Restive peace: Body bags, casket flags, and the pathologization of dissent

William O. Saas, Rachel Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The U.S. news media's heavy circulation of images of dead soldiers returning home from Vietnam in "body bags" is frequently offered as an explanation for the state of popular political disaffection with war commonly called "Vietnam Syndrome." We argue that the rhetoric of Vietnam Syndrome misdiagnoses dissent against war as a photo-pathogenic affective disorder, a visually transmitted disease of the popular political mind. In their respective attempts to stave off the syndrome, Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush enacted visual quarantines of deceased U.S. soldiers-first in 1991 and again in 2003. Our analysis suggests that President Obama's lifting of the ban in 2009 represented not only a more precise grasp of U.S. war history but also a cynical recognition of the limited need for popular assent in executing the war on terror.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-208
Number of pages32
JournalRhetoric and Public Affairs
Volume19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Communication

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