Some dared call it torture: Cultural resonance, Abu Ghraib, and a selectively echoing press

Charles M. Rowling, Timothy M. Jones, Penelope Sheets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


This study draws upon research on "indexing" and "cascading activation" to explore U.S. political and news discourse surrounding the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Specifically, we systematically analyze White House, military, congressional, and news messages. In so doing, we incorporate scholarship on social identity theory to suggest why news media challenge certain White House frames but uncritically echo others. Our data demonstrate that White House frames were consistently challenged by Democrats in the opposing party, but that these competing congressional messages were largely absent in news coverage. These results challenge previous research on news coverage of Abu Ghraib. We discuss how these patterns align with and expand Entman's cascading activation model of press-state relations, and consider the implications for future scholarship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1043-1061
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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