Diagnosing Terrorism in Spain: Medical Metaphors in Presidential Discourse

By Garcia, Maria Jose Hellin | Southwest Journal of Linguistics, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Diagnosing Terrorism in Spain: Medical Metaphors in Presidential Discourse


Garcia, Maria Jose Hellin, Southwest Journal of Linguistics


ABSTRACT. This article investigates the role of medical metaphors for the discursive construction of terrorism in the political speeches of Jos6 Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, president of Spain. This study combines Critical Metaphor Analysis (Charteris-Black 2004) with Cognitive Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson 1980) as the two main theoretical frameworks. The corpus of analysis comprises 88 political speeches over a six year period (from April 2004 to March 2010). The research questions are as follows: 1. What medical metaphors does Zapatero use to construct the notion of terrorism? 2. What is the role of these metaphors in framing terrorism'? I argue that there are three major conceptual metaphors that structure Zapatero's construction of terrorism: TERRORISM 1S A DISEASE. THE GOVERNMENT IS THE DOCTOR AND THE SOCIETY IS THE PATIENT.

1. INTRODUCTION. Spain has been struggling for five decades with terrorism in different forms. Terrorism has been one of the main political priorities for the current President of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who took over the presidency for the first time in April 2004 and was re-elected for a second term in March 2008. Most of the terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by the designated terrorist organization called ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, 'Basque Homeland and Freedom') since the 1960s. However, the deadliest terrorist attack on March 11, 2004, carried out by Al-Qaeda, took terrorism to an international level in Spain. Despite numerous negotiations with ETA and failed attempts for permanent ceasefires, terrorism has been difficult to eradicate in Spain. ETA's constant bombings and shootings have promoted a continuous fear, discontent, and distrust of the ruling governments. Thus, it has been imperative for Zapatero to redefine his position as a strong and effective political leader with the general public. Zapatero has addressed these issues in numerous political speeches between April 2004 and March 2010. I argue that Zapatero adopts metaphors from the source domain of medicine to re-establish his position as a strong political leader. I will refer to these as MEDICAL METAPHORS. This medical scenario serves to reaffirm the position of Zapatero as the expert and skilled political leader with effective strategies to end terrorism while strengthening and re-building trust with the general public.

Metaphors in political discourse have been broadly investigated (Cameron 2007; Charteris-Black 2004, 2005; Chilton 1996; De Leonardis 2008; Gavriely-Nuri 2008; Musolff 2004). More specifically, metaphors in terrorism have also been of interest for many scholars (Hulsse and Spencer 2008; Lakoff 1991, 2001, 2003; Lippens 2004; Lule 2004). While metaphors and terrorism have been extensively analyzed in English political discourse, there is little research in Spanish political discourse (Hellin 2008, 2009; Molpeceres 2009; Veres 2006). Thus, this article aims to further contribute to this research area.

This study starts with an overview about the political situation of terrorism in Spain. The next section examines the role of metaphor in politics, more specifically the use of medical metaphors. It continues with the methodology followed by the discussion. Finally, the conclusions and implications for future research are presented in the last section.

2. POLITICAL FRAMEWORK: TERRORISM IN SPAIN, Spain has been through a myriad of political changes in the last few decades. Democracy was established in 1978 alter a 40-year dictatorship with General Francisco Franco. Franco's rule was marked by a strong notion of Spanish nationalism and protection of traditional values. There was also strict censorship of regional languages and cultures during Franco's regime. This eventually led to widespread discontent in the Basque region of Spain and gave rise to the designated terrorist group ETA. ETA, whose goal is to gain independence for the Basque Country, became stronger over time as Franco's dictatorship transitioned into the establishment of a democratic country.

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