Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Assassination as ethos-booster

Intelligence services and individual crackpots have a long history of trying to assassinate political adversaries. I was just about to write that "fortunately we don't see that kind of behaviour very often in our part of the world". But then I came to think of Pim Fortuyn and Anna Lindh, two sad and recent instances.

In the boiling conflict in Ukraine assassination also plays a part. The opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko claims to have been poisoned by biological warfare agents (in the chemical sense, not the HUMINT one), after being treated in a Vienna hospital. Others hold that it is merely a bad case of acne or bad sushi.

It is of course a controversial claim, but try and take a look at the comparative pictures on BBC's homepage - the difference is remarkable.

How ever, no matter if this is indeed a botched assassination attempt by some clandenstine grouping or just too much chocolate, the effect on Yushchenko's ethos is the same.

For those who believe that it really is poisoning, Yushchenko becomes the main character in a rhetorical equivalent of the ancient tragedy: The handsome hero who is fighting dark powers that inevitably destroys him (in this instance, at least his face). The plot might twist if he ends up the new leader.

This must certainly convey a special aura to him - perhaps doubling his magnetism, the very same trait that eventual assassins were out to negate.

The list of injured statesmen is long, but a curious example is Theodore Roosevelt, who was shot in the chest while holding a speech on the campaign trail. He continued his speech for 1 1/2 hour before seeking a doctor.


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