Social Constructionism A Discourse Analysis Essay, Research Paper
This discourse analysis attempts to answer several questions regarding Chairman Hyde s speech against the president. Firstly an attempt has been made to uncover some of the more prevalent themes and discourses in the hope that they will give some kind of enlightenment of American society and culture. Secondly, this analysis describes the many ways in which Chairman Hyde attempts to persuade his audience of his cause. The portrayed image of President Clinton is then focused on, and finally there is a discussion relating to the various social codes implied within Hyde s speech. It has been found that many of these areas overlap to a greater or lesser degree. However it is believed that the four questions should be answered separately at the risk of sounding repetitive, as this gives the reader a chance to identify and understand how ideas and themes can serve quite different purposes when expressed in different contexts and discourses, and with particular motivations.
Throughout the summation of Hyde s case against the president, he draws upon several prevalent discourses. These act as an influential basis for his argument, designed to appeal specifically to other members of the senate, the counsel for the president and the chief justice. Secondly, and more importantly these discourses allow us some insight into an idealised conception of American history, political climate and culture. They represent a popular conception of the foundations of white, middle class America. Throughout the analysis, we must remember that Chairman Hyde implicitly speaks of the discourses within a tangled web of bias and intent. I am extremely sceptical as to the validity of these themes and discourses as active mentalities or social constructs within contemporary American society. Rather I believe they express an idealistic dream or goal that particularly politicians would like to believe is the foundation of American society.
Expressed throughout Hyde s argument is an unmentioned yet strong sense of nationalism. He immediately starts out with a romanticised image of America s history. He asks the question whether America can long endure while being dedicated to liberty and equality. (para 1, p.1) There are military connotations throughout the speech, which allude to a righteous fighting spirit in American history, which succeeded in gaining independence and fighting back the worldwide threat of communism and other totalitarian regimes. All of this portrays a tradition of historic and patriotic nationalism based within principles of freedom, equality and liberty.
With almost religious overtones, Hyde speaks of America s intuitive sacred honour (para 8, p.2) based in the declaration of independence. This sacred honour effectively represents the two major discourses within the speech including the nationalism discussed above and the influence of religion. Religion is the next major theme, which leads to an underlying discourse of morality. Religion promotes a sense of objective truth, morality and meaning within the world relying on faith as a kind of epistemology.
This is directly parallel to the sense of morality within dominant American culture that Hyde implicitly regurgitates throughout his argument. Just as Christianity promotes belief in a moral system through the bible, so Hyde promotes a belief in a moral and political system represented by the constitution. He speaks about transcendent truths and the judgement of God (para 10, p.2) suggesting a kind of positivist discourse relying on concrete rights and wrongs. He expresses a moral absolutism that ignores the extreme diversity of human existence and the diversity of a situation or context in which moral decisions must be made. When this moral absolutism is coupled with a sense of national and religious duty, we can see a powerful tool of persuasion.
These classical religious, moralistic and nationalistic discourses tie in and bind lesser themes and discourses under a banner standing for what Hyde sees as the American house of freedom (para 9, p.2). Having concentrated on these discourses we can see the basis for a discourse of justice. Freedom, truth, liberty and justice are said to mean the same things for all people. Similarly these abstract and philosophical concepts can supposedly be delivered to everyone on an equal basis through the use of the American political system.
A discourse of sacrifice and responsibility is also implied. By identifying the many wars in which America has fought, to supposedly uphold the tradition of freedom and liberty throughout the world, Hyde shows us the apparent sacrifice that thousands of American s have made. Hyde strongly idealises and glorifies the soldier s role within the wars in order to express to the Senate their responsibility towards maintaining the same principles. There is also expressed, a responsibility for the youth, the families and people of America. Hyde numerously mentions the bond of trust (para 23, p.4) and the necessity of trust (para 18, p.4). The people must be able to trust their leaders and the system they promote. While many would say that trust in politicians is an outdated notion, the optimistic and sincere approach of Hyde s argument betrays his nostalgic historical idealism
Chairman Henry Hyde uses several techniques to influence his audience at the Impeachment proceedings in the case
against President Clinton. He executes these by elevating Clinton s crimes to a higher level; concentrating on a level of moral misconduct by lying under oath, which affects the whole nation, rather than concentrating solely on the sexual misconduct committed (para 6, p.2). Repetition is used constantly to emphasise a statement or issue he is speaking about, with words such as: justice, sacred honour, covenant of trust, the rule of law, and statements such as presidency is an office of trust. (para 11, p.2) It is shown that Clinton s presidency is obviously not based upon ideals such as these. He places considerable emphasis on the president breaking his word by using irony and satire; take the president at his word , lets take the president seriously when he speaks of covenants, because a covenant is about promise making and promise keeping (para 13, p.3).
By personalising certain issues raised in his speech he can appeal to the national consciousness. He does this by introducing an intrinsic lesson in life – that of trust. It is said to be the fundamental bond between people and their elected representatives; between those who govern and those who are governed. Having firstly escalated the issue onto a moral premise, Hyde then broadens the effect of Clinton s crimes on to a global discourse; so as to emphasise the magnitude of his actions. He speaks of global consequences and a breaking of the fundamental trust between America and the world (para 16, p.3).
Hyde uses a frightening tactic by indicating that Clinton s actions could cause deep and permanent damage (para
46, p.7). He then adds humility, humbleness, and simplicity to his words by the use of a child s letter to emphasise his message (para 63, p.10). Hyde concludes with a stirring ending referring to heroism, bravery, sacred honour, the covenant of trust, and the rule of law. He draws the speech back to a personal level, intimating an uplifting feeling of hope for the future, but with an underlying threat to these very principles that America loves.
Throughout the speech, Hyde builds an extremely negative image of Clinton. This subtle attack upon the president is built by creating an ideal, romanticised image of America and then representing the president as the complete antithesis to this sublime nation. The reality of America takes a sideline in this speech. Instead, as described above, America is expressed as the ultimate land of opportunity, equality, liberty and freedom. The rightful president is shown as a representative of these ideals in all ways and forms. However Clinton is implicitly described to be the corrupter of this idealised nation. He is a destroyer of dreams and a perverter of the American way. Clinton is portrayed as a criminal, untrustworthy, an unjust leader, dishonourable and damaging (para 36,p.6).
Liberty, equal justice, truth, trust, freedom and independence are some of the major social codes drawn upon in the argument. There is a strong emphasis on patriotism and the constitution. All of these factors are a culmination of what make up the social and cultural codes of America as a nation.
Hyde speaks of the Rule of Law as a social code and he draws upon many interesting points. The rule of law as a social code has many implications. Hyde describes it as a safeguard of liberties, and that this rule of law allows a life of freedom for its people in a way that promotes, honour, and a respect for the freedom of others while, strengthening the common good of all. He is therefore saying that lying under this rule of law is an abuse of the very social and cultural codes that make America.
Hence, the rule of law can be seen as a social code, which encapsulates and protects all of the ideas, notions and definitions, which allow American society and culture to flourish. The rule of law can be seen to hold freedom, character, independence, impartiality, truth, trust, liberty and equal justice. The president is not only the bearer of the national conscience; he is therefore also the trustee of the rule of law. In all Hyde is postulating that President Clinton has violated all the nations social and cultural codes, which go into making not only the head of a nation, but also what it means to be American.
By concentrating solely on an idealised version of American society Hyde manages to discredit the President quite effectively. Within Hyde s speech, the audience are placed within a utopic America, and confronted by the supposed corrupter of that utopia the President. The speech expresses classic discourses of nationalism, truth, freedom, liberty and the American way that serve to reinforce and glorify a capitalist social order based on economic rationalism rather than the ideals it claims to protect.