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Rhetoric of Terrorism. How We Talk about the “War on Terrorism” Comparative Research on Japan, Russia and the United States Matt Bonham Professor of Political Science Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Slide 1. Rhetoric of Terrorism.

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

How We Talk about the “War on Terrorism”Comparative Research on Japan, Russia and the United StatesMatt BonhamProfessor of Political Science Maxwell School of Syracuse University

Copyright 2006 G. Matthew Bonham and Daniel Heradstveit

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. Figurative language 2. Role of figures of speech in everyday life 3. “The War on Terrorism”: Background 4. Semiotic Analysis of “Terrorism” 5. The Rhetoric of “Terrorism” 6. The War on Terrorism as Political Communication 7. The Japanese Understanding of the Terrorism 8. Prime Minister Koizumi and Japanese Officials 9. President Putin10. Conclusions and Discussion

Today’s Outline

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. Growing acceptance of the rhetorical component of knowledge2. Empiricist forms of social science are less dependent on the referential theory of meaning that distinguishes betweenliteral utterances and the figurative3. Alternative philosophies of social science (phenomenology and constructivism) construe knowing as “active meaning.”4. Figures of speech are not just adornments but contribute to the cognitive dimension of meaning

Figurative Language

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Example: Address by President Bush on September 11th“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”The literal meaning: “Terrorists can not harm America”

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. Figures of speech are familiar and easily recognized.2.Evoke the recognition of equivalences to which we are committed, e.g., the “war on terror,” or3.Suggest new more challenging equivalences, e.g., the “Axis of Evil.”

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. The carefully planned and coordinated terror attack of September 11, 2001 was the bloodiest attack on the American mainland in modern times2. Live TV coverage where CNN had the standing title of “America under attack” enabled the whole world to witness the unprecedented catastrophe

The “War on Terrorism

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

President George W. Bush said among other things: “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts… These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”1. This is how President Bush put the “war on terrorism” on the international agenda2. But how does one make war on terrorism or any other “ism”?

President Bush on September 11, 2001

Play Excerpt of the Speech

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. A major problem for the coalition fighting terrorism is how to define what they are fighting against.2. If there is no agreement on the term, oppressive regimes will add their own separatists, insurgents, and dissidents to the list of “international terrorists”

Defining Terrorism

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. One of the problems is that the “ism” suffix is usually associated with an ideology, such as Marxism or communism2. But “terrorism” is not an ideology3. Instead, it is regarded as a method that is used against civilian targets

Terrorism as an “Ism”

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. The term is used to designate people who are doing things to others, the victims, for a variety of reasons.2. Here both the perpetrators and the victims are important in the definition.3.The perpetrators are members of non-governmental organizations and the victims are civilians

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. To help clarify this problem we can turn to thecontinental semiotic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure2. Saussure was born in Geneva in 1857. His contribution, Course of Linguistic General, was published after his death in 1916

A Semiotic Approach

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. For Saussure, a sign consists of a signifier and a signified2. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is referred to as signification3. This is represented in the Saussurean diagram by the arrows 4. The horizontal line marking the two elements of the sign is referred to as the bar

A Semiotic Approach

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. The word 'Open' (when it is invested with meaning by someone who encounters it on a shop doorway) is asign consisting of the following:2. A signifier, the word “open” 3. A signified concept—that the shop is “open” for business4. A sign must have both a signifier and a signified. You cannot have a totally meaningless signifier or a completely formless signified

Example: “Open”

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. The same signifier (the word “open”) could stand for a different signified (and thus be a different sign), if it were on a push-button inside an elevator (“push to open door”) 2. Similarly, many signifiers could stand for the concept “open” (for instance, on top of a packing carton, a small outline of a box with an open flap for “open this end”)3. Again, with each unique pairing constituting a different sign

Example: Open (continued)

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. In the case of terrorism, the signifier, “terrorism” is used widely by many including the governments of the USA, Russia, and Sri Lanka 2. But the signified, the perpetrators and what they do are quite different: Al-Qaida, the Chechens, and the Tamil Tigers

Terrorism

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. Because the designation of signified depends upon the speaker, the concept of terrorism is seems to be subjective and fluid.2. The signified switches radically both by context and over time3. The only aspect that is stable is the signifier, “Terrorism”

Terrorism

Al-Qaida

Chechen Rebels

Tamil Tigers

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. The rhetoric of terrorism is being waged with weapons that are loose, diffuse, and highly flexible2. The signifier is clear-cut, but the signified is not.3. Thus, the “war on terrorism” is largely a rhetorical instrument—a form of political communication that packs an emotional punch

The War on Terrorism

As Political Communication

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

The Japanese Understanding

Of the “War on Terrorism”

Neither the signifier nor the signified are clear cut

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

The Japanese Reject the Metaphor

1.“Fight against terrorism” (テロリズムとの戦い)

2. “War on terrorism”(対テロ戦争)

3. “Terror” or “Terrorism” (テロリズムとの闘い )

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Japanese Prefer “Fight” Rather than “War”*

1. “War is associated with military actions. However, the prevention or suppression of terrorist attacks like London or Madrid is ‛fight.’”

2. “The Prime Minister selects his words carefully. ‘Sensou’ is a strong word. The Prime Minister chose the word, ‘fight’ very carefully.”

3. “In the Japanese context ‛war’ is considered as conflict between

sovereign states. When fighting against al Qaeda it is a ‛fight,’

because al Qaeda is not sovereign.”

4. “In the Japanese context because section on of Article 9 in the

Japanese Constitution renounces the use of armed forces as a means

of settling disputes, the Afghan case cannot be a ‘war.’”

5. “Basically we don’t distinguish between fight and war. It’s an

internal matter for the people. For us, the bureaucrats, it’s a little bit

different. I guess you already know the peaceful constitution.”

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*Interviews with Japanese officials 25-27 April 2006


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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Japanese Do Not Distinguish between “Terror”and “Terrorism”*

1. “War is associated with military actions. However, the prevention or suppression of terrorist attacks like London or Madrid is ‛fight.’”

2. “In the Japanese context ‛war’ is considered as conflict between

sovereign states. When fighting against al Qaeda it is a ‛fight,’

because al Qaeda is not sovereign.

3. In the Japanese context because section on of Article 9 in the

Japanese Constitution renounces the use of armed forces as a means

of settling disputes, the Afghan case cannot be a “war.”

4. “Basically we don’t distinguish between fight and war. It’s an

internal matter for the people. For us, the bureaucrats, it’s a little bit

different. I guess you already know the peaceful constitution.”

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*Interviews with Japanese officials 25-27 April 2006


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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Lakoff and Johnson argue that our experience withphysical objects provide the basis for ontological metaphors, that is metaphors about “being.”For example, we often view inflation as an entity:“We need to combat inflation”“Inflation is taking its toll at the gasoline pump”“If there is much more inflation, we will not survive”“Inflation makes me sick”

War on Terrorism: Ontological Metaphor

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This discussion is based on a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapters 6 and 7.


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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Viewing inflation as an entity enables us to refer to it, quantifyit, identify a particular aspect, see it as a cause, and act with respect to itNevertheless, viewing a non-physical thing as an entity does not allow us to comprehend much about it. To do this, the metaphor has to be elaborated to specify different kinds of objectse.g., “The mind is a brittle object” (His ego is fragile.)

War on Terrorism: Ontological Metaphor

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This discussion is based on a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapters 6 and 7.


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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Ontological metaphors like these are so natural that they are usually taken as self-evident, direct descriptions of mental phenomena.We believe the statement, “He cracked under pressure” to be either true or false. The fact that it is metaphorical never occurs to us…and we do not bother to analyze its appropriateness as a metaphor.

War on Terrorism: Ontological Metaphor

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This discussion is based on a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapters 6 and 7.


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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Personification“Inflation is our biggest enemy”“Inflation has outwitted our best economists”“Inflation has us pinned against the wall”Here inflation is personified, but it is not merely, “inflation is a person.” It is more specific: “Inflation is an adversary”

War on Terrorism: Ontological Metaphor

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This discussion is based on a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapters 6 and 7.


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Rhetoric of Terrorism

PersonificationThe metaphor gives us not only a way of thinking about inflation, but a way of acting toward it:Inflation is an adversary that can hurt us, steal from our families, and even destroy us.Therefore, we must act decisively by declaring war on inflation, setting targets, calling for sacrifices etc.

War on Terrorism: Ontological Metaphor

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This discussion is based on a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapters 6 and 7.


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Rhetoric of Terrorism

International terrorism is a despicable act that threatens the lives and lifestyles of people all over the world and the peace and security of all countries of the world.” (8 October 2001)Here, terrorism, a non-physical thing, is treated as an entity orthing that has an objective reality.

War on Terrorism: Ontological Metaphor

Fr. Prime Minister Koizumi

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Like inflation, this view of terrorism enables us to suggests how to act.As Koizumi pointed out, we must “…prevent and eradicate international terrorism.” (8 October 2001)

War on Terrorism: Ontological Metaphor

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

War on Terrorism Ontological Metaphor

Note also here that another metaphor is evoked: “terrorism is contagion”

As in the case of disease, we must “actively contribute to international efforts to prevent and eradicate terrorism.” (8 October 2001)

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

“Such unforgivable acts challenge the dignity of humanity as a whole. …the international community stands united against the challenge of inhumane terrorism.” (21 October 2001)“The fight against terrorism, which is a grave challenge to civilized society, is an issue of our own as we must ensure the safety of our people and we must be proactive in acting to prevent and eradicate terrorism in solidarity with the inter-national community.” (4 February 2002)

The War on Terrorism as Ontological Metaphor

Although the treatment of terrorism as an entity helps us to talk about terrorism, it does little to increase our understanding of the phenomenon.

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. Putin also rejects the metaphor, “War on Terrorism”2. He always uses the phrase,борьба с терроризмом3.This is variously (officially)translated as fight,combat, orwar against terrorism.”

War on Terrorism Ontological Metaphor

President V. Putin

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Наше сотрудничество развивается, и развивается, по нашим оценкам, успешно. Мы сотрудничаем совершенно в практических областях, очень важных для всего международного сообщества, и прежде всего это борьба с терроризмом.Our cooperation is growing, and, as we see it, it is growing well. We are working together in practical areas of great importance for the international community, above all, in the fight against terrorism.Beginning of Meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer(October 26, 2006)

War on Terrorism Ontological Metaphor

Examples

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

Для нас в России борьба с терроризмом — это не пустой звук. Сегодня, в эти дни исполняется как раз год трагическим событиям,связанным с захватом заложников террористамив Москве в театральном центре на Дубровке. Это тяжелая рана, которая еще долго не зарубцуется на нашем сердце.For Russia, the war on terrorism is not just empty words. It is now one year since the tragic events when terrorists took hostages in Moscow at the theatrical centre at Dubrovka. This is a serious wound which will take a long time to heal in our hearts. The Opening of the Military Base in Kant (October 23, 2003)

War on Terrorism Ontological Metaphor

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

1. Figures of speech contribute to the cognitive dimension of meaning 2. They help us to recognize the equivalences to which we are committed3. They also suggest new equivalences: they help us to be creative4. The “war on terrorism” is an example of a figure of speech that describes our commitments5. However this phrase raises problems, because “terrorism” is a means, not an ideology

Conclusions

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Rhetoric of Terrorism

6. A semiotic approach can help us to clarify this problem by distinguishing between signifiers and signified 7. The “war on terrorism” is also political communication based on an ontological metaphor 8. Like other ontological metaphors, we do not think of it as metaphor 9. Although the metaphor helps us to talk about terrorism, it does little to increase our understanding10.

Conclusions

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