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War of Words: Language, Politics and 9/11

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415290470
ISBN-10: 0415290473
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Linguist Silberstein argues persuasively that 9/11 was not just about events but also about the words that shaped our understanding of and response to them. She carefully dissects America's renderings of the terrorist attacks in presidential speeches, media texts, and eyewitness accounts. Before a single bomb was dropped on Afghanistan, words had made an "act of terror" a "war" (this generation's "Pearl Harbor"), turned New York into "America," and rendered dissent "un-American." President Bush, speaking of a nation "under God" pitted against "evildoers," rose to the position of national pastor. Publicity campaigns, Silberstein shows, rhetorically re-created national identity ("I am an American") while conflating "patriotism and consumerism in a dance of political/economic codependence." Silverstein finds altruistic strains in America's post-9/11 discourse, but her study also suggests how times of national crisis make us vulnerable to verbal posturings--our killing is "collateral damage," theirs "mass murder"--and how we suffer a loss of liberties in the name of "fighting for democracy." Philip Herbst
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"...a compelling analysis of the way language was used in the political construction of the horrifying historical events of September 11th. Silberstein's analysis gives us a fresh look at the juggernaut of world politics as it is constructed in the linguistic actions of the media, of world leaders, and of the ordinary people who experience world events." - Ron Scollon, Georgetown University

"The brief study, War of Words, by Sandra Silberstein, an 'applied linguist,' offers shrewd analysis of the language used after September 11. She shrewdly analyzes how the comments by Peter Jennings while broadcasting the service on September 14 at the National Cathedral helped define the event as one of the 'great national occasions." - Columbia Journalism Review

"This isn't exactly foreign policy, but close enough. Sandra Silberstein...examines how language has been torqued since the terrorist attacks. The president, formerly the butt of jokes, becomes the commander-in-chief, to give just one example. She concludes that the national tragedy has been manipulated into a consumer opportunity--a charge from which the proliferation of 9/11 books is not exempt." - Vancouver Sun

 

 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (August 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415290473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415290470
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,695,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A. Liebling on May 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An applied linguist, Sandra Silberstein looks at how language helped transform America after the events of September 11. Specifically, she examines how Bush's speeches were designed to heal America and prepare it for war; how public service announcements promoted tolerance in an environment of revenge; on the approach the media took in educating the public on Islam; and how "patriotic" rhetoric attempted to squash dissent.
I had many problems with this book, both in execution and content. While the premise itself is promising, Silberstein rarely goes into detail regarding the field of linguistics, or how linguistics really applies to the many phrases she quotes. She shows examples of rhetoric encountered following 9/11, but doesn't tie it into the greater picture of linguistics, sociology and mass psychology. I was expecting a more academic work, but this book - only 140 pages after appendices and notes - seems rushed and shallow.
I felt the content was lacking as well as the execution. Given the brevity, she chose only a handful of examples for each of her chapters. It felt as if she were assigning all of the changes in the national identity to one speech, one interview, one advertisement, and one documentary. An in-depth analysis of one CNN man-on-the-street interview is especially excruciating in its pointlessness. After all, who remembers that one exchange, and how much could it have affected America? Or perhaps Silberstein doesn't mean to say that her examples were the prime movers for changes, but just reflections of them. It's very unclear.
To Silberstein's credit, it's difficult to pinpoint her political slant, if she has one.
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Great Shipment and Great Product!!
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