Mass Media and Civil War Onset

2015-01-30T18:11:44Z (GMT) by Justin Murphy
<p>Second draft. Comments warmly welcomed. Feel free to cite but be advised these are only preliminary findings and have not been peer-reviewed.</p> <p>Abstract: Qualitative evidence suggests that mass media can play a causal role in the outbreak of civil war and, at the international level, the rapid increase of mass media in recent decades has coincided with a similarly notable surge in civil war prevalence. Yet recent quantitative research suggests that mass media decrease the probability of civil war onset by enhancing the power of states and therefore deterring insurgencies. To explain this puzzling contradiction, I argue that mass media technologies have a non-linear effect on the probability of civil war onset. Mass media technologies should decrease the likelihood of civil war onset only above the threshold at which they constitute a mass communications system. Below that threshold, increases in mass media should increase the likelihood of civil war. The theory is tested with parametric and semi-parametric regressions on country-level, cross-sectional time-series data from a recent study and long-run historical time-series at the international level. I find evidence of substantial non-linearity in the effect of mass media on civil war onset at both levels of analysis. This research note contributes an important new insight into the causes of civil war and contributes to the burgeoning research agenda on the nexus of information-communication technology (ICT) and political conflict.</p>