Creating Captain America: a Frame Analysis of the Pat Tillman Epic

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Pat Tillman—an Arizona Cardinals player who sacrificed everything to serve his country but died in Afghanistan—was initially touted as a true American hero who was killed by enemy fire. In reality, however, the Tillman narrative was based on nothing but military propaganda. This research focused on how mainstream U.S. newspapers used news frames, overall story tone, and news sources before and after the official acknowledgement of the true cause of Tillman's death as fratricide. As hypothesized from C. Wright Mills' "lesser institutions," Antonio Gramsci's hegemony, and Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky's propaganda model, the newspapers generally decreased both direct ... continued below

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DeWalt, Christina A. Childs May 2013.

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  • DeWalt, Christina A. Childs

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Pat Tillman—an Arizona Cardinals player who sacrificed everything to serve his country but died in Afghanistan—was initially touted as a true American hero who was killed by enemy fire. In reality, however, the Tillman narrative was based on nothing but military propaganda. This research focused on how mainstream U.S. newspapers used news frames, overall story tone, and news sources before and after the official acknowledgement of the true cause of Tillman's death as fratricide. As hypothesized from C. Wright Mills' "lesser institutions," Antonio Gramsci's hegemony, and Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky's propaganda model, the newspapers generally decreased both direct and indirect references to news frames involving "lesser institutions" (e.g., NFL, Arizona State University) and ideological values (e.g., heroism, patriotism) after the revelation, but they were not critical of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars or the Bush administration at all. In addition, they increased their dependence on official sources and decreased family and friend sources after his cause of death was changed. The results as a whole indicate that in the Tillman saga, the revelation of his true cause of death introduced a significant disruption to the propaganda information system, causing news frames to decrease, but the third filter of the propaganda model—reliance on official sources—was strong enough to overcome that disruptive event and continue to protect the power elite.

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  • May 2013

Added to UNT Digital Library

  • Feb. 1, 2014, 6:14 p.m.

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  • Nov. 16, 2016, 3:41 p.m.

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DeWalt, Christina A. Childs. Creating Captain America: a Frame Analysis of the Pat Tillman Epic, thesis, May 2013; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc271804/: accessed April 5, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .