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Propaganda and Conflict: Theory and Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - 12:30pm to 1:45pm

On Tuesday, February 9, 2010, the Center for Global Development hosted a brown bag seminar on Propaganda and Conflict: Theory and Evidence from the Rwandan Genocide featuring David Yanagizawa, a Ph.D. candidate at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Paper abstract: This paper investigates the impact of propaganda on participation in violent conflict. I examine the effects of the infamous "hate radio" station Radio RTLM that called for the extermination of the Tutsi ethnic minority population before and during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. I develop a model of participation in ethnic violence where radio broadcasts a noisy public signal about the value of violence. I then test the model’s predictions using a nation-wide village-level dataset on radio coverage and prosecutions for genocide violence. To identify causal effects, I exploit arguably exogenous variation in radio coverage generated by hills in the line-of-sight between radio transmitters and villages. Consistent with the model under strategic complements in violence, I find that Radio RTLM increased participation in violence, that the effects were decreasing in ethnic polarization, highly non-linear in radio coverage, and decreasing in literacy rates. Finally, the estimated effects are substantial. Complete village radio coverage increased violence by 65 to 77 percent, and a simple counter-factual calculation suggests that approximately 9 percent of the genocide, corresponding to at least 45 000 Tutsi deaths, can be explained by the radio station.

Read Yanagizawa's Propaganda and Conflict (pdf, 2M)