Fabricating the American Dream in US media portrayals of Syrian refugees: A discourse analytical study

Aditi Bhatia, Christopher Joseph Jenks

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The months preceding and following the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States have incited furious debate about the authenticity of media discourse in the shaping of reality (cf. fake news), including in particular the reporting of refugees from predominantly Muslim regions and their resettlement in Western nations. Much of this debate is rooted in how opposing discourse clans, such as liberal and conservative ideologies, construct a narrative of nationhood around contested views of refugees. Examining mainstream and alternative media from a critical discourse analytic perspective, the article uncovers how two key narratives about the Syrian refugee crisis emerge when the media attempt to orient their respective audiences to government policy through the discursive formation of the American Dream. Drawing on aspects of historicity, linguistic and semiotic action, and social impact, the analysis of the data reveals a discursive fracas between a humanistic perspective on the crisis that exploits a banal understanding of the American Dream and a more dichotomous narrative that homogenises refugees as a threat to the American way of life. These observations add to the growing body of literature that questions the ways in which the media discursively shapes, and is shaped by, political ideologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-239
Number of pages19
JournalDiscourse and Communication
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • American Dream
  • ideology
  • immigration
  • media discourse
  • nationalism
  • Syrian refugees
  • Trump

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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