m September 11 Terrorism EssaysThe Language of Terrorism

On September 11, 2001, two airplanes flew into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon, while yet another suspiciously crashed. Blasted on T.V. screens across America, were images of fire, destruction, chaos and death. Framed in colors of red, white and blue, were such headlines that read: ?America Under-Attack,? ?The War Against Terror? and ?The Attack on America?; all the while, urgent ticket taped messages flowed across our television screens and news anchors reported on the utmost of news. To sum-up the days events, President Bush addressed the nation.

It was in the President?s initial speech to the nation following the attack on the World Trade Center that the adjective ?evil? was first introduced. Quoting from the bible, and making reference to a ?power greater than any of us,? the President reassured the American people of their safety and well-being. Within a couple of minutes, the stage was set for all that was to follow.

Since adopted by the media, the Bush administration and the American people, the religious reference of ?evil? by the President has become an integral part of the public discourse. Framing the way we talk and think about the day?s events, and all subsequent events, including talk of Bin Laden, the Taliban and terrorism, the use of binary language in religious and metaphoric expression have become an important element in the ?war against terrorism.? And despite the President?s and congress? denouncement of any reference to ?the attack on terrorism? as a holy war, it seems as if the American ideal of ?separation of state and religion,? has become suspended and/or forgotten all together.

The intent of this paper is to analysis the language used by the President to describe the September 11th events, and consequentially, its binary effects. Given the President?s religious and metaphoric references a dichotomous framework is thought to exit. For instance, in using the term ?evil,? images of the devil and hell have been conjured up –and conversely– images of God and heaven. Helping to demonize those responsible, the initial language used by the President and later incorporated by the press, has since served as a political weapon from which to fight ?the war against terrorism.? In that the President?s speech evoked from his audience (most notably the American people) feelings of fear, terror, anger, and hatred, the appeal has been to the public?s emotions and senses rather than their ration and intellect. Making a sentimental plea to American?s sense of patriotism, such binary language has in effect become a means of hegemonic control.

Instilling a strong sense of nationalism and pride, the implications of the President?s speech are already being felt. Laying the groundwork for all subsequent actions, the framing of the events in dichotomous, either/or language has become widely accepted and thus ?naturalized.?

Hence, it is through language, and the media?s use of language, that certain ideologies have been maintained and perpetuated. Portrayed (i.e. encoded) as ?natural? and accepted as such (i.e. decoded), the ideologies helping to inform such ?patriotic? language have become a standardized way of thinking and talking. That is, in that the language (i.e., metaphors) adopted by the media and the public have come to be viewed as ?normal,? ?standard? and ?common-sensical? the concept(s) informing such language (i.e., freedom, democracy, patriotism, unity, etc.) have also become naturalized (i.e. Americanized). Understanding, of course, that the mass media (i.e., television, radio and newspaper) is largely controlled by the dominate society, it is not surprising that the language employed by it generally supports and depicts the dominant paradigm. As described by Kellner, ?one of the functions of the dominant media culture is to maintain boundaries and to legitimate the rule of the hegemonic class, race and gender forces? p. 62, 1995)1.

With language used as a device to elicit support and consensus from the American people and government, as well as other nations and allies, the war waged against terrorism has remained largely uncontested. Moreover, military force has been perceived as justified. And while no one is arguing the magnitude of this

Author