Farrell, Erin E

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  • Publication
    No Sympathy for the Folk Devil: How Presidential Speechmaking in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs Utilized Threat and Anxiety to Manipulate and Persuade the American Public
    (2019-05-05) Farrell, Erin E
    This thesis analyzes how presidential speeches in the War on Terror (2001 through the present) and the War on Drugs (1964 through the present) defined the out-group, characterized a righteous American in-group, and aided in the creation of atmospheres of escalating fear and anxiety to gain support for specific policy ends. To observe and quantify these trends of fear and crisis, out-group isolation, and in-group emphasis, the author uses quantitative and qualitative content analysis. The results reflect a higher concentration of rhetoric espousing punitive policymaking, characterization of the out-group in each era as immoral, violent, and ubiquitous, and a definition of each time period as one filled with chaos and threat to the “Good American.” These shared patterns reflect an intentionality in speech to rely on cues of fear and anxiety to reach certain policy ends and public opinion changes. From a political perspective, the power of fear and anxiety in political speechmaking is often accompanied by negative policy and social outcomes for a homogenized out-group, as well as a vulnerability in the public to misinformation, trends documented in the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.