Credit Claiming and Blame Avoidance in Authoritarian Media (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. Specifically, news coverage will deemphasize the dictator’s connection to government policies -- which may fail or become controversial -- while focusing instead on particularistic and symbolic activities like meetings with important social groups, national speeches, 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.