Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2004

Abstract

Global telecommunications technology and practice offer the permissive conditions for global political leadership and political rhetoric. Global media provide a new platform, an expanded public domain for talk and action. The medium, as Marshall McLuhan famously said, is the message; but media do not fully determine their own use. The players on the global stage follow their own scripts. Media elites have their own concerns, choosing stories that they feel appropriate for their tasks. Issues like Iraq ebb and flow as a focus of news attention. Political actors seize the stage to a greater or lesser degree. Though their speaking parts may be small, they can set the plot lines. The leaders are the main characters and dominate the action as reporters frame the talk. The rhetoric of global political leadership includes different stories, characters, and performances. In the cases we examined, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush set different tasks for themselves and adopted different rhetorical styles to accomplish the tasks. And they addressed different audiences within the global domain. Both addressed the Other: Milosevic, the Taliban, and Hussein. Clinton focused on nurturing cooperative international allies, persuading coalition members to undertake collective action as team players. Bush was unwilling or unable to address a global audience in this way. His crusading performance, combining the Lone Ranger and a frontier preacher talking hell fire and brimstone, appealed mainly to parts of the U.S. audience. In the emerging global public domain, media elites, political players, and audiences use different scripts in different situations to adapt, learn, and evolve together. Some are more successful than others.

Share

COinS