Of Heroes and Cowards: A Computer-Based Analysis of Narratives Justifying the Use of Force

  • Eric Sangar
  • Maéva Clément
  • Thomas Lindemann
Part of the Palgrave Studies in International Relations book series (PSIR)


How can we detect narratives that legitimize the use of force? Using the ‘hero-protector narrative’ as a theoretical model to understand how political leaders manufacture collective emotions when advocating the use of force as the only effective and morally acceptable option, we show how such an argument can be tested using computer-assisted narrative analysis. Based on a case study of political speeches and statements legitimizing-and others rejecting-the use of force in the context of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, we suggest that our methodology offers an innovative approach to uncover similarities (and differences) across narratives used to mobilize collective emotions of moral anger and compassion.



Parts of this chapter are based on the article “The “Hero-Protector Narrative”: Manufacturing Emotion al Consent for the Use of Force”, published by the authors in the journal Political Psychology, available at We thank the journal editors for their friendly permission to reuse some of the results presented in this article.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Sangar
    • 1
  • Maéva Clément
    • 2
  • Thomas Lindemann
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.FNRS / University of NamurNamurBelgium
  2. 2.Helmut Schmidt UniversityHamburgGermany
  3. 3.University of Versailles-St QuentinVersaillesFrance
  4. 4.Ecole PolytechniquePalaiseauFrance

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