Imagined Community, Orientalism and Moral Panic Concepts

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Imagined community, Orientalism and Moral Panic Concepts, underlying Post-9/11 US Presidential Speeches

George W. Bush’s administration and American mass media mounted a sustained project in post-9/11 era to ‘save’ US intact identity and delegitimize critical thoughts about Middle East, Islam and Arabs. This project was implemented by inducing a picture of ‘Self’ or ‘White’ as of Americans versus ‘Others’ as of Arabs and Muslims. In the project, American society is surrounded by ‘borders’ being threatened by ‘Others’. Therefore, perceived threat and heightened security alerts abound in daily media coverage and also political speeches of G.W. Bush and his supporters in this post-9/11 era. Many theoretical frameworks have been applied to investigate this project. Developed by Said (1978), Orientalism is a theory which delineates the categories of rational and superior ‘West’ versus aberrant and inferior ‘Orient’. The theory was used by researchers to interpret the events of post-9/11 era. Applying the Orientalism theory, Nayak (2006) argues that the ‘Self’/’Other’ dialectic is due to the fear of ‘Self’ from ‘Others’ and also the desperate need of ‘Self’ US to a coded Islamic fundamentalism of threatening ‘Others’. There is also a correlation between the Orientalism aspect of ‘Self’ or ‘West’ as a nation and the theory of ‘Imagined communities’, proposed by Anderson (1996). According to Anderson, nations are imagined communities, where ‘the members of even the smallest nations will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them’. Another theoretical framework, applied by researchers, is called moral panic theory: a media-induced so-called perceived threat. Brayton (2006) analyses the American mass media coverage of detention of an ‘American-Taliban’ citizen, who was introduced to North America on December 1, 2001. Brayton argues how moral panic theory was used to sketch racialized physical and social boundaries between ‘Whiteness’ and ‘Others’, and questions the entities of these boundaries. (Rothe et al. 2004) examine the social effects of social construction of moral panic of terrorism. They offer analyses of media’s depiction of acts of terrorism and also state’s vested interest in social construction of moral panic, leading to increased level of fear. Although post-9/11 era has been vastly investigated by scholars using the theoretical frameworks, there is a need to investigate what specific political literature was used by Bush in his post-9/11 speeches to portray American Society as ‘Self’ or ‘civilized nation’ versus ‘Others’ or ‘terrorists’ in order to justify the implementation of the racial project of ‘Saving’ US intact identity. The objective of this paper is to explore three main speeches of G.W. Bush following 9/11: Address to the Nation September 11th 2001, United Nation General Assembly on November 11th 2001 and State of Union January 29th 2002. Applying the above mentioned theoretical frameworks of Orientalism-imagined communities and Moral panic, it is intended to analyze these speeches and argue their contribution to the emergence of the imagined boundaries between ‘Self’ and ‘Others’. Orientalism and Imagined Communities theories in Bush’s speeches As mentioned earlier, there is a correlation between the theories of Imagined Communities and Orientalism. According to Anderson (1996), a nation is ‘an imagined political community [that is] imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign’. Members of this community will not meet their fellow-members, ‘yet in the minds of each, lives the image of their communion’. As Anderson puts it, regardless of inequalities among members, they share common interests or identity as a part of a nation through ‘deep, horizontal comradeship’ within ‘finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations’. Although the theory is a fundamental basis for anthropological discussions, it is challenged by other researchers....
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