A Hierarchy of Innocence: The Media’s Use of Children in the Telling of International News

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January 1, 2002, 4:17 pm
By Susan D. Moeller

A paper by Susan D. Moeller, spring 2000 fellow, examines the media’s use of imagery of children in news stories about conflict. Moeller argues that the shift in warfare and in geopolitics since the Cold War has made it difficult for Americans to identify the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in international affairs. Without a clear sense of who needs protection, the media and other political actors have tried to identify who is innocent. In many cases, children have been portrayed as the only “pure” victims. For many conflicts and crises, children, seen generically, have filled up the American empathy vacuum. As a result, conflicts are depicted in the media less as political confrontations than as brutal and ideologically senseless battles.

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