Discourse of Fear in the Social Semiotic Representation of the Novel Coronavirus in English Language Newspapers

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ShahzadNabi, Abdul Wali Ahmad Abbasi, SayyedZeshan Ali


This study examines semiotic resources, deployed by English language newspapers to
describe discourse of fear about the novel Coronavirus. This study explores: How were the
highly circulated English language newspapers expressed discourse of fear in the world? The
data was based on ten editorial articles followed by the comments on four English language
newspapers: “The New York Times, The Guardian, The Tribune, and The Japan Times.” In
addition to this, 30 participants’ perceptions about the semiotic choices used by these English
language newspapers were studied to support the selected editorials' findings. The data was
interpreted through thematic analysis by codifying the emerging discursive themes. The
findings reveal that semiotic resources deployed by the selected English newspapers created a
discourse of fear that set the new normal. Moreover, the English newspapers' use of semiotic
resources is well replicated by the participants, as the participant’s comments on these
semiotic resources surface positive self-claim and negative out-group. They divide between
them and us, have and have not, and eventually widen the language of fear, panic, and hatred.
This thesis contributes to the studies on the discourse of fear created by media to serve
political interests. This study recommends replacing the current semiotic choices used by the
media with neutral, honest, and positive lexical and visual choices. The discourse of fear
must be replaced with the discourse of medical officials that must use factual language and
show optimistic visuals to build policies for the most vulnerable in the world.

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