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Trump, existential threats and the banality of evil – Or why sociolinguists should (re)read Hannah Arendt

Working paper
Författare Tommaso M. Milani
Förlag King's College London
Förlagsort London
Publiceringsår 2019
Publicerad vid Institutionen för svenska språket
Språk en
Länkar https://www.academia.edu/40364132/W...
Ämneskategorier Medievetenskap, Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap, Språkstudier, Jämförande språkvetenskap och lingvistik


The aim of this paper is to offer a theoretical and empirical contribution to current sociolinguistic discussions about “existential threats”, and their discursive construction in everyday life. Theoretically, the paper argues for the importance of (re-)purposing some of the ideas of Hannah Arendt, a key political scientist, who, however, has remained somewhat neglected in sociolinguistic inquiry. Empirically such theoretical insights will be applied to shed light on a set of text trajectories that begin with Donald Trump’s famous statement: “You look at what happened last night in Sweden” at a rally in Florida in 2017, and ends with a video circulated by the Swedish Moderate Party – Nya Moderaterna – in the context of the 2018 general elections campaign. Ultimately, the argument I make in this paper is that Trump and the members of Nya Moderaterna in Sweden are terrifyingly normal. Their rhetoric might not be truthful, but links into a ‘truthiness’ built of elements that sound true, and, through a web of discursive devices and intertextual links, creates the dystopian illusion of a truthful and coherent account of society. As Arendt would say, each of these discursive elements is like a spore in a growing fungus that might not have much depth, but is spreading quickly into the very centre of the political debate in Sweden.

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