PM and President: the usual channels

Following are some statements by Prime Minister Abbott and then President George W. Bush, announcing action against terror groups and ‘jihadists’.

‘Regrettably, around the world and in this country itself, there are people who would do us harm. There are people who hate who we are and how we live. They hate our freedom, our tolerance, our democracy.’ (Prime Minister Tony Abbott, 18 September 2014)

‘Groups such as ISIL will cite our involvement [in operations in Iraq and Syria] but they would attack us anyway for who we are and for how we live, not for anything that we have done. It’s our acceptance that people can live and worship in the way they choose that bothers them, not our foreign policy.’ (Prime Minister Tony Abbott, 22 September 2014)

‘They hate our freedoms – our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.’ (President George W. Bush, 20 September 2001)

‘Great tragedy has come to us, and we are meeting it with the best that is in our country, with courage and concern for others. Because this is America. This is who we are. This is what our enemies hate and have attacked.’  (President George W. Bush, 9 September 2001)

For a relevant academic study, see: Krista De Castella and Craig McGarty, ‘Two leaders, two wars: a psychological analysis of fear and anger content in political rhetoric about terrorism’, Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 11, 1, December 2011, pp. 180-200. This article looked mainly at the speeches of George W. Bush and Tony Blair but referred also to an earlier article analysing speeches by John Howard, which concluded

fear-inducing content was not a constant feature of Howard’s rhetoric, but it was in fact highly variable and most prevalent at the point where the Australian government was seeking to bolster support for Australia’s looming involvement in the invasion of Iraq … In Howard’s speeches, the largest spike in fear content was in early February 2003 – Howard’s initial statements justifying Australia’s pending involvement in the War in Iraq.

While these findings suggest a general trend in emotional content throughout the “War on Terror”, it is important to acknowledge that the content of Bush’s, Blair’s, and Howard’s speeches is not independent of each other. This is in part true because they were talking about the same events, but even if different people with different motives were to craft these speeches, they remain public communications that are immediately available to other speakers. The content and styling of a speech by one leader may thus be echoed in the speech of another. (pp. 182, 193)

The similarity between the speeches of Tony Abbott and George W. Bush suggests that these echoes persist and that they become particularly loud when apparently similar circumstances are confronted.

21 September 2014 updated

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