Rhetoric Of Image Repair Essay

1474 words - 6 pages

Rhetoric of Image Repair after Terrorist Attacks
For most people, terrorism is associated with momentary acts of bloody violence meant to instill fear and discontent within a targeted group. The violence, destruction, and despair connected to terrorism is part of a larger goal of communicating a message to get a desired response. The meanings behind such messages are sometimes unknown to the victims, or the government agencies often named in the missives sent by these groups. Citizens depend upon their governments and law enforcement agencies to protect them from terrorist attacks and to communicate about possible future risks, but sometimes crisis communication fails to convey a sense of a ...view middle of the document...

Altheide asserts that when “more information is gleaned, boundaries separating private and public behavior are routinely crossed, just as corporate and governmental interests – including control and ‘safety’ – are breached” (2007, 152). Government agencies face several dilemmas when using crisis communication, because although they want to keep the public aware of dangerous conditions, they still must justify spying over the populace as a means to secure them.
Almost all appropriate governmental responses to terrorist attacks condemn the violence and mayhem itself, while still bolstering the morale of the employees within their organizations. Image repair is a concern for more than just the public, but also for the workers who are charged with preventing them. Government agencies strive to interact with employees to rhetorically construct and maintain perceptions of reality that are favorable to stakeholders within an organization. Successful crisis communication relies on establishing a discourse of renewal, where organizational leaders seek to motivate employees and other stakeholders to stay with the organization and rebuild it to a level that surpasses its pre-crisis status (Ulmer et al. 2007, 131). In constructing a rhetorical response to a post-crisis terrorist event, government agencies hope to prevent their employees from abandoning them by arguing that they are needed to return so that the organization back to pre-crisis security levels. Image restoration is an internal and external process that requires rhetorical appeals be made to both the workers whose job is to stop terrorist attacks, and to the general public who are most often the targets of such violence.
Although it is expected that government agencies will initially focus on provisional responses to terrorist attacks, there are figureheads at the highest levels of organizational hierarchy concerned with using strategic responses to terrorism in order to shift blame. When terrorist attacks occur, the public typically desires for someone in a leadership position to accept responsibility for allowing it to happen. President George W. Bush utilized various image repair strategies throughout his first and second terms because of the controversies he faced while in office regarding the ‘War on Terror’. The rhetoric used by President Bush and Most of the Republican party following the first few months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks focused on the main values of image repair. Davis (2013, 316) states that these principles are denial, evading of responsibility, reducing the offensiveness of the event, corrective action, and mortification. The comments that he and his acolytes made in press conferences, interviews, and press releases were meant to ultimately shift the blame away from his administration, and to the previous administration so that they could bear the brunt of the backlash and public outcry.
Certainly, America is not the only country whose...

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