Publication Date

April 2016


Ioana Emy Matesan




English (United States)


This thesis presents a new strategy for analyzing threat response rhetoric that is grounded in the five potential responses an actor can have to a threat. An actor can (1) discuss the threat within the context of international law; (2) try to rally support for his foreign policy through (a) fear, or (b) nationalism; or (3) give in to the temptation of reinforcing in-group and out-group mentality through (a) dehumanizing the enemy, or (b) exoticizing the enemy. I elaborate on these five potential responses by linking them with the literature that explains each response’s framing—just war theory, securitization theory, rally around the flag effect, social psychology, and orientalism. I summarize each of these theories and conclude with the lexical triggers that we expect to see if the actor invokes a given literature’s framing to talk about the threat and the enemy. I demonstrate the effectiveness of this framework through a case study: President George H. W. Bush and President Barack Obama’ terrorism rhetoric. Although I apply this new framework to presidents and look at their response to terrorism, it can be used to analyze any actor’s rhetoric on any type of threat. My new approach addresses the weaknesses of the existing literature. The research is repeatable and allows for an easy comparison of multiple actors’ threat response rhetoric.



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