Credit Claiming by Autocrats (With Ala’ Alrababa’h).
News coverage in authoritarian regimes often focuses extensively on the dictator, but we know little about the content this coverage prioritizes, and why it emphasizes certain kinds of stories over others. Building from the assumption that authoritarian propaganda seeks to stabilize the regime by protecting the dictator’s political support, we argue that coverage of dictators will prioritize symbolic and particularistic credit claiming that minimizes the dictator’s exposure to blame while building goodwill with influential political and social actors. In other words, news coverage will deemphasize the dictator’s connection to government policies while focusing instead on meetings with important individuals and social groups, as well as symbolic activities like national speeches, military exercises, and religious ceremonies. We provide empirical evidence for this theory by analyzing a large corpus of news articles about dictators from several authoritarian regimes in the Arab world.