The “Hero-Protector Narrative”: Manufacturing Emotional Consent for the Use of Force

Maéva Clément, Thomas Lindemann, Eric Sangar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do political leaders manufacture collective emotions to justify the use of force? This article introduces the “hero-protector narrative” as a conceptual model to analyze how political leaders try to manufacture specific collective emotions to encourage their audience to perceive violence as the only morally acceptable course of action. In our model, we formalize a set of distinctive narrative structures (roles and sequences), which are combined to activate compassion and moral anger as well as identification with “heroic” behavior. Furthermore, we argue that the resonance of this narrative draws on values of hyper-masculinity in patriarchal societies. As such this narrative is to be found across different types of actors (state/nonstate) and culturally diverse settings. To test our model, we use a computer-assisted QDA approach. We compare systematically discourses produced by political actors legitimizing the use of force versus actors opposing the use of force. We find that discourses supporting the use of force, such as those produced by George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden in the context of the Iraq war, share the structural characteristics of the hero-protector narrative. In this regard, they differ remarkably from violence-opposing discourses, regardless of their cultural background.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Psychology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2016


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