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Constructing a Culture of War : A Frame Analysis of Statements Discussing the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Fighter by Members of the U.S. Congress between 2010–2020

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Title: Constructing a Culture of War : A Frame Analysis of Statements Discussing the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Fighter by Members of the U.S. Congress between 2010–2020
Author(s): Kivinen, Maiju
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Area and Cultural Studies
Specialisation: North American Studies
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
Abstract:
The aim of this Master’s thesis is to explore the cultural and discursive aspects of defense procurement in the United States. The thesis examines how an American multirole combat aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter, has been framed by Members of the U.S. Congress in 2010—2020. Focused on congressional communication towards the domestic audience, the study examines what kinds of meanings of the F-35 are conveyed by the frames and how they relate to American strategic culture. This is a study in the multidisciplinary field of American Studies, making use of previous research and concepts from congressional studies, defense and strategic studies, and political culture studies. The research material consists of public statements from Members of the Armed Services Committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Informed by a social constructivist viewpoint and a semiotic approach to culture, the study adopts framing theory/analysis as a theoretical-methodological framework through which a combination of quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the research material is conducted. As a background for understanding the research material, the study defines a certain kind of American strategic culture and discusses the role of Congress in defense spending. This study finds that Members of the two Armed Services Committees have invoked broad, culturally resonant concepts and timeless storylines to contextualize and justify the F-35 to the domestic audience in a way that has remained fairly consistent over time. The study identifies three distinct but overlapping frames: an economic frame, a strategic-technological frame, and an apolitical patriotic frame. The framing of the F- 35 has highlighted its economic and financial aspects but has also discussed what the aircraft provides or means to the United States on the global arena, supported by a perception of war and military power as technology-centered and focused on competition between great power rivalries. The framing has also given voice to an understanding of the F-35 as a nonpartisan issue that evokes patriotic sentiments and was permeated with a general narrative of American national greatness and continued hegemony in the world. All the frames identified in this study are interpreted as having a basis in American strategic culture, but a more thorough understanding of the F-35 discourse arises by paying attention to a wider cultural context. The study suggests that the process and impacts of framing the F-35 are rooted in the existence and public acceptance of an American ‘culture of war’.
Keyword(s): F-35 United States Congress defense procurement framing discourse strategic culture culture of war


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