Barry McNamara  |   Published July 02, 2019

Seeing the U.S. from Abroad

Communications studies professor Robert Hinck co-authors text on how foreign media covered 2016 U.S. presidential election.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – As the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign enters its next stage, a book about the 2016 presidential election by a Monmouth College professor reveals how that campaign was perceived by media in Russia, China and the Middle East.

ROBERT HINCK: ?The Chinese media played up the ?infotainment' elements. ... The Russians were the... ROBERT HINCK: “The Chinese media played up the ‘infotainment' elements. ... The Russians were the most antagonistic, the most critical.”Global Media and Strategic Narratives of Contested Democracy: Chinese, Russian and Arabic Media Narratives of the U.S. Presidential Election will be released in early July by Routledge. Monmouth College communication studies professor Robert Hinck co-authored the book with Skye Cooley and Randolph Kluver, who are both at Oklahoma State University, where Kluver serves as dean of the School of Global Studies and Partnerships.

The book “utilized similar methods and theories” to Hinck’s grant work with the Strategic Multilayer Assessment community, which focuses on examining foreign media reporting on issues critical to U.S. strategic interests.

“My work includes collecting and translating foreign media reports – primarily from China and Russia but also Iran – in order to identify and measure the strategic narratives present in their media discourse,” said Hinck, who was recently honored as this year’s recipient of the College’s Hatch Award for Excellence in Scholarship. A few months earlier, Hinck also received the College’s Gundersen Junior Faculty Scholarship Award.

The authors examined global news narratives during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and immediately afterward to better understand how the world viewed the election, issues that mattered around the world, and how nations made sense of how their media systems presented the presidential election. They analyzed nearly 1,600 news stories from more than 60 sources within three regional media ecologies in China, Russia and the Middle East.

Hinck said he and his colleagues were working on the book long before reports that Russia tried to interfere with the election.

“Some of our main findings were that the Chinese media played up the ‘infotainment’ elements, things like House of Cards or making analogies to Chinese dynastic period dramas they have there,” said Hinck. “The Russians were the most antagonistic, the most critical. They were positive about Donald Trump, and extremely negative about Hillary Clinton.”

As for Middle East media, Hinck said it was “a case of the same old, same old.”

“They felt that no matter which party was in charge, the U.S. was going to look after its own interests,” he said. “The Middle East would be left to help itself.”

Hinck said there is much to be learned from understanding how foreign countries view the United States. His type of open-source intelligence analysis helps determine how the federal government makes sense of politics and events around the world.

“Knowing how the rest of the world understands us helps us be more receptive to foreign governments,” he said. “And if we know how China views the U.S., we can also see how China views itself. The same thing is true with Russia.”

A review of Global Media and Strategic Narratives of Contested Democracy says the book avoids “jargon-laden prose, (making it) as accessible as it is wide-ranging. … Communication/media studies students, as well as political scientists whose studies includes media and global politics, will welcome its publication.”

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