Making Angry Public Rhetorics Work Better for a Global ‘Us’

In the twenty-first century, as throughout human history, anger has played a pivotal role in governance and international affairs. This essay contributes to the substantial scholarly literature on public emotion by summarizing an integrative analysis of public anger built both on multi-disciplinary literatures theorizing emotion and upon three case studies surrounding the attacks now commonly labelled “9/11.” Examples from the rhetorics of Osama bin Laden, President George W. Bush, and Susan Sontag illustrate the predispositional complex of anger well, because the elements of that complex are evident among all three rhetorics, despite the dramatic differences in culture, ideology, and positionality of the rhetors from whom they emanate. The essay concludes by urging the development of conditions and rhetorical practices that would enable global anger to serve its valuable adjudicatory functions rather than to reprise endlessly its function of rallying peoples to attack each other

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