Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. A discourse analysis of President George W. Bush's declared war on terrorism.
The focus of my thesis is how the ‘war on terrorism’ was discursively constructed as the appropriate response to the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001. To answer this research question, a discourse analysis was undertaken of six of President George W. Bush’s speeches and one official strategy document by the Bush administration. The background for my thesis is that the US today is a hegemon with the power to do virtually whatever it wants, and thus it is important to understand what it does and how it does it. However, in this study my focus is on from what premises and worldview the hegemon starts. This thesis is thus an attempt to reframe the ‘war on terrorism’. I start from a specific constructionist epistemological assumption, namely that our understanding and knowledge about the world is historically and culturally contingent. The focal point of the analysis is on the discursive construction of the ‘war on terrorism’ and on giving a critical review of this construction by exposing the contingency of particular representations of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The particular representations identified in my material are the structured oppositions of freedom and fear, good and evil and civilization and barbarism. I argue that the key component in discursively constructing the war is continuous discursive reinforcement of a simplistic dualism between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Furthermore, I suggest that ‘us’ and ‘them’ are not only differentiated and set in opposition to each other; a hierarchy is also imposed where the subordinate sign (‘them’) is placed outside the boundaries of what is desirable. I view reasoning in this manner with a simplistic paired zero-sum relation between ‘us’ and ‘them’ as a blueprint for heightened difference and conflict. I view it as an attempt to unite through the logic of confrontation: either you are with ‘us’ against ‘them’, or you are with ‘them’ and thus against ‘us’.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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