“The gloves are coming off” : a mixed method analysis of the Bush administration’s torture memos

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dc.contributor.advisor Hanson, Linda K.
dc.contributor.author Nier-­Weber, Daneryl M.
dc.date.accessioned 2011-07-05T15:17:50Z
dc.date.available 2011-07-06T05:30:06Z
dc.date.created 2011-05-07
dc.date.issued 2011-05-07
dc.identifier.uri http://cardinalscholar.bsu.edu/handle/123456789/194714
dc.description.abstract This dissertation seeks to delineate some of the fault lines of the disparate worldviews and assumptions that have polarized our national discourse, as well as the imbalances of power they support or disrupt. Building on previous case studies of ideologically oppositional political blogs, the dissertation examines thirty-nine key documents from the website torturingdemocracy.org, primarily legal memos written by Bush Administration lawyers (the “Torture Memos”), to analyze a rhetoric of torture that, as a subset of the war on terror, serves as a “ground zero” of political values and motivations. Further, it seeks to combine mixed methods of analysis from various disciplines to help reveal the underlying beliefs and values that inform current national discourse. The cross-disciplinary methods combine rhetorical, linguistic, and critical discourse analyses to examine and interrogate the language that created metaphorical and actual spaces in which torture was legalized, employed, and legitimated. Applying a grounded theory approach to Huckin’s four levels of linguisticgranularity--context, text, phrase, and word (including the use of concordancing software)--the research reveals the logical fallacies, faulty argumentation, slippery word usage, linguistic and rhetorical manipulations, and finally, authoritarian underpinnings that characterize the memos. The research further uncovers multiple strategies used to create the Other, such as Lazar and Lazar’s four micro-strategies of “outcasting” (criminalization, (e)vilification, orientalization, and enemy construction), and strategies of minimizing or maximizing the positive and negative traits of in-versus out-groups in van Dijk’s “ideological square.” The research shows how, in the language of the war on terror, words take on different, even opposite, meanings from previous significations, shifting the national debate about the legitimacy of torture as a hypothetical means of protection. Further, close examination reveals a different intent behind the memos than the purported defense of the country used repeatedly to justify torture. Findings illuminate the memos as the products of authoritarian followers who enabled what Altemeyer calls “double highs”—ideological social dominants with an authoritarian worldview--in a wide-reaching and largely successful bid for power. Lastly, the dissertation points to the need to further investigate and articulate an anti-authoritarian, social egalitarian worldview as a challenge to power structures that, enshrined in language, may constitute a serious threat to democracy.
dc.description.sponsorship Department of English
dc.description.tableofcontents The great divide -- Review of the literature -- Methods and methodology -- The scene, the agents, their agency and their purpose : conceptions of power and the torture debate -- Torture and the law -- Thirty-nine documents -- The "semantic tap-dance" : discursive, rhetorical and lexico-grammatical strategies in the torture memos -- Constructions of identity -- Constructing torture -- Analysis and conclusions.
dc.subject.lcsh Torture -- Government policy -- United States.
dc.subject.lcsh Terrorism -- Government policy -- United States.
dc.subject.lcsh Critical discourse analysis.
dc.subject.lcsh Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States.
dc.title “The gloves are coming off” : a mixed method analysis of the Bush administration’s torture memos en_US
dc.description.degree Thesis (Ph. D.) en_US
dc.date.liftdate 2011-07-06
dc.identifier.cardcat-url http://liblink.bsu.edu/catkey/1639721

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  • Doctoral Dissertations [3248]
    Doctoral dissertations submitted to the Graduate School by Ball State University doctoral candidates in partial fulfillment of degree requirements.

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