Prelude: Tony Blair, in his “Foreword” to the document Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government of September, 2002 made the following assertions: "What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and that he has been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme ... I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current, that he has made progress on WMD and that he has to be stopped ... And the document discloses that his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them". We are interested in how you, the reader, would react to this bit of discourse and so we put to you the following questions, to which we give our own answers later in the paper: What is your opinion of the claims being made here? What considerations would you accept as admissible or relevant in coming to an opinion? We begin by asking these questions because they immediately get our critical faculties to work on the text and it is this process of critical interrogation of communicative acts that we are interested in and wish to explore here. It will be our contention that an informed and engaged critical response to political communication is not, and does not involve, a “discourse analysis” grounded in what Harris (1996) refers to as “segregational linguistics”. We will attempt to explain what we think is going on instead and examine the implications of our position for the study of language and communication more generally.
- critical discourse analysis
- political analysis