Fear factors in: political rhetoric, threat inflation, and the narrative of September 11
Atmore, Lorna Y.
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The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon transformed the way the nation views homeland security and terrorism. It changed the priorities of the nation. The current frame of reference on terrorism, national security, and fear of future attacks were informed by political remarks and speeches made in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Political rhetoric that defined the terrorist attacks as acts of war laid the foundation for a period of public insecurity and vulnerability to the threat of terrorism in the homeland and provided justifications for counterterrorism legislation that impinged individual freedoms and civil rights. The purpose of this research is to analyze political rhetoric in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, to determine whether political rhetoric contributed to threat inflation, public fear, and misperception of the security threats faced by the American public. An examination of the divergent scholarly perspectives on the role of political rhetoric on public perception, emotion, and reaction is performed to uncover mechanisms that impacted critical assessment, minimized debate of policy alternatives, and fostered public fear. The study exposes the characteristics of political rhetoric and the discursive devices employed in response to the terrorist attacks, which influenced public threat perception and fear. It argues that the rhetorical choices, which emphasized fear, were part of the mechanics for threat inflation seen in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
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