WP258 Trump, existential threats and the banality of evil – Or why sociolinguists should (re)read Hannah Arendt



This paper offers a theoretical and empirical contribution to current sociolinguistic discussions about ?existential threats? and their discursive construction in everyday life. Theoretically, the article argues for the importance of (re-)purposing some of the ideas of Hannah Arendt, who has remained somewhat neglected in sociolinguistic inquiry. Empirically, these theoretical insights will be applied to a set of text trajectories that begin with Donald Trump?s famous statement: ?You look at what happened last night in Sweden? at a rally in Florida in 2017, and ends with a video circulated by the Swedish Moderate Party ? Nya Moderaterna ? in the context of the 2018 general elections campaign. Ultimately, the paper argues that Trump and the members of Nya Moderaterna in Sweden are terrifyingly normal. Their rhetoric might not be truthful, but links into a ?truthiness? built of elements that sound true, and, through a web of discursive devices and intertextual links, creates the dystopian illusion of a truthful and coherent account of society. As Arendt would say, each of these discursive elements is like a spore in a growing fungus that might not have much depth, but is spreading quickly into the very centre of the political debate in Sweden.