"Fatwa on the Bunny"
News Language and the Creation of Meaning About the Middle East
University of Missouri, Columbia
How did fatwa, once an unambiguous, simple term for a ruling on a question of Islamic religious law, come to mean "death sentence" in U.S. news language and popular culture? This article uses content and discourse analyses to trace this newly created meaning through a series of gatekeeping failures to a position from which its more ominous meaning is easily inferred—not simply in references to political violence but in discussions of baseball and literature or in advertisements featuring the ubiquitous "Energizer bunny." The shared meanings it reflects are the underpinnings of the Orientalism that Said described in the 1970s and 1980s, a "pervasive Western discourse" built around a fundamental "ideology of difference."