Discourse and manipulation

by T. a. van Dijk
Discourse & Society ()


‘Manipulation’ is one of the crucial notions of Critical Discourse Analysis that requires further theoretical analysis. This article offers a triangulated approach to manipulation as a form of social power abuse, cognitive mind control and discursive interaction. Socially, manipulation is defined as illegitimate domination confirming social inequality. Cognitively, manipulation as mind control involves the interference with processes of understanding, the formation of biased mental models and social representations such as knowledge and ideologies. Discursively, manipulation generally involves the usual forms and formats of ideological discourse, such as emphasizing Our good things, and emphasizing Their bad things. At all these levels of analysis it is shown how manipulation is different from legitimate mind control, for instance in persuasion and providing information, for instance by stipulating that manipulation is in the best interest of the dominated group and against the best interests of dominated groups. Finally, this theory is illustrated by a partial analysis of a speech by Tony Blair in the House of Commons legitimating the participation of the UK in the US-led war against Iraq in 2003.

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