Discursive diversion: Manipulation of nuclear threats by the conservative leaders in Japan and Israel

Kohei Watanabe*, Elad Segev, Atsushi Tago

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study how leaders of parliamentary democracies attempt to trigger the “rally-around-the-flag” effect through the mass media. We have collected news articles on North Korea and Iran published by liberal and conservative newspapers in Japan and Israel from 2009 to 2018 and analysed them in terms of their emphasis on threats, employing semi-supervised quantitative text analysis techniques. We find that both Japanese and Israeli conservative newspapers overemphasised nuclear threats before important political events (enactment of Japan's National Security Laws and Israel's 2014 General Election). We argue that leaders of countries that lack opportunities or capabilities often attempt to manipulate perceived threats through the mass media, calling such actions discursive diversion. We explain the similarity between the Japanese and Israeli cases by the following factors. Firstly, the diminishing political gains from the successful economic reforms in the earlier years; Secondly, the increasing opposition in the legislature or competition in the elections; Thirdly, the lack of the countries’ ability to solve the security issues unilaterally; Finally, the diplomatic and military relationship with the United States.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-748
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Communication Gazette
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • diversionary wars
  • international news
  • nuclear threat
  • quantitative text analysis


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