"Winning" the "battle" and "beating" the COVID-19 "enemy": Leaders' use of war frames to define the pandemic

Yuval Benziman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

During March 2020, as the American President and the British Prime Minister addressed their constituencies, they were also framing their perceptions regarding COVID-19. By analyzing the formal pronouncements of both leaders, we show that they used terminology and frames that are associated with conflicts: They described the pandemic as a war, saying they had a plan on how to "win" it; they defined isolation as patriotism and conferred war hero status on their medical teams, all the while expounding how their plan for handling the situation was better than the plans of others (although fighting a global pandemic). We claim that the leaders used words, language, and frames that resonated with what they believed their audiences would know and accept. In doing so, they allowed themselves considerably more leverage in what they asked of the public, such as a complete change in their everyday behavior, acceptance of higher casualty numbers, and compliance with harsher measures. They even went so far as to paint extreme images of potential outcomes-namely expecting a complete victory. COVID-19 changed the behaviors of billions of people, but the framing used by the leaders was based on the traditional way societies build their conflict stories.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)247-256
Number of pages10
JournalPeace and Conflict
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association.

Keywords

  • Coronavirus
  • Discourse
  • Framing
  • Leaders
  • Pronouncements

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