A reflection on the events of June 16, 2015, presents Donald J. Trump in Trump headquarters eagerly awaited by passionate fans. Analogous to the looks on The Apprentice reality show, every bit of his appearance resembled a culturally-obsessed and modern personality. Fans had high expectations of him, and as the escalator propelled him, it was evident that extraordinary events about his campaigns were about to unfold. It was a time to launch a political phase geared towards making America great again. Trump was keen to explain the challenges linked to illegal migration and the negative consequences of shipping jobs to places like China. In a big way, Trump indicated that "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best [...] They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume are good people" (Trump, 2015). These comments attracted condemnation from democrats and a section of the Republicans, with many analysts flagging his campaign strategy as peripheral. One thing was clear, though: the strategic approach for his campaigns.
Criticism and negative comments with racist bias would dictate his 18 months that followed, particularly towards immigrant groups such as Muslims and occupants of inner-city America. He founded his Birtherism arguments from the claims that President Obama lacked the spirit of American citizenship because of his background. While his election on November 8, 2016, was assured, it was challenging for the political class. They struggled to comprehend the logistics behind his rising power as the President (Inwood, 2019). The purpose of this linguistic analytic paper is to examine Trump's tweets, particularly those with racial bias and directed to the minority groups such as Hispanic-Muslims, African-America, Latino and Asian women. This examination is based on Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). The analysis adopts the Van Dijk model as the preferred analytical framework. With these tools in place, the focus will consider strategic ideologies of Trump's tweets' responses to fathom their stances' nature.
1.1. Van Dijk's Ideological Square
The application of Dijk's model helps strengthen the analytical process for ideologies. The model is informed by four principal approaches (Van Dijk, 1998, p.267):
· Emphasize or expression of positive information about Us
· Emphasize or expression of negative information about Them
· De-emphasize or suppression of positive information about Them
· De-emphasize or suppression of negative information about Us.
One of the first accessible tweets directed to the Arab Spring through his Twitter @realDonaldTrump emanates from search words like "Syria," "Syrian refugees," and "Arab Spring." The same concerns relate to the tweets of February 28, 2017. These issues were fundamental in his campaign that targeted the Syrian War and refugee crisis. The words appeared to catch the attention of the populists (Kazzaz, 2020).
1.2. Identity construction
Politics of identity are indispensable in shaping political paths. Application of the visibly conspicuous terms like "them" and "us" depicts an element of dominance and control of one group over the other. Analysts argue that the two aspects are powerful tools in attaining legitimacy and stability in the world of politics (Wirth-Koliba, 2016, p.1). Such strategies attract concerns on how power and dominance are deployed in politics to attain a political following.
The Ideological Square is used to illustrate the reduced dominance of Syrian refugees in a linguistic dimension and, at the same time, depict their insignificant power (van Dijk, 1992, van Dijk, 1995, van Dijk, 2013). In this approach, the emphasis is given to the positivity in "us" and negativity in "them" to win the favor of the majority (van Dijk, 2013, p.222). An in-depth analysis reveals two broad categories of tweets employed by Trump. First, attacking Syrian refugees and the second expression of positivity of his position aligning that with continuous criticism of immigration ideologies by Obama. Trump twisted the ideologies to illustrate that the opponents were eager to allow Syrians to cross the borders. These themes were disguised in self-presentation and often hard to realize the nature of the intended message. Consider the following tweet.
The terrorists in Syria are calling themselves REBELS and getting away with it because our leaders are so completely stupid! [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, September 5, 2013)
The implication of the tweet and reference to the Syrians as "rebels" and refugee groups as "terrorists" (in different tweets) while alienating himself from the "stupidity" aspect of "us" shows some constructivism. Trump fights negativity that would have impacted undesirably on his campaign. However, this analysis focuses on the negative depiction of "them" and not the positivity of "us." The selection of this dimension of the "them" analysis is unique owing to earlier studies that gave dominance to the aspect of "us" (Kazzaz, 2020).
1.3. Nomenclature choice: freedom fighters, rebels, Jihadis, or terrorists
In 2013, Trump addressed Syria and the Arab Springs specifically on the violence, which, according to him, was a phase supported by Obama's administration. He was against the perceived support for both the Middle East and Syria, even to a point where he referred to them as "Jihadi." Consider the following tweets:
a. Remember, all these 'freedom fighters' in Syria want to fly planes into our buildings. [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, Aug 28, 2013)
b. The terrorists in Syria are calling themselves REBELS and getting away with it because our leaders are so completely stupid! [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, September 5, 2013)
c. Many of the Syrian rebels are radical jihadi Islamists who are murdering Christians. Why would we ever fight with them? [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, Sept 6, 2013)
While there is a particular focus on the term used in different debates, Trump continued to use the predominant word "rebel" as in (2.2-c) against "freedom fighters" (2.2-a). The choice is motivated by the desire to own the credit because the perceived 'freedom fighter" would portray some element of success and heroism similar to Nazis and French resistance. This would have gone against his campaign ideologies. In an equal measure, the use of "rebel" makes it a comfortable candidate of association with other unfavorable terms like "terrorist" and "Jihadis" as in (2.2-b) and (2.2-c). The adopted nomenclature was strategic in itself because of the rising chances of the claimed "rebels" becoming refugees at some point in the political phase. Further, the term is militarized, making it possible for Trump to link them with the Syrian War. Whichever angle the terms took, it had some positive benefits in the political career of Trump.
1.4. Nomenclature processes: collectivization and potential violence
Consider the following tweets for analyses.
a. Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane? [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, Nov 17, 2015)
b. 13 Syrian refugees were caught trying to get into the U.S. through the Southern Border. How many made it? WE NEED THE WALL! [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, Nov 22, 2015)
c. Crooked Hillary Clinton wants to flood our Country with Syrian immigrants that we know little or nothing about. The danger is massive. NO! [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, July 27, 2016)
d. refugees from Syria over 10k plus more coming. Lots of young males, poorly vetted. [sic, boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, Sept 19, 2016)
e. "Five people killed in Washington State by a Middle Eastern immigrant." [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, Sept 26, 2016)
The above tweets deepen the theme of violence even further by associating refugees with terrorists. Uniquely, he adds weight to the negativities that the Syrian refugees could expose the United States to considering their age and energy, see (2.3-d). To negate it even further, Trump instills fear accelerated by possible unknown identities as in (2.3-a). A closer look at the choice of words such as "flood" depicts metaphors to put more weight on the message (Khosravinik, 2009, p.486; Featherman, 2015, p.78). A similar study can be derived from the term "pouring," as in (2.3-a). The application of such terms implies threats that come with irresistible capacity. According to Trump, a country flooded with Syrians equates to a county in immense danger see (2.3-c).
Further analysis of the tweets shows how Trump insinuates possible dangers that come with Syrians. He uses precise numbering to add features of reality and the accuracy of information. For example, "13 Syrian refugees," as in (2.3-b), "over 10k plus," as in (2.3-d). A contrast is invoked against victims of a terror attack such as "Five' in the case of "Middle Eastern immigrant" as in (2.3-e). Application of numbers to the refugees offers the basis of collectivizing them, linking them with plight, and even degrading their human nature through omission acts.
The mentioned Middle Eastern immigrant, Arcan Cetin, refers to a Turkish descent who moved to the USA in his childhood. On September 23, 2016, the referred party was involved in a shooting that led to one man and four women's death while calling out women's names. According to the authorities, there were no established reasons behind the acts of terrorism (Anderson, 2016). There might be a variety of reasons for the killings. Singling out such violent cases by Trump and solely linking them to immigrants reveals collectivization geared towards refugees and other immigrants.
1.5. Spatiotemporal threat construction
According to the proximization theory and the "them" aspect and negativities, then, there is a clear effort to legitimize themes of protectionists and proactive entitlement of the USA towards self-protection. In this view, Trump's tweets can be examined even further to reveal proximization tendencies against the refugees. There are three angles to it: Axiological, Spatial, and Temporal. Consider the following tweets.
a. If our border is not secure we can expect another attack. A country with open borders is open to the terrorists. [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, July 31, 2014)
b. Everyone is now saying how right I was with illegal immigration & the wall. After Paris, they're all on the bandwagon. [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, November 19, 2015)
c. Europe and the U.S. must immediately stop taking in people from Syria. This will be the destruction of civilization as we know it! So sad! [boldface emphasis added] (@realDonaldTrump, March 24, 2016)
In Temporal proximization, Trump's warnings about Syrians depicts them as dangerous and a possible crisis source. Of all other tendencies, this is the most conspicuous approach that signifies temporal techniques. The rhetoric is amplified by considering the Paris attack in November 2015, as in (2.4-b). The act was linked to ISIS and killed 130 people. The scene of the tragedy was characterized by passports from Egyptians and Syrians (Kazzaz, 2020). Trump quotes aspect of time to express the impending misfortune through self-presentation using terms like "I was right," "now," and "after" despite a different timing of the attack. The term "now" illustrates the urgency of legitimizing proposed actions against immigrants he links to terrorism. The choice of words about the Paris attack passes the refugees' intent to run acts of terrorism. These dangers are portrayed as real and with temporal perspectives.
Spatial proximization is seen in the Syrian refugees' representation bypassing the outside-the-deictic-center (ODC) discourse and the inside-the-deictic-center (IDC) in the USA. A specific examination of this incidence illustrates that Syrian refugees have a close link with immigrants at the southern border. The first analysis indicates anxiety on Trump and his followers' side about the acts of illegality happening at the southern border. Syrians' perceived entry believed to come from a distant country and whom the supporters share little information about indicates a possibility of infiltration leading to an overall immense danger once they mix with the already illegal immigrants. The second perspective portrays a theme of violence associated with Syrian refugees who act as radicalized Jihadis. According to Trump, they form a chain of a terrorist group, making them even more dangerous than ordinary immigrants. In this view, the narrative of "WE NEED A WALL" (@realDonaldTrump, November 11, 2015) attracts even more relevance.
Trump is persistent in reiterating that IDC to ODC distance continues to shrink (Cap, 2010, p.395). Further, it emphasizes the need to keep distance in efforts to secure the borders, as in (3-1), quoting that the ODC could import terrorist and radical ideologies that could take effect unknowingly. Axiology's third proximization strategy is combined architecture within which epithets, nomenclature, spatial proximization, and temporal proximization operate.
1.6. Ideological strategies and stances taken
Trump used Twitter in 2016 to propagate the theme of immigration. The platform was ideal for attracting public reaction by paying particular attention to uncertainty issues with the refugees and their identities concerning associations with extremist groups. Doing so made him gather more points as a preferred presidential candidate. In the same school of thought, the escalation of naming nomenclature from "rebels," "Jihadi," and "terrorists" favored his campaign. The statements tallied well with the earlier stance of George W Bush regarding the infamous 9/11. That is:
Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists (Bush, 2001)
Choices by Trump also presented a detachment from what Obama referred to as violent extremists (Obama, 2009) by seizing radicalization processes to identify them. Though the process of radicalization does not translate to incidences of violence, the term used by Obama was by itself lethal because "to be radical is merely to reject the status quo, and not necessarily in a problematic or violent way" (Bartlet and Miller, 2012, p.2). Choosing the term "terrorist" was ideal for Trump because it was understandable and direct, unlike that of Obama that required an in-depth verification. Trump showed deep concern to secure national interests against threats emanating from social and physical domains and a detailed understanding of immigrants and refugees. His tactic was politically different from that of Obama owing to the unique nomenclature.
On the concept of violence: while the assumption about the Syrian refugees being "poorly vetted" was not entirely certain, 15,583 Syrian refugees admitted in the U.S. between 2014 and 2016 revealed different details altogether (Kallick et al., 2016, p.2). The vetting process conducted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is thorough. The rigorous process involves a series of biometric registrations, biographic examinations, and analysis of travel documents. The process does not end there. There are diplomatic interviews and other operations conducted by the national security (USCIS, 2020). That is, "even if USCIS approves an applicant for refugee status, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must still find that applicant admissible to the United States," further, it has the rights to carry out "additional background checks of these individuals upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry" before entrance (USCIS, 2020).
When Trump quoted the above experiences with the USCIS, he escalated uncertainty issues brought by the refugees, mostly curbed by national security. Trump succeeded in inflicting the refugees' negativities through axiological and ideological proximization, showing the need to keep distance through the wall. Deeper interpretation implies that spatiotemporal proximization directed to the violent refugees passing the discourse region and infiltrating through the southern border had every reason to decline. The construction of ideologies that address uncertainties through reviewing documents would serve as a safe way to legitimize the rhetoric. These uncertainties are principally hard to oppose owing to the nature of the possible threats posed by them.
The axiological strategy adopted and proposed by Trump was to justify building the wall to reduce immigration. It was one of the pillars that were central to his 2016 campaign. The unique approach was unique from that of predecessors and competitors because most Americans feared a repetition of events similar to 9/11. He also used the axiological proximization to fight his competitors. For example, he was fast to depict Hillary Clinton as irresponsible and flood the U.S. with Syrian refugees translating to a national threat. In an equal measure, the strategy legitimized his incoming administration to protect the borders and protect the entire United States.
Strategies dominated by fearmongering and assimilation of unique nomenclatures had a major contribution to the elections' winning. The narratives broadcasted by Trump's competitors had little effect on changing the deeply-planted fear among the Americans. For example, Executive Order 13769 and associated bans affected seven Muslim nations such as Syria. Such implications are results of axiological proximization that adopts the narrative that associates…sheriff's badge; he further commented that the post ought not to have been taken down. He also scorned Elizabeth Warren's campaign for president. In 2019, he called her "Pocahontas" in one of his tweets and further added, "See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!" – apparently referring to the horrendous Trail of Tears. This gruesome nineteenth-century ethnic cleansing saw the forced relocation and death of thousands of Native Americans.
Trump claims females have a two-faced nature. Besides lacking independence and strength, they are criticized for being hypocrites and worse than males – this has been the subject of every single tweet targeting Hillary Clinton: out of 567 posts in the corpus, a total of 299 call her "crooked." Furthermore, she is described as "colluded" and "corrupt," "100% owned by her donors", a "Guilty [candidate and thus she] cannot run," and "bought and paid for by Wall Street, lobbyists, and special interests, [and that] will sell our country down the tubes!"
Additionally, Hillary and her fellow female politicians have frequently been accused of lying. Hillary has, in particular, been dubbed an "A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR" (capitalized), "disloyal," a "hypocrite," and, hence, "unfit to be president" (Scotto di Carlo, 2020). Women news reporters have been similarly criticized as taking to "fraudulent editing" and "mak[ing] up things that [he] never said."
3.3. Semantic Derogation/Disparagement of Women
Trump's frequent misogynistic, sexist comments have relied on negative lexicalization. Females have been described using a variety of negative labels like "disgusting," "sneaky," "clown[s]," "ill-fit," and "terrible," among other things.
A particular target of such scorn has been Omarosa Manigault, Trump's erstwhile political aid, who has frequently been labeled a "dog." While the dog is a man's best friend and a classic example of a good pet, it has negative connotations if used to describe a woman and hints at promiscuity and unattractiveness (Scotto di Carlo, 2020). The female dog has been described generically and linguistically using the word 'bitch’ and is one of the most commonly used swearwords used on women to indicate bossiness, maliciousness, and spitefulness.
Trump's remarks demean females by making comparisons with disgusting animals; clearly, he expresses his personal view that females are disgusting and more beast than human.
3.4. Vulgarity When Speaking About Women
A highly controversial tweet by Trump goes thus "@megynkelly The Bimbo Back in Town. I Hope Not for Long" (August 25), referring to a previous interview in which he made sexist remarks targeted at Megyn Kelly:
She's a lightweight, and, you know, she came out there reading her little script and trying to be tough and be sharp. And when you meet her, you realize she's not very tough, and she's not very sharp […]. She gets out there, and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions, and you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… wherever…Kelly was a bimbo.
Trump's aforementioned remark came a day following the foremost Republican debate in which he was challenged by Kelly using several questions. He was referring to the female menstrual cycle. This tweet witnesses Trump overtly relying on negative lexicalization for discrediting her Kelly by labeling her a 'bimbo' – a word having sexual connotations and defined as a good-looking female without intelligence (Scotto di Carlo, 2020).
The corpus mentions other sexualized negative lexicalizations like "disgusting (check out sex tape and past)" and "a con," about Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe.
3.5. Ideological strategies and stances taken
Racist and sexist practices and principles are evident in the posts Trump posts on females (Darweesh & Abdullah, 2016). These include various rhetorical and lexical plans summed up as follows:
· Females are weak, incapable, 'mentally unstable,' and inefficient, and have no strength
· Females lack independence
· Females must be judged according to their looks and not their personality of I.Q.
· Females lie, are dishonest, and are worse than males
· Females are mere possessions
· Females are disgusting animals
· Females may be described using vulgar terminology.
The above points underscore that Trump maintains a very patriarchal attitude towards females, believing in their objectification and denigration. In his opinion, females are mentally unstable, weak, and inefficient, but also dangerous and dishonest liars, so they cannot attain and maintain major societal and political roles.
Regarding Mill's (2008) difference between hidden and obvious kinds of sexism, Trump's Twitter posts frequently express his sexist beliefs quite obviously. He employs a blend of typically-sexualized slurs (such as 'dog,' 'neurotic,' 'very dumb,' etc.), catch-words (such as 'dangerous,' 'dopey,' 'loser,' etc.), and humor (such as 'Pocahontas,' 'snowman (woman),' etc.) for negatively representing his female opponents as well as the overall female community. In line with the hegemonic masculinity "model," he echoes the principles of physical strength ingrained in American culture, which his tweets possibly pleasing only those who give precedence to these principles, to 'pathos' more than 'logos.'
A point to bear in mind here is that tweets occur in a public context, and, therefore, his speech differs from non-mediatized contexts like his Access Hollywood tape in which he was rather candid on what he thinks and believes. His posts on Twitter are driven by his underlying goals of acquiring and maintaining his consent and status as President. Hence, his posts aren't as straight-forward as one may believe since he possibly fears his words may adversely impact his presidential campaign.
Nevertheless, his language propagates a patriarchal social hierarchy wherein females are downgraded to subservient positions, away from major social and political roles.
Of course, there is a need for additional investigation. Additional research may help shed light on whether or not he utilizes examples of benevolent sexism or sexism representing assessments of gender which are, on the surface, subjectively positive (i.e., subjective to assessing individuals), but in truth prove detrimental to individuals and to overall gender equality (for instance, the notion that females require the protection of males on account of their being weak, and must follow 'traditional' gender roles) (Scotto di Carlo, 2020). The theory is, his employment of benevolence, in reality, represents the opposite face of the very same coin: a patronizing tone and vocabulary further confirm his notion of females as being the inferior, weaker sex.
Trump expresses an ideological position indicating males are superior to females, an ideology that has, perhaps, spread among his followers. Additionally, his political power indicates how such principles are dangerously close to being embedded in society and language.
In the capacity of President and presidential candidate, several more racist remarks have been made by Trump. Also, he has repetitively made explicit racist comments in both these capacities. In the course of this examination and as has been manifested in its outcomes, the denial and construction of racism have been expressed using numerous linguistic mechanisms represented in the following four separate discursive positive self-representation approaches and negative other-representation tactics: referential, denial, predication, and argumentation strategies. Considering the study's research question, these approaches for constructing and denying racism in Trump's tweets were utilized as follows: Concerning referential approaches, Trump relied on multiple references for addressing the outgroup and ingroup. About the former, he depicted migrants, Muslims, Mexicans, and Syrians as enemies who symbolize threat and danger and are described using negationyms and criminonyms; about the latter, social players were collectivized for standing up against the supposed dangers and threats that came with Middle-Eastern and South American migrants. When it came to prediction strategies concentrating on target person/group assessment, the outgroup's condemnatory assessment prevailed over the ingroup's appreciation. About argumentation strategies that are linguistic tools offering a cause-effect relationship with potential action and manifestation, the outcomes were explained using a chain of argument/conclusion principles reinforcing Trump's racist rhetoric for supporting his policies and views and engaging devotion to his campaign. His final approach, denial, denotes the act of deliberately denying actions, sayings, or events. The outcomes and interpretation reveal that he flagrantly adopts multiple approaches for denying racism using diverse approaches and counter-claims of racism as…
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