P.A.Chilton at UEA.AC.UK
Sat Mar 29 16:13:45 UTC 2003
Teun's worthy call for discusrive action set me thinking. How can one
disagree with his sense outrage? Yet, I fear that, rather than do discourse
analysis at the present time, we would do better to go out on the streets,
write to the papers, to our MPs, and engage in whatever protests ae likely
to have the slightest impact on thse who can stop this illegal, inhumane and
We as critical discourse analysts have for a couple of decades had
relatively little to say about the discoursees of the American foreign
policy thinktanks, the political lobbysits and the American fundamntalists
who have brought us to this point, and who now are launching a campaign for
world domination. It is now a little late.
Here are some of the things we've missed, or if we've noticed them at all,
failed to do anything about, even to give them a CDA analysis. I list them,
and leave others to join them up, if they have time to do so. There's plenty
of work for discourse analysts here.
At the end of the Cold War, the right-wing American think tanks were openly
looking for a new Enemy. They openly developed the doctrine of preponderant
force in military strategy. They openly linked preponderant military force
with American domination. They proclaimed (supported by the likes of
Fumkyama and Huntington)the final victory of market capitalism à
l'américaine (Americans, pardon my French). They developed the belief that
they were morally right in all things. They developed the belief that they
could 'liberate' captive populations by military force. They invented the
strategy that they could 'hold the lid on' these populations, who they
believed ready to rebel against their cruel governors until it suited them,
the US, to take the lid off. The Cold War military-industrial complex did
not just go away: it remained economically necessary. Neither did the need
for oil. Iraq stepped into the required role of Enemy in 1990. Meanwhile
Muslim fundamentalism was being fuelled by the anti-democratic repression of
governments installed or supported by the US, notably Saudi Arabia. Israel
acquired a right-wing regime extensively supported in the US. To criticise
the Israel government became branded 'anti-semitic' in many quarters in
There is more. After all, how can a significantly large part of a whole
people collectively develop a belief system that justifies the foregoing?
Well, you have to have firm belief in a moral framework. To have such a
framework you have to have a continuous discourse stretching preferably over
several generations and enshrined in educational, religious and other
cultural practices. Here are some elements of that discourse.
Puritanism. The pilgrim fathers believed they were divinely sent to
establish a utopia.
Genocide. The extermination of native American populations.
The progressive annexation of territory on the North American continent,
dubbed Manifest Destiny.
Manifest Destiny, jingoistic tenet holding that territorial expansion of the
United States is not only inevitable but divinely ordained. The phrase was
first used by the American journalist and diplomat John Louis O'Sullivan, in
an editorial supporting annexation of Texas, in the July-August 1845 edition
of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, a magazine that
featured literature and nationalist opinion. The phrase was later used by
expansionists in all political parties to justify the acquisition of
California, the Oregon Territory, and Alaska. By the end of the 19th century
the doctrine was being applied to the proposed annexation of various islands
in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Christian fundamentalism. In the 20th century, many religious ideologies
prolifereated, many with their roots in previous radical predestinationist
beliefs or in utopianism. Versions of these fundamentalist beliefs are
preached to presidents by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the Southern
Baptist Convention. This religion believes God justifies America's
prepondrant force to impose a global American order. They use Old Testament
back up. They believe Israel is also divinely justified in taking land from
Palestine. Some of them believe in a purifying Armageddon.Versions of these
beliefs are merged with the militaristic doctrines mentioned above.
Varieties of these discourses add up to a discourse that provides a moral
framework for a specific plan: the plan is global imposition of American
values, and the moral framework is a (perverted) form of Calvinist
The outcome is now not just discourse--but armies in the Middle East sent
there under a clear strategy not just to remove Saddam but to dominate the
It would be nice to say that this is just an anti-American rant. I think
not. We should face up to what is happening. This has been developing for
the past decade at least, and discourse analysts have said next to nothing a
babout it. It means that Teun's call really is urgent. But I fear that
discourse analysis is too slow and too easy. We had better think of ways of
intervening in what is left of the democratic process itself.
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