For centuries, politicians and commentators propagate their ideas and legitimize their political power through the communicative means recommended by the newspaper’s owners. During the referendum campaign of 2016, newspapers have been not only the apex of political information but also played a stellar role in setting the agenda for the mainstream media (Levy et al. 2016: 33). Activists from political parties were divided by the question of the UK membership in the European Union which also split newspapers’ support into two opposing sides: the Leave and the Remains camps. During long weeks of the campaign, both sides combined and shaped pre-existing texts and occurrences to fit their objectives. Intertextuality was extensively pronounced in the news reports to cover ideological motivations through its selection of specific texts out of others. As assured by Fairclough intertextuality is “inevitably selective with respect to what is included and what is excluded from the events and texts represented” (Fairclough 2003: 55). Moreover, intertextuality in the referendum discourse helped in a way to give more legitimacy to what campaigners advanced. TeunVan Dijk (1988) points out that quotes or quasi-quotes are closer to the truth, which not only can make reporting livelier and reliable, but also protect journalists against any defamation (Van Dijk 1988: 87). Therefore, the investigation of intertextuality in the newspaper discourse of the referendum campaign is a contribution to the understanding of the foundation of the newspaper text. This latter is exploited in discourse as a means of persuasion to attain consensus and legitimize political affairs in the most important event in the history of not only the Britain-Europe relationship but also Europe and world history.
The language used by the mainstream media during the EU referendum has been debated by many academics, Steve Buckledee (2018) in his book The Language of Brexit, analyzes and compares the linguistic features from both sides of the campaigners; the leave and the Remain, and illustrates the way language is involved in the political process through emotive linguistic strategies used to convince the voters. He also, relates language use to the wider socio-political and historical context since 1945, including Britain’s accession to the original European Economic Community and the bitter relations with Brussels during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership (Buckledee 2018). Another research by Dylan Pointon (2018) reviews the discursive contribution of the UK online newspaper namely: the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, and the Mirror, during the EU referendum emphasizing on the immigration issue, he describes the way migrants were objectified for political success (Pointon 2018). Similarly, Deborah Sogelola (2018) argues that the immigration question was a recurrent theme in the online press coverage of the referendum and became at the heart of the public concerns (Sogelola 2018).
Undeniably, the majority of researchers approved the decisive role that the language of the press played in shaping people’s opinion, yet few analyses have been done on the intertextual representation that features the referendum discourse; in terms of historical events and cultural background of metaphor. The latter has an ideological and manipulative function. Thus, this study aims to critically analyze the intertextual feature of news discourse. It investigates the online newspapers during the EU membership referendum campaign of 2016, to illustrate the way the historical and the cultural background of metaphor contributed to the shaping of the news discourse. It also attempts to point out at the ideologies disseminated by the press discourse to direct and impact the readers’ views regarding the EU’s referendum. The concern of the online press is encouraged, in part, by the shift of readership from print to online, and by the causative role of newspapers in setting the agenda for other media.
News reports from the online press the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Guardian are the examined cases of this study. The selection of these particular newspapers is doublefold. First, they are national rather than regional publications. Second, they have a wide readership. In other words, they reflect a large portion of British press discourse. According to the National Readership Survey, the Daily Mail/Mail Online is in first place with 29 m readers a month, followed by the Sun on 26,2 m, the Guardian 22,7 m a month (NRS 2017). These newspapers took different stances during the referendum campaign; either of leaving or remaining in the European Union. The Guardian had the largest portion of pro-remain articles vis-à-vis other pro-remain newspapers (Levy et al. 2016: 33), the Daily Mail and the Sun were Pro-Leave. A total of 15 selected articles (5 for each newspaper) during the referendum campaign of 2016 are subjects of scrutiny.
The study of the online press discourse through intertextuality is conducted within the framework of critical discourse analysis (CDA) that draws on Fairclough’s Model of analysis. The term discourse refers to spoken or written language use ; Fairclough views language as a form of social practice. This suggests that language is part of society, and a socially conditioned process, conditioned by other (non-linguistic) parts of society (Fairclough 2001 : 19). Intertextuality is a key concept in Fairclough’s model of critical discourse analysis. It crucially mediates the connection between language and social context and facilitates the more satisfactory bridging of the gap between text and context (Fairclough 1995 : 189).
Intertextuality as part of critical discourse analysis is the derivation of a text outside the already existing discourse. It is concerned with the continued existence of a text within society and history. Julia Kristeva, who first coined the term intertextuality points out that “the construction of any text is regarded as a mosaic of citations ; every text is absorbing and transforming from the other one.” (Kristeva 1986 : 37). She also observes that intertextuality implies the insertion of history into text and of this text into history. By the insertion of history into a text, she means that the text absorbs and is built out of texts from the past. By the insertion of the text into history, she means that the text helps to make history and contributes to wider processes of change, as well as anticipating and trying to shape subsequent texts. This inherent historicity of texts enables them to take on the major roles they have in contemporary society at the leading edge of social and cultural change (Fairclough 1992 : 102). In this sense, the producer of text draws upon a mixture of two or more discourse types as a means of making creative use of the resources of the past to meet the changing communicative needs of the present (Fairclough 2001 : 129). In so doing, the author may manifest a clear presence of intertextuality by the mark of the quotes which confirm the use of other text messages, or he brings in ’hedging’ to mark some possible words expressing inadequacy belonging to another text. He can also merge other texts intimately within the existing one to be associated with the new one. This is a kind of intertextuality referred to it in Fairclough view as a ‘Manifest intertextuality’, he also evoked another type which is ‘constitutive intertextuality’, which operates on a different aspect to show how a text is constituted by a combination of other language conventions (genres, discourses, and styles) it is concerned with the implicit relations between discursive constructions rather than the explicit relations between texts (Fairclough 1992 : 104).
This research focuses on the manifest intertextuality along with the reproduction from the rhetoric of a metaphor. It investigates texts and voices which are reproduced and appealed to the newspaper texts of either campaigner in the referendum of the UK/ EU membership. The central contention of the newspaper texts is the utterance of multiples political voices as well as different discourses and genres. That will be brought forward in the present paper to show how power relation in a way helped to shape the discourse of the two conflicting power in the referendum campaign.
Multiples voices echoed in news reports which merely are exploited for the purpose to sustain the views of either to remain or to leave the European Union depending on the newspaper’s support on the one hand ; on the other hand, it constructs an opposition discourse to the counterpart.
In this respect, mutual campaigners used a negative insight largely into the economy or immigration, to alarm people and make them in a state of fear to leave or to remain in the European Union depending on the campaigners in question. While the Pro-Brexit supporters overstress immigration and made it closely linked to the economy, security, and sovereignty issues, the pro-Remain camp ignores all these advanced claims by their rival and emphasizes on the economic danger that Britain would face if they leave the European Union. Each of the campaigners intended to make voters believe in all that they claimed. For that, they went back to history to support their allegation with the most influential politicians in the history of Britain such as Churchill and Thatcher without ignoring some of the other important events that had great impacts on the UK / EU relationship.
In manifest intertextuality, the Leave campaigners detain some historical events to construct a new claim that better fits their interest. The Daily Mail, for instance, called to the mind a letter written to the Times in 1981 by 364 economists about the Thatcher reforms. The Dail Mail report read :
In an open letter, they say Brexit would create major uncertainty, with effects which would persist ‘for many years’. Signed by Cambridge professor Sir James Mirrlees and nine other winners of the Nobel Prize for economics, the letter claims economic issues are central to the referendum debate. But Leave campaigners pointed out that economists have often been wrong before, most notably the example of the letter written to the Times in 1981 by 364 economists about the Thatcher reforms (17 June 2016).
The intertextuality is manifested to make a parallel between the two economic letters of 2016 relating to the referendum campaign and 1981 about Thatcher reforms. The Daily Mail’s journalist discarded the economists’ claim about the economic shock that Britain would face after Brexit. The economists were completely mistaken in the view of the Brexiters as they were completely mistaken in the past when they criticized Margaret Thatcher and Sir Geoffrey Howe’s Budget warning about the policies adopted at the time which would deepen the depression and threaten social and political stability (Congdon 2006 : 19).
Similarly, Boris Johnson’s chief economic adviser Gerard Lyons brought to mind the historical event of Black Wednesday of 1992. He said :
The consensus unfortunately on the economic side in the UK not
only got the Euro wrong, it got the ERM wrong. So because the consensus is advocating remaining in the EU, it’s up to you to
take history as a lesson to treat that with caution (the Sun 19 May 2016).
The fact that Lyons talked about the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) evoked the shocking day of Wednesday when the UK’s economy went into recession. The UK was forced to withdraw from the ERM as it could not prevent the value of the pound from falling below the lower limit authorized by ERM. Recalling this event was a rejection of the pro-EU’s claim that Britain would suffer economically after Brexit.
Furthermore, the Sun’s journalist stimulated the reader’s memory to think about the economic success owed to Tory PM Margaret Thatcher, whose hard-fought in 1980s reforms put Britain in the top league. He added that in the ‘Downing Street’ they are terrified by the enthusiasm for Brexit among the over-50s, who witnessed the historical events and are inherently racist compared to the young generation (the Sun 29 May 2016).
The campaigners out of the EU claimed that Brexit would free trade barriers imposed by the excessive and unnecessary Business’ regulations. The Sun mentioned that “It is not as though the EU is delivering for business. The single market, which started as Margaret Thatcher’s great project for liberalizing trade, was hijacked by the eurocrats” (16 May 2016). The reference to Margaret Thatcher in this passage recalled to the reader mind her speech opening Single Market Campaign at Lancaster House in 1988 as she declared : “Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers ; visible or invisible, giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people”. Thatcher aimed to free trade for all unnecessary barriers to allow people to practice their trades and professions freely throughout Europe. For the Brexiters, Thatcher’s prospect proved a failure, because it benefited only the big multinationals that can afford all the costs of compliance, for smaller firms it was terrifying. The Brexiters appealed to intertextuality to create analogy between what Thatcher projected and what they got to make people believe in the obligation of leaving the European Union.
In another article by the Daily Mail on 2 June 2016, David Cameron warned about the risk of war if Britain put an end to its European membership as he declared : “On the war in Europe, in the last century, twice we had an enormous bloodbath between our nations. Can we be so confident that we’ve solved all of Europe’s problems and all of Europe’s tensions ? This statement echoed Wilson Churchill’s warning on the necessity of creating a European Union to avoid another devastating war. In his speech delivered at the University of Zurich Churchill proclaimed : “But I must give you a warning, time may be short. At present there is a breathing space. The cannons have ceased firing. The fighting has stopped. But the dangers have not stopped” (Churchill 1946).
Over again, the voice of Thatcher in her Burges speech echoed in Boris Johnson’s claim. Thatcher overtly declared that they have fought over the centuries to prevent Europe from falling under the dominance of a single power. Mr. Johnson, counter her claim by declaring that the EU efforts were merely to build a federal super-state which could be compared with the Nazi leader’s plans to dominate the continent (the Daily Mail 19 May 2016).
Besides, the intertextuality’s concept of selecting specific text offered Boris Johnson an opening to blame David Cameron. Imitating Thatcher’s speech David Cameron claimed that the EU is the guarantor of peace in Europe and that Brexit could lead to war. Johnson replicated from the same Thatcher’s speech to blame Cameron for being ‘rash’ and undermining the role of NATO in minting peace. Thatcher in her Bruges Speech stated that is “to NATO that we owe the peace that has been maintained over 40 years” (Tatcher 1988). She added that Europe has to maintain a sure defence through NATO.
Still, in the perspective of bringing prior events to the present one, UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage evoked the Gillian Duffy episode that occurred shortly before the 2 010 election, when the Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was overheard describing a voter who raised concerns over migration as a ‘bigoted woman’, later he apologized for his behaviour. This event was replicated when the Labour’s Europe spokeswoman, Pat Glass, has made a grovelling apology after branding a voter a ’horrible racist’ on the referendum campaign trail (the Daily Mail 19 May 2016). The parallel between the two events is made to stress the importance of the immigration issue on the one hand, and the hypocrisy of the remainers who circumvent the problem of immigration on the other hand.
Loads of other events were brought on to influence people’s views. Boris Johnson, in a counter-attack against Obama’s support to remain camp, reported in the Sun : “he [Obama] didn’t care for Britain and returned a bust of Winston Churchill to our embassy in Washington DC” (22 April 2016). Johnson went back to the rumours circulated in 2012 about Obama’s antipathy towards Britain after removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office shortly after becoming president. This reproduction of previous rumours is put forward to sow doubt towards the president’s faith in his encouragement to the British people to stay in the union. The bust of Winston Churchill has existed in the White House since the 1960s. At the start of the Bush administration, Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust corresponding to the one in the White House ; The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency when all of the art lent specifically for him was removed by the curator’s office, as it is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence (Pfeiffer 2012).
Moreover, the pro-Brexit politicians such as Boris Johnson and Farage among many others claimed their country back and called for an Independence Day. They wanted to free the UK from the EU and put an end to immigration, in an intertextual means they used the rhetoric of an independence day as an act of patriotism to influence British people to make them believe that Britain’s resources were taken from them and benefited others. In the Daily Mail publication on 05 June 2016, Iain Duncan Smith, Pro-Brexiter and former Cabinet Minister cried for independence as he said “Britain needs to leave the EU. Do this and, on June 24, we will finally celebrate Independence Day”. The Sun’ headline read : “Johnson gives his vision of post-Brexit Britain in a rallying cry for independence” (19 June 2016).
Besides, the greatness of Britain inside or outside the EU was repeated on countless occasions by either campaigner to make people feel nostalgia about the lost past because of the EU or to see Britain even greater and in continuous glory as a member of the union. Then, French President Emmanuel Macron has raised doubts about whether Britain would still be ’great’ outside the EU. He argued that Britain is a great country and in such a condition its future as a great country is not outside the EU (the Sun ; the Daily Mail 17 ; 18 April 2016). The leave supporter, Boris Johnson declared “’We shouldn’t be talking this country down. It’s a great country and a great economy. I think it will flourish outside the EU” (the Daily Mail 17 June 2016).
Intertextuality personified the Pro-EU supporters’ discourse. Inspiring from other texts is a persuasive way to impart messages and direct people’s views. Accordingly, in an indirect intertextuality Cameron repeated Margaret Thatcher’s words in her Bruges Speech on 20 Sep 1988 as she said “Europe never would have prospered and never will prosper as a narrow-minded, inward-looking club.” Cameron maintained her vision to counter the Brexiters with their immigration obsession he said “Britain will be seen as a more narrow, insular and inward-looking country” (the Guardian 21 June 2016).
Moreover, David Cameron, in a speech reported by the Guardian, had raised the alarm of war, claiming that continued membership could help avoid future conflicts. He argued that Britain has a fundamental national interest in maintaining a common purpose in Europe to avoid future conflict between European countries. This argument manifests indirect intertextuality which was declared by the Guardian’s author. It is about an argument that has been made before by the Nobel committee in 2012 when the EU was awarded the Nobel peace prize. The committee president, Thorbjorn Jagland, praised the success of the EU in converting a European “continent of war” into a “continent of peace” (The Guardian 06 May 2016).
With reference to the economic matter, the Guardian publication reported on George Soros, a currency trader whose attack on the pound helped push Britain out of the European exchange rate mechanism on what became known as Black Wednesday, stated that the shock of Brexit could be even more severe than that day in 1992 (the Guardian 21 June 2016). This is for People who witnessed that day, they would be able to measure the danger of leaving the EU.
In criticizing the counter camp in the battlefield of the referendum, the backers of the EU also used intertextuality to stress on the hypocrisy of the leavers’ politicians. The Guardian reported on Michael Gove’s a year ago as he admitted that Britain’s NHS relies on over 100,000 workers from the EU, and supported the living wage that benefits low-paid British workers. In the campaign for Britain’s membership in the EU, Gove not only turned his back on his previous claim but he was pursuing UKIP-style rhetoric in stoking fears about the potential for immigration. The Guardian’s author added that patients, doctors, and nurses are stronger thanks to Britain’s membership in the EU. He also stressed the fact that leaving the EU would put NHS at risk (the Guardian 20 May 2016).
Similarly, in criticizing the Brexiters campaign the Guardian quoted from JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, as she declared “The union that was born out of a collective desire never to see another war in Europe is depicted as an Orwellian monolith, Big Brotheresque in its desire for control” (the Guardian 20 June 2016). The intertextuality of Big Brother, George Orwell’s dystopian novel, is very significant in the sense that it exemplified the exaggeration of the Brexiters in portraying the European Union in a very pessimistic way.
From an intertextuality point of view, the metaphorical framing assists politicians to reshape realities ; Metaphor has entailments through which it highlights and makes coherent certain aspects of experience (Lakoff & Johnson 1980 : 156). This stylistic change in the politicians’ messages produces a painless communicative tone that brings the author closer to his readers. The addresser, on the one hand, intends to affect the reader’s view about certain issues by activating his memory, on the other hand, he offers an ample and vivid image to a definite message.
The metaphorical representation is more manifested in the discourse of the Brexiters, particularly to raise the immigration question ; the politicians reproduce greatly from the rhetoric of metaphor. The following headlines of the Daily Mail dealing with migrants show pieces of evidence :
Migrants spark housing crisis : Now EU tells Britain to build more homes as open borders send population soaring (the Daily mail 19 May 2016)
How Romanians and Bulgarians fuelled the influx : Net migration from the countries total 102,000 in two years since residents were allowed to work freely in Britain (the Daily Mail 26 May 2016).
The metaphorical spark and fuelled as sources of fire are used to compare respectively immigrants to a burst of fire or more intensely to a supply of power to burn. This reproduction is ideologically contested to exaggerate the immigrant’s threat and influence the reader’s opinion about the issue.
Moreover, other metaphors are overused to urge the reader to act in response to the terrible situation of mass immigration they are facing if they remain a member of the European Union. Therefore, the flow metaphors framed in the context of the migrants’ free movement such as flood, wave, and influx manifest and amplify the catastrophic reality of the refugee’s arrivals to Britain. The metaphor of Jungle camp articulated more than once in the Daily Mail and the Sun referring to Calais camps ; the area where the migrants settled to prepare their way into the UK either by claiming asylum or remaining as illegal workers. This metaphorical representation marks a racist ideology against migrants’ measured to animals living in a forest ; they are no more than a source of trouble and disorder in the view of the Brexiters.
Additionally, the anti-EU politicians did not hesitate to reproduce from the metaphor to criticize their rival, for instance, Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions secretary, indirectly called George Osborne ; pro-EU politician, a liar by evoking Pinocchio’s tale and the metaphor of the nose growing, as he said after hearing of Osborne’s warning about the house prices which could fall by up to 18 % if the UK votes to leave the EU : “I did think of Pinocchio and the nose growing rather long” (the Guardian 21 May 2016).
Indeed, the metaphorical representation was more pronounced with the Brexiters yet it finds its road with the Remainers as well, when it comes to criticizing the Brexiters particularly Nigel Farage. The Guardian quoted David Cameron who borrowed the scapegoat metaphor to criticize the UKIP’s leader poster showing refugees fleeing to Slovenia under the words ‘breaking point’ as he claimed : “I think people looked at that and just thought ‘eurgh’, Farage was trying to blame and scapegoat” (the Guardian 21 June). This is a direct accusation to Farage who blamed migrants for everything wrong. The scapegoat metaphor is also a way to defend migrants who innocently bear the guilt of others. A further metaphor replicated to stimulate the reader’s views, for instance, the symbol of ‘silver bullet’ (the Guardian 9 June 2016) engaged to express the complexity of dealing with the immigration issue, the ideology behind the reproduction of this phrase is to blame the Leavers, on the one hand, on the other hand, it awakened the reader’s thought to notice that there is no magical solution to the factual question of immigration, and recognize the economic damage they would witness if they leave the EU.
The referendum discourse of 2016 did not emerge from a vacuum. It is a product of a long process of construction that is influenced by various texts from the cultural background and historical events. Intertextuality as a part of the critical discourse plays a crucial role in shaping the newspaper discourse during the referendum campaign. Thereby, this study is an attempt to critically analyze the intertextual feature of news discourse. It is a crucial step in exploring and addressing the newspaper discourse. It investigates the online newspapers during the EU membership referendum campaign of 2016, to illustrate the way the historical and the cultural background of metaphor contributed to the shaping of the news discourse.
This research is conducted within the framework of critical discourse analysis (CDA) that draws on Fairclough’s Model of analysis. Through the key concept of intertextuality that investigates texts and voices which are replicated and appealed to the newspaper texts, the result reveals the presence of multiples political voices from both sides ; the Leave and the Remain, in the battlefield of the referendum campaign. The claims of either camp echoed chiefly politician’s voices such as Margaret Thatcher and Wilson Churchill, the most influential politician who had marked the history of the development of the European Union relationship. The metaphorical framing is also manifested in the discourse of newspapers. The borrowing and the selection of specific historical texts and the metaphorical depiction are ideologically contested of either racism or xenophobia with particular power relations. In the referendum campaign, intertextuality is adopted either to maintain an existing power or create an opposition towards an established hegemony to achieve social change. This is in fact the social effects of the referendum discourse which is open to future investigation.