‘There are two principles so basic as to constitute axioms of conservative thinking. First, the principle that there is no general politics of conservatism. The forms of conservatism will be as varied as the forms of social order. Second, the principle that conservatism engages with the surface of things, with the motives, reasons, traditions and values of the society from which it draws its life.’
– Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism
There are two aspects of how the media developed over the last couple of years conservatives may take an issue with. First, the internationalisation or globalisation of news topics, and second, the domestication of frameworks within which we understand news. In media studies, internationalisation or globalisation are terms that refer to an increasing tendency to discuss world-wide news, instead of news that focus on one particular political entity. While back in the days, local news used to bloom that were exclusively focusing on local, micro matters, now the most successful news organisations are international giants that cover news from all around the world. The domestication of news, on the other hand, means that news from a third country are described and framed in the most familiar terms to a domestic public. Domestication helps render news more understandable and familiar for the reader, even if they occur in very far corners of the world. While the two terms, internationalisation and domestication, seem to be opposites, in reality they complement one another.
Consider the following example to better understand how internationalisation and domestication go hand in hand. Neither Iraq nor the United States are directly involved in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, yet news about the conflict is on the agenda of all major news organisations in both countries. This is the internationalisation of news topics: the same political events are being discussed all around the globe—not local, but international news. Simultaneously, however, the framing of the same piece of news differs in each political unit. While in the United States the conflict in Ukraine is being discussed as Russian aggression, in Iraq news media draw a parallel between the Russo-Ukrainian war and the US invasion of their country. While in the United States it is the emphasis on Russian aggression that resonates with domestic readers and helps frame the conflict and keep it on the agenda, in Iraq, it is the geopolitical struggle and being at the hands of a superpower is the narrative that the public can relate to. Thus while both countries’ media discuss the same internationalised piece of news, they discuss it from a highly domestic framework. So, while on the surface the international media system seems to be incredibly globalised, in terms of narratives, each local media differs from the other. As cross-countries media systems widely share the topics that they report on, an illusion of being on the same page has been created—which leads to surprises when it turns out that we mean very different things under the same headlines.
From a conservative standpoint, both internationalisation and domestication of news can be critiqued— in the sense of what was described by Roger Scruton as the first axiom of conservative thinking. The first axiom of conservative thinking says that conservatism is as varied as the forms of political order. In a more general sense, each political order has its own problems, is faced with unique challenges that require unique solutions. What the internationalisation of news has led to over the years was, for instance, that for almost three years the COVID-19 pandemic was covered as the number one news of every newspaper in the world. Now, for almost one year, it has been the war in Ukraine that is trending in all countries.
But are these issues indeed so saliently and permanently the biggest issues for every country across the globe? While the internationalisation of news has created an environment where the biggest events top all news, from a conservative standpoint, the more local, unique challenges a particular political unit faces should be given more media attention than large global events. Instead of discussing the rise in infection rates in the US, Hungarian news could have been more focused on, for instance, the inequalities distance learning might have led to between children living in the rural areas and in cities. Instead of focusing disproportionately on the missile strikes in Ukraine, UK, French, German and Hungarian news should be prioritizing the events and challenges their own political units face— e.g., the rise in inflation or the growing cost of energy. While undoubtedly there are topics, such as the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, that lead to challenges in many different countries, the manifestation of these challenges are unique to each particular state. Once the unique manifestations of shared challenges reveal themselves, domestic media—according to a conservative position—should prioritise the local concerns over the trending globalised topic. In short, the conservative critique of the internationalisation of news topics is that international news should not be discussed in general, but in particular—outlining what consequences a piece of international news has on a particular political unit.
While the conservative critique of the internationalisation of the media system is that global matters lead to unique challenges in each political unit, and we should not pretend otherwise, the domestication of news frameworks can be similarly critiqued from a conservative point of view. While internationalised topics are being discussed without highlighting their consequences for the domestic public, simultaneously, news are often forced into a domestic framework so that the readers can better understand them. Since conservatives believe that each particular country has their own set of challenges, discussing the political challenges of another political unit in a way that is most convenient for us violates the idea that each country is unique and different from ours. Instead of framing all news as if they have happened domestically, the complexity of the issues should be demonstrated.
Consider the following example – Russians are treated as collectively guilty for the war in the West, as the Western position, as a result of the domestication of news, is that the war is the result of Russia’s unprovoked aggression. Russians, on the other hand, sincerely believe that Ukraine was committing a genocide against the Russian-speaking population, and Russia is on a humanitarian mission to stop a genocide. While according to the domestic framework we use in the West to understand the war, Russians could not be more guilty, the framework Russians have when looking at the war acquits them of any moral responsibility as they believe it is a just war. By imposing our framework on the matter, we cause unnecessary harm to an unsuspecting Russian public by denying Russian citizens visas, the chance to travel or study abroad, to name just a few examples. While the conservative position does not imply that the frameworks of others are better or equally suitable for understanding the world as our own, acknowledging the uniqueness of each political unit’s domestic framework is crucial. Again, acknowledging the existence of these frameworks does not mean agreeing with them, and we might even be working towards changing these foreign frameworks, but we need to acknowledge their existence, to honour the conservative principle that each political unit is unique.
In short, the conservative critique of the domestication of news frameworks suggests that domestic news interpretations should not be ignorant of other national frameworks that exist to explain events that happen abroad. That does not necessarily mean agreeing with or endorsing these frameworks, but acknowledging, investigating and reporting about their existence.
Ultimately, all domestic and foreign frameworks should always be put to the test to find out which are closer to the truth—something that journalism should desire to pursue.