Religious metaphor in the discourse of illusion: George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden

Aditi Bhatia

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Using a combination of models, including the discourse-historical approach, metaphor analysis, and membership categorization analysis, this paper explores a series of speeches given by George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. It demonstrates how similar rhetorical and linguistic tools are manipulated by people in a position to influence society, as they attempt to depict their individual representations of reality as true and objective. Analysis of the data reveals how both individuals make use of almost identical rhetorical tools in order to objectify two completely subjective and contrasting conceptualizations of reality, whereby each plays the role of 'self' and 'other'. This makes apparent the discourse of illusion which highlights the existence of contested versions of social reality. There is evidence within the data of a conflict between the two versions of reality, originating from their particular subjective and ideological conceptual systems, which generate social categories that depict the 'self' as being constituted by all positive values, and the 'other' as comprising all negative values. The use of religious metaphors in particular serves the purpose of categorizing the 'other' as morally devoid, and the 'self' as being in a position to pass moral judgement. Religious metaphors exploiting constructs such as evil, light and darkness, heaven and hell, barbarism, and moral justice also serve to legitimize the actions of both George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, interpreting sociopolitical issues as religious events. Consequently, in pursuit of supportive alliances and collective agreement, both endorse Moral Absolutism in the War on Terror, resorting to the 'emotionalization of facts' (Menz, 1989: 237). Journal compilation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-524
Number of pages18
JournalWorld Englishes
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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