The emergence of new technology and mass social media has become a dominant tool for the propaganda machine which cycles baseless fringe opinions through unfettered and relentless iterations providing a false legitimacy to an alternative set of baseless facts that ultimately drives official policies. Specifically, the media is important as it molds public perception and brings global attention to international crises. International crises, such as ethnic cleansings or genocides, are widespread throughout the globe. Throughout history, genocides have been possible by the production of false narratives against specific religious or ethnic minorities. These narratives were promoted and reiterated by national leaders within a nation through the dissemination of information to control public opinion on these circumstances. In this perspective, the media and transmission of information effectuate the oppression of marginalized populations.

Alternatively, the relationship between the media, public perception, and actions from leaders can affect humanitarian crises positively by focusing global public opinion and building consensus on major social injustices and human rights violations and ultimately implementing new policies. The positive and negative changes on account of the relationship between the media, public perception, and leaders impact the social, cultural, economic, and political environment for the international communities' aid and abetting in these human rights violations. Thus, it is evident how the narrative dispersed by the media and leaders impacts the lives and culture of ethnic minorities.

This thesis project consists of three executive parts. The first part describes a model called the CNN effect. This section focuses on the cyclical relationship of the three fundamental participants of this model: mass media, public opinion, and international leaders. This relationship is crucial in the context of human rights as it creates favorable and unfavorable conditions for human rights against ethnic minority populations. The second part is a case study. This case study looks at the nation of Myanmar, specifically the Rohingya Muslim population. This section argues that mass media usage by the Myanmar government was responsible for the Rohingya genocide through its circulation of false information against this population. I argue that this is a direct example of the unfavorable conditions of the CNN effect. The third part is a case study. This section focuses on the Uyghur Muslim population of the Xinjiang province of the People's Republic of China. I argue that the production of the Islamophobic narrative by the Chinese government as circulated via the media and extreme censorship by the government has led to the genocide of this population. This thesis demonstrates the results of the CNN effect as it generates and publicizes human rights violations. With a specific emphasis, on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Muslim populations. The relationship between the media, public perception and governmental actions is increasingly important due to technological advances that influence society, culturally, economically, and politically.

First Advisor

Pierre Ly

Second Advisor

Nick Kontogeorgopoulos

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy

Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2021