Deconstructing the Gay International: A Content Analysis of Coverage of Homosexuality in Arabic Satellite News
El-Khatib, Mohammed M.
On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first American state to legalize same-sex marriage. In what was widely seen as a historic milestone in North America, the marriage equality debate was quickly thrust into the head beams of global media networks. Images of protestors, activists and jubilant couples in long lines outside of Boston's city hall were transmitted and consumed worldwide, including Arab and Muslim news outfits. From Marriage Equality to the conscription of Gay men in the military, globally salient events dealing with homosexuality have begun to be broadcast with increasing frequency on Arabic satellite news networks, a move that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Despite this surge in queer visibility, homosexuality remains unpopular amongst Arab publics, prompting questions about the editorial mechanisms involved in it's exposure. Are Western news regimes influencing the editorial gatekeepers in the Arab newsroom? How does an Arab satellite network attempt to reconcile its identity as a global media institution with its desire to represent the voices and aspirations of its audience? Finally, what can this coverage tell us about the similarities and differences in the attitudes towards homosexuality between international-based and local-based Arabic newsrooms?This study approaches this puzzle by problematizing post-colonial assumptions about contemporary sexual subjectivity as articulated through the "Gay International", a term coined by Joseph Massad to describe the principles enshrined by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) activists, human rights networks and academics in their efforts to enforce Western constructions of homosexuality upon the Arab world. Today's highly mediated environment prompts questions about the salience of Massad's argument , particularly when the agents of transmission are increasingly, local indigenous media sources. Using a quantitative content analysis of online articles from four major Arabic language networks, this study seeks to explore how this transmission is framed amongst local, and internationally based Arabic language news broadcasters. Are the news networks the new conduits of the Gay International? Or are they a source of incitement to discourse?
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