The Power in Leaving the Specifics to the Audience

While reading Lugo’s Ch. 1: “G.W. Bush Administration Narratives of Threat and Containment” it was surprising to me how powerful the vaguer language of President Bush’s rhetoric was during the post-9/11 period.

Lugo quotes President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address in which he claims that the government will answer “every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people”. He’s not naming specifics but rather implying that the threats are abundant. The viewers and American public are left to their own preconceptions and stereotypes of dangerous individuals. For the overwhelming majority of people, dangerous activities and identities are ones fall outside the norm of their own personal experiences (e.g. different ethnicities and sexualities). Rather than coming off as intolerant for naming certain groups as immoral and worthy of hate (rhetoric like this occurred in other speeches however), the Bush Administration did nothing to stop the association of the Other with Evil.

Another example of this vague language is when President Bush comments on the AIDS epidemic, calling it a “plague of nature”. This allusion instantly evokes in the minds of Christian Americans the story of God’s wrath against the Egyptians in the Old Testament. He never outright calls the LGBT community sinful, but he did symbolically by linking the AIDS epidemic to a biblical punishment. The language preserved the illusion of a small amount of tolerance within the Bush Administration, but in reality heightened the public’s discrimination of the LGBT community.

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