‘Mediating militarism: affective investments in RT’s YouTube coverage of conflict in Syria’.

Dr Precious Chatterje-Doody, The University of Manchester and Dr Rhys Crilley, The Open University. Emotions vs Rationality in Mediated Discussions, Saint Petersburg, 17-19 April, 2018.

Research on narratives and images of global politics has often focused on the content of these media, and rarely have scholars of international relations explored how they are interpreted by audiences. This paper addresses this gap by arguing that images of conflict have political effects, not simply because of their content and discursive ‘form’, but also because of their affective and emotional ‘forces’. To support this claim, we draw on a case study of RT’s (formerly Russia Today) YouTube videos of Russia’s military intervention in Syria.

Our paper presents a two-fold analysis of how viewers interpret and express emotions towards the narratives and images of the conflict, as presented by RT. We begin with a detailed audio-visual content analysis of the videos that sets out the core representational modes present in RT’s representations of the conflict: key themes; topics of coverage; actors foregrounded; and narrative framing. We then provide a detailed analysis of the social media interactions of YouTube viewers (upvotes, downvotes and substantive comments) to explore how viewers interpret and express emotions towards the narratives and images presented to them at three stages of the conflict: the commencement of Russia’s military intervention; during the ‘media event’ that accompanied the re-taking of Palmyra; and following the announcement of plans to withdraw Russian troops.

Following the dual analysis of both the content of the video and the comments made by YouTube viewers, we set out our conclusions about people’s expression of emotions and ‘affective investments’ in videos of military conflict. We go on to suggest a number of ways in which the study of people’s emotions and ‘affective investments’ in visual narratives of global politics can be taken forward.