Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The aim of this paper is to draw upon Arendt’s concept of “the banality of evil (1963) and Foucault’s (1967) notion of “heterotopia” to analyze the intertextual, spatial and temporal connections between Trump’s question about an alleged terrorist attack in Sweden and an increased “shift to the right” in a mainstream Swedish political party—Nya Moderaterna. Through detailed textual analysis of a corpus of media data, I will illustrate how totalitarian propaganda is not relegated to the past. Elements of it are a reality in the present. I will also show their transnational dispersal as a texture of discourses on “free speech” and “democracy” that play out globally.
Ultimately, the argument I make in this paper is that Trump and the members of Nya Moderaterna in Sweden are terrifyingly normal. Their rhetoric might not be truthful, but it links into a ‘truthiness’ built of elements that sound true, and, through a web of discursive devices and intertextual links, creates the dystopian illusion of a truthful and coherent account of society. As Arendt would say, each of these discursive elements is like a spore in a growing fungus that might not have much depth, but is spreading quickly into the very center of the political debate in Sweden, a country that has been resisting a shift to the right for a long time. And, as Foucault would add, these discourses together produce a hetorotopia, a specific nexus of time and space that simultaneously reflects and distorts reality for particular political purposes.