Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Communication and Rhetorical Studies
communism, conspiracy, Nixon, pragmatism, rhetoric, style
This study is a rhetorical analysis of Richard Nixon's early-career anti-communist conspiracy rhetoric. In conspiracy scholarship, two tracks have emerged: the paranoid style and the political style of conspiracy. Nixon, though, as a tricky rhetor, does not fall neatly within either of those styles, instead he samples from both styles over time and even within single speeches. After synthesizing the two styles into a method, I analyze three early Nixon anti-communist conspiracy texts between 1946-1962 which span those years and cover various genres. Text one is Nixon's "Maiden Speech" to the House of Representatives in 1947. It is mostly in the paranoid style of conspiracy. Text two is the 1960 presidential campaign pamphlet "The Meaning of Communism to Americans," which is mostly political. The third text is the first chapter of Nixon's 1962 memoir Six Crises - the chapter is titled "The Hiss Case." This text constructs the communist conspiracy fully within the paranoid style while simultaneously creating a "liberalist" conspirator fully in the political style. Due to Nixon's fluidity between rhetorical styles, I introduce the concept of pragmatic agency to account for his conspiracistic rhetoric, which falls between the political and paranoid.
Johnson, Evan L., "Conspiracy, Pragmatism and Style: An Analysis of Richard Nixon's Antecedent Anti-Communist Conspiracy Rhetoric" (2013). Communication and Rhetorical Studies - Theses. 3.