Communication Studies


Master of Arts (MA)


Kristen Hark, Carey Martin


Devil, Disease, Drugs, God, War, Weaver


Communication | Critical and Cultural Studies | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Organizational Communication | Other Communication


The language associated with President Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’ has sparked considerable debate in the political struggle against narcotics' abuse and crime, as well as within scholarly research. There is a language associated with the debate and it reflects the primary considerations of policy makers- economics, criminal behavior, and morality. The present study discusses these qualities as well as the rhetorical ideas of Richard Weaver, specifically his theory of ultimate terms. Then, discussions within research show the discontent that scholars bear towards narcotics'-related language. Specifically, there is concern that the rhetoric may stigmatize certain populations and hinder better outcomes. As such, the researcher analyzed four speeches under the Nixon, Regan, Bush Sr. and Obama administration, to examine the kind of language used and to draw trends. Weaver’s theory of ultimate terms- using god and devil terms- was applied; select words were graphed according to their context within this framework. Then, patterns and trends were discussed. It was found that, through language, a stigma was present, and that the primary emotion appealed to was fear. The researcher then concluded that scholarly concern with the language was merited. Finally, the ethics of the language was discussed, according to Richard Weaver and according to the Judeo-Christian perspective. In summary, the language, through the analysis of words according to ultimate terms, fell short of ethical responsibilities