed upon, the official text, acting as a fundamental cornerstone, ceases de facto wars and conflicts and at the same time sets the tone for post-conflict relationships. Based on this knowledge, one can trace if and how these expectations are interpreted by each side's media accurately, and how such interpretation may lead to a failure of the process.

In the case of negotiations failure, official actors (such as each side's officials and the mediators) will serve as the main source of information for the media. This study addresses how such blaming discourse (be it from officials, other sources of information or the media themselves) is operated by the media. In fact, the attribution of blame will most likely be part of the media framing (Entman, 1993; Tenenboim-Weinblatt, Hanitzsch and Nagar, 2015) and potentially sustain and even exacerbate the conflict (Galtung, 1986; Hanitzsch, 2004).

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