ABSTRACT

The previous chapters dealt with the global meanings (topics) and global forms (schemata) of news reports about ethnic affairs. In this and the next chapter we focus on the ‘local’ or ‘micro’ levels of news discourse, that is, the meaning, style, and rhetoric of its actual words and sentences. This chapter deals with the structures and strategies of the local meaning of news discourses and their underlying ideological framework. To get a first impression of the many dimensions of meaning and ideology involved, consider the following passage from an editorial about immigration in a British tabloid newspaper:

That is why we have to be more brisk in saying no, and showing the door to those who are not British citizens and would abuse our hospitality and tolerance. To do that is not to give way to prejudice, but to lessen the provocation on which it feeds. (Mail, 28 November 1985)

In this defence and legitimation of strict immigration laws and practices, the Mail uses meaning structures and strategies that are quite frequent in right-wing discourse on ethnic affairs. A first major feature of this passage is that it presupposes that ‘we [British] are hospitable and tolerant’. That is, the editorial does not assert this to be the case, but simply assumes that this is true. Presuppositions used in this way are an often-used strategic means to conceal controversial claims and are less easy to challenge by an uncritical reader than a straightforward assertion. Also, such presuppositions are often an expression of an underlying ideology, in this case about the characteristics of the white British.