’Standing together by staying apart’: Danish Prime Minster Mette Frederiksen’s COVID-19 Rhetorical Leadership by Paradox and Appeals to Civicmindedness

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The essay critically engages Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s rhetorical leadership during the COVID-19 crisis. The case study focuses on a series of televised press conference speeches given by the Prime Minister in the early phases of the crisis, March-May 2020. Special attention will be given to recurring words and phrases including “standing together – apart”, “civicmindedness” [Da.: samfundssind], and “taking care of Denmark” in order to characterize the Prime Minister’s rhetorical strategy and its ideological underpinnings. One guiding question for inquiry concerns the balance Frederiksen’s corona crisis communication struck between presenting the government’s decisions as at once resting on expert health science advice and yet coming down to political decisions. A second guiding question addresses Frederiksen’s persona as crisis-leader-and-care-taker-in-chief as this is communicated in her speeches. To answer these questions, the essays draws on mainly rhetorical theory including Kenneth Burke’s pentad and his concepts of identification and consubstantiality, Edwin Black’s notion of the second persona, and Maurice Charland’s theory of constitutive rhetoric, as well as a combination of Erwin Goffmann’s framing theory and George Lakoff’s concept of the nurturing parent. Theory on populist rhetoric including Benjamin Moffitt and Pierre Ostiguy’s work will also inform the study. Methodologically, the essay relies on close reading and conceptually oriented rhetorical criticism characterized by James Jasinski as a reading practice that “proceeds through the constant interaction of careful reading and conceptual reflection”, i.e. an abductive process between text and critical concept, in this case ‘nationalist crisis communication’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPunctum. International Journal of Semiotics
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

ID: 245373246