The Kingdom of Belgium straddles the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, and is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French-speaking Walloons.

Early in the twentieth century, King Albert I was told by a Walloon political leader, “Sire, there are no Belgians anymore, only Flemings and Walloons.” The Belgian conflict between the Flemish North and the Francophone South is a typical multi-issue conflict that combines issues of history, culture, and identity, with strong economic dimensions. The conflict has a long history: “The heat of the discussions in the media, parliament and public opinion led foreign observers to believe that the country was about to fall apart.” This quote fits the present situation very well, yet it was written more than a century ago, before World War I.

In this Article, we analyze the ongoing conflict in Belgium. Our focus is on the actual role of the media and possible attitudes and contributions of the media to this particular conflict. We first analyze the different factors contributing to the division in Belgium. We then explore the role of the media in this conflict. Next, we examine the media’s use of different styles and metaphors and their negative or positive impact on the conflict. In particular, we look at surrealism, supposedly typical for Belgium, and the use of humor. We also suggest a model to frame different approaches. We conclude with some suggestions for a more positive role of the media, applying our model for de-escalation of conflicts.

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