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Rhetoric of propagandist labelling



The labelling of the adversary in the propaganda war is a process of two steps. To exchange a personal name for a befitting nickname you have, first, to introduce and inculcate a – mostly implicit, covert – by-name which is apposite thanks to not only external features of the adversary or his actual behaviour (NN caligula; in Estonian the personal character name is spelled with a minuscule). A surficial nickname will not stick in the face of a possible change of appearance or occupation. Secondly, you have to generalize the character name to a type name (caligula Tyrant; majuscule in Estonian). If the second step is taken before the first, the nicknames remain simply occasional and increase in number until no one of them is binding any more (the audience loses the orientation) and the most convenient substitute for them in toto becomes the initial personal name – but now used as a label („NN”; in inverted commas). The character name is an imagological construct. Chosen accordingly, it can influence the functioning of „NN” as a label for either an anecdotal or a mythical figure. An anecdote refers to a real event, whereas a myth can be entirely a lie without any possibility of correction. An anecdote revives the past, a myth casts spells about the future. The heart of an anecdote is the point, the (re)generating core of a myth is the symbol. An anecdotal person is odd and makes us laugh, a mythical figure is mysterious and inspires subconscious terror. A person’s mythical name serves as a comparison (prince Charles: „Putin’s Hitlerist behaviour”), a mythical person is hardly compared to anyone (Hitler like ... who?).