‘American Corona’ vs. ‘The Chinese virus’: Blaming and Othering in Arab Media

Published: 2022
Hobaika, Z., Möller, L.-M. & Völkel, J. (2022). The MENA Region and COVID-19. Impact, Implications and Prospects.
ISBN: 9781032145815


In this book chapter, AGYA alumna Prof. Dr. Carola Richter and her co-authors from four different Arab countries show that the strategy of ‘othering’ – one of the classic tools in authoritarian, as well as democratic, power maintenance – has also dominated COVID-19 related media coverage in Egypt, Iraq, Oman and Yemen. They argue that mass media have been fulfilling a particular role during the COVID-19 pandemic, since they help spread daily messages from the decision-makers on the latest progress and necessary measures; at the same time, they help create the image of their own political leadership as ‘saviours’ against an ‘external’ threat. They argue that journalists in the four examined countries have functioned as ‘local gatekeepers’ during the pandemic, supposed ‘to meet national ends by having a belief system such as patriotism’. The target of these ‘othering’ strategies can be very different, depending on the context and political need: China as the place of origin of the virus, the U.S. as an alleged conspiring force behind it, Saudi Arabia or Iran as enemies of either side in the Yemeni civil war, or simply citizens who refuse to obey to the government’s anti-COVID-19 requests. Much of what Richter et al. describe will sound very familiar to readers from European or North American countries. Othering creates boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that gives ‘us’ a feeling of safety and security – similar to the islanders of Martha’s Vineyard, who appeared to react with hesitation to temporary residents inhabiting their island and thus breaking into their ‘us’ness, as observed by Levine.

Carola Richter
Abdulrahman Al-Shami
Soheir Osman
Sahar Khalifa
Samuel Mundua