The Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement in George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terrorism’ Rhetoric.
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AbstractDespite considerable literature on the Bush administration’s war on terrorism rhetoric, little attention has been paid to its discourse of moral disengagement, leaving an important and still relevant gap that this paper aims to address. Rather than approaching this gap in terms of an archival historical analysis that is disconnected from the present, it proposes an exploratory revisit of the rhetoric that the benefits of hindsight might enrich and, we argue, aid in understanding connections to the current post-invasion turmoil and the gradual ISIS takeover. Having subjected nineteen presidential speeches to qualitative content analysis, we identified a number of moral disengagement mechanisms: moral justification, advantageous comparisons, and attribution of blame, dehumanisation of the enemy, the use of sanitizing language, diffusion of responsibility and minimization of harm. We also identified novel themes relating to American excellence/patriotism, religious ideals and fear- arousing appeals, offering original contributions to the existing literature and advancing our understanding of dynamic, real-world, and highest stakes moral disengagement whose parallels can be identified in today’s political discourses. The detailed analysis unveils the apparent paradox of propagating moral disengagement through a thread of arguments that interweave diversity with uniformity, complexity with simplicity, in effect alerting the reader to the processes of moral desensitisation that the past, current and future “warmongering” political discourses may often rely upon.
Cartledge, S, Bowman-Grieve, L and Palasinski, M (2015) The Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement in George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terrorism’ Rhetoric. The Qualitative Report, 20 (11). pp. 1905-1921.