November 21, 2022


  • Structures and Violence
  • Media and Violence
    • Coordinaton
    • Persuasion
  • Evidence

Structures and Violence:

How does media “incite violence”?


Strategic Logic:

  • Why do voters follow ethnic parties after violence? Why not ostracize party for fomenting violence?

Psychological Logic:

  • Why do people perceive their group as under threat?
  • Why do people perceive status threats/moral transgression?
  • Why do people hold implicit attitudes?

What is the role of structure in ethnic violence?

Structural Causes of Violence?

Fearon and Laitin (2000) consider possibilty that discourse (cultural schemas) shape behavior

  • discourse of ethnicity/nationalism from colonization \(\to\) conflict
    • but not all colonized places have ethnic violence
  • discourse can make some groups appear threatening or naturally subject to violence
    • but how are these discourses sustained?
    • schemas are reinterpretable

How can structures cause violence if structures are complex, overlapping, changeable?

How can structures cause violence if structures are stable?

Structural Causes of Violence?

Link between structure and ethnic violence focused on schemas/discourse:

Structures are composed of schemas (ways of thinking) and resources (power/material):

  • schemas that are endowed with more resources reach more people, shape more action
  • schemas made available through parents, neighbors, schools, and media

We can focus on structures embedded in media as a cause for ethnic violence.

Media and Violence:

Media and Violence



These shape the motives, opportunities, and cost of doing violence


Framing of events might change how people perceive/what people believe…

  • what “problems” are there in society (what moral transgressions have occurred? what moral order ought be imposed?) diagnostic frames
  • what are the “solutions” to this problem? prognostic frames
  • what are the “facts” of what has happened? (which frames are credible?)

Media frames activate psychological mechanisms for ethnic violence:

  • induce perceptions of threats, status threat, moral transgression; portray violence as “moral solution”
  • reinforce stereotypes/implicit bias

Media and Violence


Media messages might reduce…

  • transaction costs of organizing violence
    • How to coordinate collective violence (find collaborators)
    • How to acquire information/weapons/targets (find targets)
  • costly consequences of violence
    • alter audience perception that violence is “moral” (persuasion of non-perpetrators?)
    • change social pressure (within social network) to do/not do violence
    • Supportive voices offsets risk of condemnation

Media and Violence

Why might it be difficult to empirically test for effects of media on ethnic violence?

  • When does media messaging that supports ethnic violence emerge?
  • Who is exposed to media messaging that supports ethnic violence?


Rwandan Genocide: Background

  • Colonial Origins of Hutu/Tutsi divide
  • Independence created political struggle
  • Civil War in 1980s, Tutsi armed group
  • Breakdown of peace process in 1993-4

Yanagizawa-Drott (2014)


  • Government-run radio station


Diagnostic frames:

  • Emphasized RPF (Tutsi armed group) atrocities
  • Alleged local Tutsis involved in conspiracy to dominate Hutus
  • Dehumanized Tutsis as “cockroaches”

Prognostic frames:

  • Preemptive violence necessary for “self-defense”

Rwandan Genocide: Question

Did radio endorsement of violence cause violence?

Was it persuasion? Coordination?

Rwandan Genocide: Question

Some intuitions:


Violence perpetrated by individuals could be coordination or persuasion


Violence perpetrated collectively likely the result of coordination

Exponential effects suggest coordination rather than persuasion

“Spill-over”/“neighborhood” effects of radio suggest coordination

Rwandan Genocide: Difficulty

Selection Effects

Radio transmitters built by government…

  • built in places with disposition toward violence?
  • built in places with greater government/party control?

Exposure to radio may be related to other factors that might explain participation in violence

Rwandan Genocide

“Random Variation” in Radio Exposure

Neighboring villages that are…

  • same distance to radio transmitter
  • but radio signals arbitrarily disrupted by local terrain

Elevation and Radio Signal