The Rhetoric of Regime Change

by Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri / May 21st, 2017


From the end of WWII until the present, the United States has been borrowing, inventing, or inverting terms to label other nations and their political systems. Eventually, the repertoire of politically motivated rhetorical gadgetries swelled to become a convenient ideological arsenal for US expansions into the sovereign domains of all nations. Noam Chomsky once noted, “Talking about American imperialism is rather like talking about triangular triangles.” Debating the rhetorical validity of Chomsky’s observation and if it effectively describes talking about the United States is not the subject of this article. However, the conclusion that US imperialism is highly adept at dispensing interminable triangular triangles is self-evident.

Terms such as “American exceptionalism,” “leader of the free world,” “God bless America,” and “our great American democracy” to describe the United States, and terms such as “dictatorship,” “totalitarian,” “closed-nation,” “rogue state,” “state sponsor of terrorism,” “regime,” etc. to describe targeted states are littered throughout the American political lexicon. Could such terms shape policies and determine events?

The manipulation of language can be baleful. In the documentary film Psywar, a compelling case is made that scourges, such as impoverishment and wars, arise from the abuse of language. Consider World War II. American Anti‑German…

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