Shameless normalisation of impoliteness:Berlusconi’s and Trump’s press conferences

Wodak, Ruth and Culpeper, Jonathan and Semino, Elena (2021) Shameless normalisation of impoliteness:Berlusconi’s and Trump’s press conferences. Discourse and Society, 32 (3). pp. 369-393. ISSN 0957-9265

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This paper applies the notions of impoliteness (Culpeper 2011) and shameless normalisation (Wodak 2018, 2021) to potentially impolite behaviours produced by Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi in official press conferences. Press conferences, as an activity type, involve relatively clear expectations and norms, so that impolite behaviours theoretically constitute particularly salient violations. We present two case studies involving racist and misogynist insults on the part of Berlusconi and Trump, respectively, analysed in their co-textual, interactional, socio-political as well as historical contexts (Reisigl and Wodak 2016). We describe the kinds of impoliteness that each politician employs, without any apology, and argue that they involve violations of the traditional moral order that are part of a far-right populist agenda of shameless normalisation. In each case, we examine comments posted in response to YouTube videos of each incident and provide evidence of polarized responses, but with substantial proportions expressing positive evaluations. We observe that impoliteness affords the possibility of presenting authentic and hyper-masculine identities and finish by reflecting on the implications of our findings for the local and global political and cultural landscape.

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Journal Article
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Discourse and Society
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01 Dec 2020 12:27
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 09:41