"Beasts in human form": How dangerous speech harms

Araucaria 21 (42) (2019)
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Recent years have seen an upsurge of inflammatory speech around the world. Understanding the mechanisms that correlate speech with violence is a necessary step to explore the most effective forms of counterspeech. This paper starts with a review of the features of dangerous speech and ideology, as formulated by Jonathan Maynard and Susan Benesch. It then offers a conceptual framework to analyze some of the underlying linguistic mechanisms at play: derogatory language, code words, figleaves, and meaning perversions. It gives a hypothesis for assessing the moral responsibility of interlocutors in dangerous speech situations. The last section applies this framework to a case of demagogic discourse. The framework offered explains how public discourse has harmed social relations and institutions, and is an obstacle to rational resolutions to the political situation.

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Teresa Marques
Universitat de Barcelona


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