School of Communication and the Arts


Master of Arts in Strategic Communication (MA)


Cecil Kramer


COVID-19, vaccines, fantasy themes, Biden, rhetoric




Within the setting and context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this study uses Ernest Bormann’s Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT) framework to analyze fantasy themes which emerged from the rhetoric of the American President, Joe Biden, regarding vaccinations. The main question of this study is why President Biden’s rhetorical vision either chained out and was accepted among the American public resulting in increased vaccination or failed to chain out resulting in Americans refusing to become vaccinated. To answer this question, a selection of artifacts consisting of examples of President Biden’s rhetoric are gathered, and using those artifacts, SCT fantasy themes are developed. Three SCT fantasies are delineated and explored to answer the central question of this study. The first fantasy theme which emerged from President Biden’s rhetoric is: “President Biden assumes the role of a sanctioning agent, portraying and positioning himself as a war time President who will lead America through one of its darkest hours.” The second fantasy which is developed in this study is: “President Biden encourages Americans to become heroes by partaking in the battle against COVID-19 by becoming vaccinated, while unvaccinated Americans are demonized as villains.” The third fantasy which emerged from President Biden’s rhetoric is: “President Biden portrayed contradicting narratives to the “official narrative” as existential threats to America and the current political order.” Using these three fantasies, this study then develops explanations why proponents of President Biden’s rhetorical vision accepted it, and why opponents of his vision rejected it.

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