Propaganda and Conflict: Theory and Evidence From the Rwandan Genocide

  • Yanagizawa D
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This paper investigates the impact of propaganda on participation in violent con- ict. I examine the eects of the infamous "hate radio" station Radio RTLM that called for the extermination of the Tutsi ethnic minority population before and dur- ing 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 models predictions using a nation-wide village-level dataset on radio coverage and prosecutions for genocide violence. To identify causal eects, I exploit arguably exoge- nous 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 nd that Radio RTLM increased participation in violence, that the eects were decreasing in ethnic polarization, highly non-linear in radio coverage, and decreas- ing in literacy rates. Finally, the estimated eects 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.

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  • David Yanagizawa

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