‘Emotions and war on YouTube: Affective investments in RT’s coverage of the conflict in Syria’

Dr Rhys Crilley and Dr Precious Chatterje-Doody

Dr Crilley presented this paper at the Media, War and Conflict Journal 10th anniversary conference in Florence, Italy, 22-23 May, 2018.

Research on narratives and images of war has often focused on the content of these media, and rarely have scholars explored how they are interpreted by audiences. This paper addresses this gap by arguing that images of war and 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 analysis of the videos that sets out the core representational modes present in RT’s representations of Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict. We then analyse a sample of 400 comments and social media interactions of YouTube viewers to explore how viewers interpret and express emotions towards the narratives and images presented to them at two stages of the conflict: the commencement of Russia’s military intervention; and following the 2016 announcement of plans to withdraw Russian troops. Following this, we set out our conclusions about ‘affective investments’ in representations of war and conflict. We go on to suggest a number of ways in which the study of emotions and ‘affective investments’ in war and conflict can be taken forward.