November 24, 2021


  • Media and Violence
    • Coordinaton
    • Persuasion
  • Evidence

Media and Violence:

A Puzzle:

Electoral Logic:

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

Power consolidation:

  • Why frame the violence as just? Why extensive newspaper editorializing?
  • Why is this perceived as “legitimate”?

What is the role of media and messaging in ethnic violence?

How does media “incite violence”?

Media and Violence



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

Media and 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? (what frames are credible?)

Media and Violence


Transaction costs of organizing violence

  • How to coordinate collective violence
  • How to acquire information/weapons/targets

Consequences of violence

  • Social pressure (within social network) to not/do violence
  • Supportive voices offsets risk of condemnation


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 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?

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