Scandals and the armed forces

Mark Blach-Ørsten, Anker Brink Lund

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Historically, mediated scandals involving armed forces can be traced back at least to the Dreyfus Affair (1894–1906). This chapter, however, focuses on producing an overview of spectacles of this kind that have taken place in more recent times. More specifically, we test Thompson’s claim that fundamental changes in the power relations between the military and the news media occurred around the turn of the century, a proposal that the military sources have gained the upper hand in this mutual relationship (Kristensen & Ørsten 2007). In doing so we apply Hoskins and O’Loughlin’s (2015) theory on the three phases of medi¬ated war: broadcast war (the 1990s), diffused war (2000s), and arrested war (2010s). We find a number of mediated scandals with a focus on war and the armed forces that have cast a new and critical visibility on military and government practices. However, we also find that the most serious of these scandals became public in the age of diffused war when the internet, and new actors such as WikiLeaks, disrupted the traditional media ecology. In the present phase of arrested war, scandals seem less frequent. We discuss the possible theoretical reasons for this and suggest some possible explanations. One explanation might be that in the age of arrested war, the mediatization of the military has helped it to become better at avoiding media scandals (Crosbie 2015). Another explanation can be found in the “indexing” hypothesis (Bennett 1990) which states that most event-driven news, like scandals, quickly become constrained by routine journalistic practices such as framing stories within the range of sources and viewpoints that can be found amongst elite news sources. Finally, recent research on political scandals suggests that coverage of the more trivial, personalized ones simply outweigh the coverage of the more complex scandals such as the military ones (Entman 2012; Pollack et al. 2018).
Translated title of the contributionSkandaler om miltæret
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Media and Scandal
EditorsHoward Tumber, Silvio Waisbord
Number of pages8
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)978-0-8153-8759-6
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-351-17300-1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesRoutledge Media and Cultural Studies Companions


  • scandal
  • mediatization
  • armed conflict
  • News Media

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