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


Bin Laden and the US election revisited

I had the pleasure of discussing Osama bin Laden's speech to the American people, October 2004 with my students at the University of Copenhagen.

It did underscore that it is indeed a remarkable speech in terms of adressing another audience than is usually adressed, as bin Laden speaks to the American public with an almost reconcillatory tone.

I have written an article on the speech in the journal of diplomatic language (find it in the scribbling-archive here) as well as a lighter version in RetorikMagasinet. The discussion in class, however, did underscore that I might have been very aware of the strategic use of self-picturing (the making of a rhetorical persona) as a conscious strategy of bin Laden's, but I might not have emphasised strongly enough the impact that the speech would have had with a third audience: The moslem middle-class in the Middle East as well as in Europe. They are the "soft underbelly" of the extremist movement, and therefor it has long since been established that the battle for hearts and minds should be fought in their frontal lobes.

The speech will actually have had quite an impact on exactly that audience: shoring them up that bin Laden also has statesman-like qualities, an observation that will largely be irrelevant in the US.


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