The Arab Spring and the discourse of desperation
أولادنا اليوم في الدار، وموش في المدرسة، وهذا حرام وعيب لأن أصبحنا خائفين عليهم من عنف مجموعات سطو ونهب واعتداء على الأشخاص
Our children are at home today, not at school. This is immoral and unacceptable, because we are afraid for their safety, from the violence perpetrated by groups of bandits from looting and attacks against persons. (Ben Ali speech: 13 January, 2011)
نؤكد يزي من اللجؤ للكرطوش الحي، الكرطوش موش مقبول، ما عندوش مبرر إلا لا قدر الله حد يحاول يفك سلاحك ويهجم عليك بالنار
I say stop using live ammunition. Live ammunition is not acceptable, and not justifiable unless, God forbid, anyone tries to snatch your weapon and opens fire at you (Ben Ali speech: 13 January, 2011)
Although Ben Ali is used to delivering his speeches to the nation in MSA, his switch to dialect could be said to be dictated by the social and cultural change exemplified in the widespread unrest (Hudson 1980: 57). The use of Tunisian dialect conveys Ben Ali’s ‘attitude towards his audience’ (Paradis 1978: 2). He tries to convey sympathy with his people and his acknowledgement of the special circumstances. According to Scotten and Ury (1977), speakers may switch from one language to another for a variety of reasons, sometimes to redefine the interaction as appropriate to a different social arena. In the case of Ben Ali, the social arena includes uneducated and illiterate people who may not be well-versed in MSA.
As for Mubarak, he consistently used MSA throughout his speeches. By doing so, he focused on those educated middle-class people said to be behind the revolution. Another interpretation could be related to his desire to maintain the prestige of leadership with a good command of prestigious language. It should be said here that throughout his speeches Mubarak performed that role well, apart from a few grammatical mistakes in his last speech. The use of gesture is another difference between the two former presidents. While Ben Ali used hand gestures to illustrate his speech, Mubarak delivered his speech without any such gestures. He appeared calm and composed while delivering his speeches and his intonation reflected a sense of defiance, unlike Ben Ali, whose speech reflected a state of nervousness.
However, in terms of the structure and strategy, both former presidents followed the following pattern in the sequence of speeches:
Blame and denial