The Arab Spring and the discourse of desperation
As will be clear from the analysis of both Ben Ali and Mubarak’s last speeches in power, there was a major shift in the genre of discourse and in the way this discourse was produced. It no longer embodied the hegemonic tone and lexis that were designed to portray these regimes as powerful, knowledgeable and after all immune from criticism. Instead they adopted a new lexicon, drafted to respond to the voices of the masses in the street. These shifts in the production of discourse reflect a major shift in the political context, a shift from a discourse of despotism to a democratic one. A striking feature in both cases is the gradual concessions reflected in the discourse and lexicon. Under enormous pressure from huge demonstrations, the two regimes found themselves obliged to give in to the protesters’ demands, making concessions that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. The following sections will analyse their speeches by looking at the themes, strategies and language employed in response to the uprisings.
The analysis centers on the speeches Ben Ali and Mubarak gave after the eruption of the protests in Egypt and Tunisia. The analysis will compare and contrast the strategies used in these speeches, the substance and the language, as well as the structure of these speeches. A textual analysis will be adopted to examine the shift in language and discourse of Ben Ali and Mubarak throughout the duration of the protests.
The strategy of blame and denial.
An examination of the first speech by each president indicates that both used the strategy of blame and denial, rejecting criticism and pointing fingers at others. Both Ben Ali and Mubarak blamed external forces for the unrest, insinuating that some of the protests were driven by foreign agents whose aim was to undermine Egypt and Tunisia.
حتى نفرق بين هذه العصابات والمجموعات من المنحرفين
Until we isolate these gangs and groups of delinquents... (Ben Ali speech: 10 January, 2011)