In this paper, we make a comparative analysis of two pre-electoral debates belonging to two different traditions – the 2011 Rajoy–Rubalcaba debate and the first 2008 Obama–McCain debate – in terms of the manipulative processes used. For that purpose, we compare the similarities and differences in the use of the genre contributing to manipulation in the two debate traditions. Also, we identify the manipulative devices employed following Rigotti’s (2005) coding scheme, which is complemented with those fallacies often encountered in the field of politics (van Eemeren et al. 2009; Pirie 2006; Tindale 2007). Various similarities in the use of the genre between the two debate traditions have been identified, such as in the use of strategies of positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation that are inherently manipulative and that entail (de-)emphasizing Our/Their positive and Their/Our negative aspects (van Dijk 2006). The differences are related to the discursive strategies preferred, the role of the moderator in the debates, and the candidates’ physical position in the confrontation, all of which may contribute to manipulation. Similarly, there are also similarities and differences in the candidates’ use of manipulative processes as their strategy for winning the elections and a different preference for personal attacks and the dialectical battle.
Funding statement: Funding: The present study was financially supported by a grant (ID No:FFI2013-47792-C2-2-P) from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad.
About the author
Ana B. Cabrejas-Peñuelas is an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Valencia (Spain). She investigates the cognitive processes involved in second- or foreign-language writing, in particular the revision process and the use of the mother tongue, although she is also concerned with discourse analysis, pragmatics, and systemic functional linguistics. Her most important publications deal with L2 writing processes and evaluation in political language from a contrastive perspective.
This article is part of the long-term research project “EMotion and language “at work”: The discursive emotive/evaluative FUNction in different texts and contexts within corporate and institutional work: PROject PERsuasion” (EMO-FUNDETT: PROPER).
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RAJOY: ‘Mr. Rodríguez … Pérez Rubalcaba insists in telling us and in telling all Spaniards what I’m going to do. […] I’m not like you, what I don’t have in my program I don’t do; therefore, don’t confuse me. I beg you not to confuse me.’
RUBALCABA: ‘I would like to talk about equality, about equality between women and men, which is one of the policies to which I give most importance, to say that we have made a lot of headway in this matter. Also, alone.’
OBAMA: […] And in the ’60s, he [my father] wrote letter after letter to come to college here in the United States because the notion was that there was no other country on Earth where you could make it if you tried. The ideals and the values of the United States inspired the entire world.
MCCAIN: Look, no matter what, we’ve got to cut spending. We have --- as I said, we’ve let government get completely out of control.
RAJOY: ‘[…] Also, you froze the pensions of the Spanish pensioners and you didn’t have it in your program. I am not like you, what I don’t have in my program, I don’t do; therefore, don’t confuse me. I beg you not to confuse me.’
OBAMA: […] (1) There has never been a country on Earth that saw its economy decline and yet maintained its military superiority. […] MCCAIN: (2) I’ve been involved, as I mentioned to you before, in virtually every major national security challenge we’ve faced in the last 20-some years. There are some advantages to experience, and knowledge, and judgment. (3) And I – and I honestly don’t believe that Senator Obama has the knowledge or experience and has made the wrong judgments in a number of areas, including his initial reaction to Russian invasion – aggression in Georgia, to his – you know, we’ve seen this stubbornness before … (4) As far as our other issues that he brought up are concerned, I know the veterans. I know them well. And I know that they know that I’ll take care of them. And I’ve been proud of their support and their recognition of my service to the veterans. And I love them. And I’ll take care of them. And they know that I’ll take care of them. And that’s going to be my job. (5) But, also, I have the ability, and the knowledge, and the background to make the right judgments, to keep this country safe and secure. […] I don’t think I need any on-the-job training. I’m ready to go at it right now.
RAJOY: ‘Then you made a mistake with the diagnosis and the measures. And you thought that spending everything you could reactivate the economy and you got us into a public deficit and an absolutely enormous public debt.’
RAJOY: ‘The situation has reached an unsustainable extreme which has to be solutioned. […] it is unsustainable because the government is not capable of correcting the situation. This lack of confidence that the present government generates both inside and outside Spain and its inability to straighten things out is what has forced the early call for an election.’
RAJOY: ‘[…] I’d like to disregard Mr. Pérez Rubalcaba’s excuses. Mr. Pérez Rubalcaba has talked about the crisis that started in the US and the crisis in Greece, but it’s the same old story isn’t it? Everyone else is to blame for causing the crisis but it seems the government is not responsible.’
MCCAIN: […] she said, “But, Senator McCain, I want you to do everything – promise me one thing, that you’ll do everything in your power to make sure that my son’s death was not in vain.” That means that that mission succeeds, just like those young people who re-enlisted in Baghdad, just like the mother I met at the airport the other day whose son was killed. And they all say to me that we don’t want defeat.
MCCAIN: I honestly don’t believe that Senator Obama has the knowledge or experience and has made the wrong judgments in a number of areas, including his initial reaction to Russian invasion – aggression in Georgia, to his – you know, we’ve seen his stubbornness before […]. As far as our other issues that he brought up are concerned, I know the veterans. […] But, also, I have the ability, and the knowledge, and the background to make the right judgments, to keep this country safe and secure. […]
MCCAIN: Now, that’s a fundamental difference between myself and Senator Obama. I want to cut spending. I want to keep taxes low. The worst thing we could do in this economic climate is to raise people’s taxes.
RUBALCABA: ‘Within the educational system in some autonomous communities there are schools that reject the most difficult students and send them to the public school. Do you know that is happening, Mr. Rajoy? The same thing in the health system would be the ruin of the public health system.’
RAJOY: ‘Think about what this constitutes and the disorder in the economic policies that it implies; and what has been the result Mr. Pérez Rubalcaba? Over 5 million unemployed on top of everything else we have had to endure all these years. As a result of which what now needs to happen here in Spain is the creation of an economic policy which is totally different to the one you have been enforcing on us all these years [ad consequentiam fallacy].’
RUBALCABA: ‘[…] Are you going to raise the VAT? I believe you’re going to cut down the unemployment benefits, I believe you’re going to take the SMEs out and I’ll tell you more: I believe you’re going to raise the VAT. I only hope you clarify it to the whole of the Spanish citizens.’
RAJOY: ‘Mr. Pérez Rubalcaba insists on telling us and on telling all Spaniards what I’m going to do. Let me tell you that I’ll say what I’m going to do […].’
MCCAIN: As president of the United States, I want to assure you, I’ve got a pen. This one’s kind of old. I’ve got a pen, and I’m going to veto every single spending bill that comes across my desk. I will make them famous. You will know their names.
RAJOY: ‘[…] Of course, it [a labor reform] should be made, but not like yours, which nobody supports.’
RUBALCABA: ‘Explain out, explain out; just a moment, Mr. Rajoy.’
RAJOY: ‘As regards international innovation …’
RUBALCABA: ‘Why don’t you explain? It is in your electoral program.’
OBAMA: […] this is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by George Bush, supported by Senator McCain, a theory that basically says that we can shred regulations and consumer protections and give more and more to the most, and somehow prosperity will trickle down.
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