chapter  12
9 Pages

Crisis and Narrative

The San Bernardino Case
WithVivian S. Walker

How can strategic narratives shape audience perceptions of state legitimacy and control in the immediate aftermath of a crisis? This case study takes a look, examining the media-fueled public discourse and key leader messaging in the wake of the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015. The study tracks the emergence of top-line narratives about the events and its aftermath and how they play out in official statements. The study then looks at counter-narratives as they emerged in on-line reporting and editorials featured in Al Jazeera America. The comparison of these message sets (and their embedded values) yields insights about the use of strategic narratives to project state power, legitimacy, and values in the face of an abrupt challenge to national security interests. Additionally, the study provides lessons learned about the management of strategic narratives in complex media environments, characterized by multiple audiences with competing priorities, interests, and belief systems.