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The strategic use of metaphors by political and media elites:The 2007–11 Belgian constitutional crisis

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On 9 December 2011 a new Belgian government was sworn in after a record-breaking 541 days of negotiations between all democratic political forces with the aim to alter the constitution and provide more autonomy to the different regions that make up Belgium. In this article, the frequent use of political metaphors by North-Belgian politicians and journalists is analysed through a critical metaphor analysis (CMA) that approaches the different metaphors at a descriptive, an interpretative and a motivational level. Four meta-categories of metaphors were identified – sports and games metaphors, war metaphors, culinary metaphors and transport metaphors. The different metaphors fed into six core frames: expressing immobility, attributing blame, the need for unity, bargaining and teasing, the end is nigh and finally lack of direction and leadership. Metaphors were instrumental in strategies to present the Flemish demands as unquestionable and common sense, while the counter-demands of the French-speaking parties were positioned as unreasonable, impossible to accept. In other words, the strategic use of metaphors, some of which resonated throughout the long period of analysis, not only served to represent complex political issues in an easily digestible language, but also shaped and influenced the negotiations through their various mediations and the ideological intentions embedded within the metaphor.
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Keywords: Belgium; Othering; discourse; metaphors; nationalism; political communication

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: London School of Economics and Political Science

Publication date: 01 September 2012

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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