Words As Weapons: The Metaphorical Attack of Michelle Obama in US Print Headlines
The University of Texas at Austin
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It has been suggested that media coverage of Michelle Obama during the months leading up to the November 2008 US Presidential election in which her husband Barack Obama was a candidate, was at times unfair and biased, occasionally negative and in bad taste, and a few times arguably racist, stereotypic, and attacking in nature (The Capital Times, June 21, 2008). Those who express these ideas often cite systemic American racism and racial ideology as the cause of such press, citing as examples the July 21, 2008 cover of The New Yorker (in which Michelle and Barack Obama are featured in stereotypically charged images) and Fox News Channel’s use of the racially-loaded phrase “Baby Mama” to refer to Ms. Obama (June 11, 2008). Others suggest Michelle Obama herself is the cause of such negative press, referring to her February 2008 Wisconsin stump speech (a speech which raised questions about her “pride” in America), her active participation in her husband’s campaign, and her off-the-cuff remarks in interviews describing her husband’s personal habits. Still others posit that when wives of political candidates take an active role in their husbands’ campaigns, they are “fair game” for negative critique and scrutiny (USA Today, May 20, 2008). Perhaps all three factors played a role in the media’s attempt to shape, construct and engage the national discourse around Michelle Obama and the possibility of her becoming First Lady of the United States of America. This paper sets out to examine some of the discourse in US newspapers during the last 10 months of the 2008 US Presidential election to determine whether coverage was indeed biased, negative and attacking, as some have suggested.
Thomas, M. (2009). WORDS AS WEAPONS: The metaphorical attack of Michelle Obama in US print headlines (A critical discourse analysis). In Proceedings of the Symposium on Language and Society in Austin (SALSA) (pp. 39-49). Austin, TX.
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