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Communicative Production of Political Leadership and Followership between WWI and WWII: The Cases of Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and ‘New-Deal’-USA
The studies of 20th century totalitarian leaderships and followership are still dominated by a number of uncritically accepted postulates such as ascription of special manipulative properties to the “anomalous” Nazi, Soviet or Fascist language, fixation on vocabulary at the expense of other levels of language, belief in suggestive power of classical rhetoric projected onto semi-literate masses, and preoccupation with top-down chains of command from “leaders” to “followers”
These popular theses find little empirical support in the recent empirical studies. It turns out that manipulation is typical for political communication even in modern democracies, fuzzy logic has proved more useful in swaying public opinions than misleading vocabulary, the image of scarcely educated people enjoying Ciceronian rhetoric of tyrants does not pass serious scrutiny, and the persistence of frequent, serialized and (usually) low-content followers’ feedback is more crucial for the non-democratic legitimacy than the executive control of communication.
To test these and similar findings, the messages (political speeches of a Stalin, Hitler and Roosevelt) were juxtaposed with representative sample of feedbacks (direct responses to this speech in private letters). Whereas the empirical basis of the project consists of data collected in Russian, German and American archives, the research methods combine Critical Discourse Analysis, Proxemics, History of Concepts and Conversation Analysis.