Pandemic Rhetoric and Public Memory. What People (Don’t) Remember from the 2009 Swine Flu

  • Kristian Bjørkdahl
  • Benedicte Carlsen
Part of the Rhetoric, Politics and Society book series (RPS)


Pandemics are potentially very serious events, so to prepare for future episodes, we must learn from past cases. In this chapter, we have adapted a method from the ethnographic tradition, which we dub “spontaneous interviews,” and applied it to explore how members of the Norwegian public experienced the pandemic. Studying in particular what they remember about the pandemic rhetoric, we find that our informants misremember many aspects of the communication, ranging from a simple failure to remember, through factual errors, to creative assessments of the episode. We conclude that long-term responses to pandemic rhetoric depend not least on the rhetor’s preestablished credibility, and for this reason, we suggest, the health authorities appear to have little to lose from communicating outside the media in pandemic situations.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristian Bjørkdahl
    • 1
  • Benedicte Carlsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Uni Research Rokkan CentreBergenNorway

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