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International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694

A Genre Approach to the Study of Im-politeness

Pilar Garcs-Conejos Blitvich
University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

This paper argues that genre notions, as understood by (Fairclough, 2003), can provide an overarching unit of analysis to accommodate both top-down and bottom-up analyses of impoliteness. These notions are here applied to the study impoliteness within an institutional
genre: news interviews. Impoliteness is seen as the driving force behind a new genre, news as
confrontation, whose communicative goal is to rearm a view of the world. The multifunctionality of impoliteness in this context has been related to a mismatch between the introduction of
impoliteness as a novel staple in the news as confrontation shows, and the unchanged social
expectations of politeness as the default term in social interaction. At the level of the relationship between interviewee and interviewer, impoliteness manifests itself both at the lexicogrammatical level and interactionally. However, impoliteness is used to create rapport between
the interviewer and the overhearing audience. Thus, incivility toward those guests who dier
ideologically from the audience has to be assessed as rapport building, and seen as constitutive
rather than disruptive of communal life. I provide two examples of the new genre by providing
an in-depth analysis of two interviews by Bill OReilly for Fox News The OReilly Factor the
epitome of news as confrontation shows.
impoliteness, news interviews, media discourse, genre theory, Bill OReilly

This paper has two main goals. Its rst goal is to argue that genre notions, as
understood by Fairclough (2003), can provide an overarching unit of analysis
that accommodates both top-down (politeness2) and bottom-up analyses of
im-politeness (politeness1) (Watts, 2003). The debate between the proponents
of politeness1 and politeness2 approaches is currently at the crux of the
theoretical advancement of the eld of im-politeness studies. The repercussions that choosing one or the other approach has for the gure of the analyst, and thus the eld as a whole, have been an issue hotly debated in the
literature (see among others Eelen, 2001; Haugh, 2007; Mullany, 2005, 2008;
Terkoura, 2005).
Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010

DOI 10.1163/187731010X491747

P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694


The second goal of the paper is to illustrate the genre approach to the study
of im-politeness by applying these genre notions to the study of impoliteness
within an institutional genre: news interviews. Analyses of the news interview
have not been scarce within the linguistics paradigm (see Jucker, 1986;
Greatbatch, 1998; Clayman and Heritage, 2001; Montgomery, 2007 among
many others) although some (see Ben-Porath, 2007) seem to think that
more studies that tackle the news interview are still needed, due to its signicance in the current format of news. However, not much attention has been
paid to the evolution of the news interview (Clayman, 2004). Here, a diachronic analysis of the news interview is presented, and it is argued that impoliteness is the driving force behind the emergence of a new genre news as
confrontation, whose communicative goal is to rearm a view of the world
(Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2009). This diachronic analysis sheds light on the
fact that impoliteness may ensue not only when interlocutors resort to facethreatening linguistic behaviour, but also when they do not abide by a given
genres interactional expectations within a given cultural milieu. Also, the
genre approach to the study of im-politeness allows for an all encompassing
analysis in which the mediated and polylogic nature (Kerbrat-Orechioni,
2004, i.e. interactions among three or more participants) of the news interview genre are included as fundamental parts. Thus, assessments of impoliteness have to be made taking into consideration the two levels at which the
news interview articulates itself: the interaction between the interviewer and
the interviewee and the relationship between those and the overhearing audience. In the mediated polylogue constituted by news as confrontation interviews, the interviewers use of impoliteness towards those addressees whose
beliefs do not coincide with the target audiences is strategically used to create
a coalition (Bruxelles and Kerbrat-Orecchioni, 2004) between him/her and
the audience. Therefore, it should be regarded as constitutive rather than disruptive of social interaction (Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2009, 2010). I provide
examples of the new genre by presenting an in-depth analysis of two interviews by Bill OReilly on the conservative Fox News channels The OReilly
Factor, the epitome of news as confrontation shows. Heilbrunn (2007) credits
OReilly with reinventing cable news by dispensing with any pretense of
objectivity and verbally assaulting everyone.
According to The Project for Excellence in Journalisms State of the Media
and Nielsen rankings, in 2008, The Factor remained the most-watched show
on cable news for the seventh year in a row, currently averaging about 3.4 million viewers a night. Fox News channel, the same sources point out, remained
comfortably ahead of CNN and MSNBC in terms of viewers, just as it had
the past decade, and was home to six of the top ten news shows. Thus, Fox


P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694

dominates cable news. Cable news has become increasingly signicant in the
USA. Since the advent of the 24/7 news channels, fewer and fewer Americans
wait until six oclock to get their news from the network anchors successors
of the powerful Jennings, Rather or Brokaw at ABC, CBS or NBC. In 2007,
the total number of network evening news viewers fell once again, and the rate
of decline accelerated (The Project for Excellence in Journalisms State of the
Media and Nielsen rankings, 2008). Mostly due to Bill OReillys success and
solid ratings (Heilbrunn, 2007), the new genre is gaining ground both within
Fox News (The Glen Beck Show, Hannity) and other cable channels. MSNBCs
recent increase in ratings has been linked to the liberal partisan talk of primetime opinionated show hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow (The
Project for Excellence in Journalisms State of the Media, 2009). Therefore, the
view of the world that initially triggered the development of this new genre
was conservative, which is the ideological position commonly associated with
Fox News Channel. Nowadays, however, the genre has become more inclusive
in the sense that rearming a liberal or progressive view of the world is the
goal of its instantiations in MSNBC, for example.
The advent of the 24/7 news channels, and constant access to news from the
internet, have been the key factors in the transformation of the news genre in
the USA (Mutz and Martin, 2001; Prior, 2007). This transformation has
impacted both the contents, and the delivery format of news. Especially relevant to this paper is the fact that news interviews have increasingly become the
format in which news is delivered by the 24/7 cable channels news programs.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism (2005) nds that more than half of
cable news content consists of interviews and live conversations with reporters, while less than a quarter is news packages; Network news, in contrast,
consists of 86% news packages and 2% interviews or live reporting. This
means that more viewers are getting their news through news interviews than
ever before. Montgomery (2007: 178) relates the prevalence of the news interview to the conversationalization trends observed in public discourse by
Fairclough (1995) among others (Scannell, 1996; Cameron, 2000). The delivery of the news by a single, monologic voice is no longer seen as appropriate.
Instead, news has become dialogical, many voices in conversation with each
other the news interview has been instrumental in facilitating this change.
The paper is divided into four parts. In the rst one, I discuss how notions
of genre, as understood by Fairclough (2003), can anchor a situated approach
to the study of im-politeness. Then, in the second part, I describe assessments
of im-politeness in relation to the traditional news interview genre, and I argue
that the shows included in my corpus are illustrations of a new genre, news as
confrontation, rmly grounded in impoliteness. In the third part of the paper,

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I describe news as confrontation in terms of the relationship between the

interviewer and the interviewee by providing an in-depth analysis of two
interviews conducted on The OReilly Factor. The rst interview is related to
OReillys visit to Guantanamo Bay jail, to which he was granted exclusive
access in June 2006. The second is an interview of Bob Woodward on the
occasion of the publication of his book State of Denial. I compare this interview with the late Tim Russerts interview of Mr. Woodward for his program
Meet the Press, a prime example of the traditional news interview genre
(Clayman, 2004). In the fourth part, I relate the changes in the internal structure of the genre to changes in the socio-political environment of the USA and
the fragmentation and polarization of audiences.

1. A Genre Approach to the Analysis of Im-politeness Phenomena

1.1. The Status Quo of Im-politeness Research
A major focus of the recent approaches to the study of im-politeness is to
target rst order politeness (politeness1), i.e. participants assessments of discourse as (im)polite, (see Eelen, 2001; Locher and Watts, 2005; Mills, 2003;
Watts, 2003), rather than second order politeness (politeness2), i.e. the analysts assessments of a given discourse as politic, polite, impolite grounded in
pragmatic theory traditionally Brown and Levinsons model (1987). How do
participants immersed in discourse evaluate behaviour as politic,1 polite, or
impolite? Locher and Watts (2005: 29) argue, drawing from Bourdieus (1990)
theory of practice, that individuals evaluate certain utterances as polite
against the background of their own habitus or, to put it another way, against
the structures of expectations evoked within the frame of the interaction.
In other words, evaluations of im-politeness are performed on a case by case
basis, but are guided by expectations of what is (in)appropriate. A very welcome consequence of the introduction of this approach is that the eld, once
circumscribed to the study of face threat mitigation, i.e. politeness as conceived by Brown and Levinson (1987), has been opened to target all types of
relational work (Locher and Watts, 2005), with impoliteness phenomena
among those that are receiving increased attention (Locher and Bouseld,
2008; Bouseld and Culpeper, 2008).

Behaviour that is considered appropriate in a particular context, and is not marked as polite
or impolite (Locher and Watts, 2005: 13).


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Despite its having widened the horizons of politeness research, politeness1

approaches referred to as post-modern or discursive have also been critically evaluated. The shift towards politeness1 and what this implies for the role
of the analyst has been at the centre of the discussion. Mullany (2005: 294)
argues that restricting the analysis of im-politeness to situations in which the
analyst is also a participant limits signicantly the demographics represented
in politeness research. If analysts claims are substantiated, that is if they take
into consideration verbal and non-verbal behaviour, and all types of observations accessible to them when coming up with assessments regarding impoliteness phenomena, their role is perfectly justied (Mullany, 2008: 237).
Haugh (2007) assesses critically several epistemological and ontological
problems related to the discursive approach to im-politeness. He also ponders
on the repercussions that analysts abandoning aprioristic predictions of impoliteness based on a given theoretical framework or post facto assessments of
certain linguistic behaviours as im-politeness, as advocated by the discursive
approach, will have for the eld. In view of what he sees as major drawbacks,
Haugh states that Face Constituting Theory postulated by Arundale (1999,
2006) is a more productive framework for research on politeness. Arundales
model sees politeness as interactionally achieved, in a non-summative manner,
by participants in interaction. In Haughs words (2007: 309), Face Constituting
Theory avoids the ontological trap of conating the analysts and participants perspectives. The analyst, even if not directly involved, can identify
instances of im-politeness that emerge through interaction by either identifying explicit im-politeness evaluations made by the participants themselves in
the course of a given interaction which, as Haugh points out, does not happen frequently or more often through the reciprocation of concern evident in the adjacent placement of expressions of concern relevant to the norms
invoked in that particular interaction (Haugh, 2007: 312). The analysts task
is to demonstrate that his/her interpretation is (i) analogous to participants
assessments and (ii) valuable within an im-politeness theoretical framework.
Terkoura (2005) also reects upon the fact that the post-modern approach
claims not to aim at making predictions, but at describing specic uses of impoliteness. If the predictive nature of any theory is disregarded, what we are
left with are minute descriptions of individual encounters, but these do
not in any way add up to an explanatory theory of the phenomena under
study (Terkoura, 2005: 245). An aprioristic denial of the possibility of making predictions cancels any attempts at theorizing about im-politeness. Besides,
as Terkoura argues, participants involved in interactions commonly make
predictions regarding appropriateness and what might be expected therein.
She proposes a complementary approach to the study of im-politeness: the

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frame-based view. Using the psychological notion of frame,2 this approach

seeks to establish regularities between linguistic expressions and their contexts
of use. Politeness is not seen as a property of linguistic expressions. It is those
regularities, the unchallenged co-occurrence of particular contexts and particular linguistic expressions, that create the perception of politeness.
The discursive approach, Face-Constituting Theory and the frame-based
view, and the debate they have helped to ignite, are very welcome additions to
the eld of politeness research, which has clung to Brown and Levinsons
model despite very early claims of its inadequacy to deal with many face related
phenomena. However, it would seem that more renement is needed. Looking
at the corpora some of them extremely limited, Terkouras approach is the
only one that is data driven on which the proponents of the diverse models
base their claims, we see that the models are mostly conceived for noninstitutional, face-to-face, dyadic, interpersonal communication. Some of
these points, namely that politeness theory has primarily been associated with
ordinary conversation, and that it needs to be extended to account for dierent discourse types associated with professional and institutional settings were
also made by Harris (2001) in her discussion of Lako (1989). BargielaChiappini and Harris (2006: 7) also allude to the fact that politeness is at play
in multiparty, mediated encounters. Harriss proposal is to develop an approach
to im-politeness based on the notion of communities of practice which is the
same approach adopted by Bargiela-Chiappini and Harris (2006) and by
Mullany (2008) to account for im-politeness in professional settings (see also
Mills 2003). However, the community of practice approach also presents
some limitations and analytical shortcomings that I will briey discuss below.
Despite the extant theoretical frameworks focus on non-institutional, faceto-face, dyadic, interpersonal communication, institutional, mediated, polylogic, intergroup communication is prevalent in todays society. For example,
internet-based forms of communication have become pervasive and have
altered, in many ways, human interaction. Among those, it is worth mentioning the anonymity they aord participants or how they allow for the creation
of massive polylogues in sites such as YouTube, where discussion threads show

For an in-depth discussion of the notion of frame, and how it can be applied to the study of
im-politeness see Terkoura (1999). Drawing from a multiplicity of approaches, Terkoura
(1999: 106) denes frames as: a stereotypical piece of knowledge, acquired through experience in the course of interaction with the surrounding environment, and which is stored in
memory in such a way as to be easily retrievable indeed automatically when features of the
current situation are reminiscent of it. This piece of knowledge plays an important role in understanding, by participating in matching and lling-in processes which proceed sequentially.


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contributions from thousands of participants from all over the world (see
Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2010, for a more detailed discussion). In view of
this, we should strive to develop a comprehensive model, devised to integrate
both a top down, predictive theoretical basis, on which the analysts could base
their assessments with a bottom-up approach that would allow for the emergence of im-politeness phenomena as constructed in interaction. The model
should also be based on a unit of analysis that could be adapted to cases of
polylogic, (non)-mediated communication. I will argue that a genre approach
to im-politeness could provide that comprehensive basis. Genre is here understood, following Swales (1990: 58) as:
A class of communicative events, the members of which share some set of communicative purposes. These purposes are recognized by the expert members of the
parent discourse community, and thereby constitute the rationale for the genre.
This rationale shapes the schematic structure of the discourse and inuences and
constrains choice of content and style exemplars of a genre exhibit various patterns of similarity in terms of structure, style, content and intended audience.

Accordingly, a given communicative purpose triggers a particular genre, which

is realized by a specic move structure or functionally distinct stages along
which the genre unfolds. The move structure, in turn, is realized by rhetorical
strategies or formal choices of content and style.
Although Swaless denition of genre will be used here and his model applied
to the analysis of news interviews, as it is comprehensive and widely accepted,
it is important to bear in mind some of the renements proposed by Fairclough
(2003). First, Fairclough (2003: 69) points out that actual events, text or
interactions, are not instantiated in a particular genre, but rather they draw, in
creative and complex ways, from the resources that a given genre oers to a
particular community. Also, following Habermass (1984) distinction between
communicative and strategic action i.e. interaction oriented to arriving at
an understanding as opposed to interaction oriented to getting results
Fairclough (2003: 71-72) distinguishes between communicative and strategic
genres. He argues that purpose is more relevant in strategically than in communicatively driven genres. In the same way, Fairclough (2003: 72-74) states,
a more stable generic structure is also a characteristic of strategic rather than
communicative genres. Even when there is a predictable generic structure,
there is considerable variation. However, as Fairclough points out, the distinction between strategic/communicative is more a matter of degree, as they both
can occur in combination in various ways. News interviews, the genre considered here, are, applying Faircloughs distinction, strategic genres, geared toward
getting a result, in which purpose and generic structure are expected to be
prevalent features.

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Before describing the genre approach to the study of im-politeness, I would

like to consider in more detail some of the reasons, outlined above, regarding
why this approach could be useful.
1.1.1. Some Theoretical Considerations
a) Institutional versus non-institutional forms of interaction.
The dierences between non-institutional and institutional communication
would seem to merit special consideration when theorizing about impoliteness. Both genre and conversational analysis theorists have established
fundamental dierences between ordinary conversation and institutional
types of discourse. Swales (1990: 59) reecting on the nature of conversation
saw it as being too persuasive, too fundamental to be considered a
genre. He dened it as a pre-generic form of life, from which other forms
have evolved or broken away. Goodwin and Heritage (1990: 290) describe
ordinary conversation as constituting the primordial site of language use in
the natural world as well as the central medium for human socialization.
For them, more specialized communicative contexts, such as the legal process,
medical encounters, etc., should be analyzed as embodying systematic
variations from conversational procedures.
A useful distinction is also established by Scollon and Scollon (2001: 5) in
their discussion of discourse systems. According to the authors, discourse systems coincide with what James Paul Gees (1999) refers to as Discourses with
a capital D and comprise everything which can be said or talked about or
symbolized within a particular domain. They divide discourse systems into
involuntary (those to which members have no choice in belonging, such as
age, gender, or ethnicity) and voluntary (goal-oriented discourse systems, usually institutional structures which have been formed for specic purposes,
such as corporations or governments) and dene them on the basis of four
main characteristics (2001: 178-179):
1. Members of a given discourse system will hold a common ideological position
and recognize a sense of extra-discourse features that dene them as a group.
2. Socialization of members is accomplished through preferred forms of
3. A set of preferred forms of discourse face strategies, certain genres, specialized
lexicon etc. used by members serve as symbols of membership and identity.
4. Face relationships are prescribed for discourse members or between members
and outsiders.

Thus, Scollon and Scollon argue that Discourse is realized and instantiated in genres. The genres of voluntary institutional discourse systems are


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especially relevant: by learning to produce and understand preferred forms of

discourse, or genres, individuals become members and can claim membership
in dierent discourse systems. The ideology underlying those discourse systems also dictates face relationships among the members of the given system.
Therefore, genre information, and information on which to base face relations
are both highly salient, indeed indistinguishable, in the frames used by individuals to produce and interpret institutional discourse.
Analyzing institutional discourse has other implications for theories of impoliteness. First, as indicated above, most of them were developed to account
for face-to-face, dyadic communication, involving instances of ordinary conversation. Second, interpersonal, rather than intergroup communication, is at
the core of most im-politeness models. This poses problems for the study of
institutional communication, which involves mostly intergroup, frequently
polylogic, and often mediated communication.
b) Interpersonal versus intergroup communication.
The distinction between interpersonal and intergroup communication, as it
relates to institutional discourse, becomes especially relevant for the emphasis
that discursive/post-modern approaches to im-politeness place on the focus of
im-politeness research being on analyzing participants assessments of a given
discourse as im-polite or politic. It is important to bear in mind that most
forms of institutional discourse involve intergroup communication.
According to Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988: 23), interpersonal communication occurs when predictions are made using psychological data. When
cultural and/or sociological data are used to make predictions, intergroup
communication occurs. If I engage in conversation with a friend, I am engaging in interpersonal communication. When one of my students comes to
see me as the instructor of one of her courses, intergroup communication
ensues. Belonging to certain groups, performing certain roles is part of social
identity that part of an individuals self-concept which derives from his/her
knowledge of his/her membership in a social group (or groups) together with
the value and emotional signicance attached to that membership (Tajfel,
1978: 63, cited in Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey, 1988: 24). Thus, when
social not individual identity predominates, intergroup behaviour occurs.
Just as with many other constructs, intergroup and interpersonal communication should be seen more as a cline than in absolute terms. It is not possible,
as Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey argue, to completely separate interpersonal
from intergroup communication.
Most intergroup communication involves the use of institutional discourse, and is situated in institutional genres, most of them of strategic nature,

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according to Faircloughs (2003) denition. The specic roles of the participants and with them specic rights and obligations constrain the discourse
choices at every level: turn taking system, claims to the oor, length of turns,
types of utterance, topic among others. I am not suggesting that institutional
discourse in standardized in any way. As Anton and Peterson (2003: 407)
point out the agency of subjects may be determined by their subject positions, but this in no way eliminates their ability to choose between options.
Choices result in individuality the originality that dierentiates people who share
social identities (my own emphasis). Similar to individual identities, social
identities are constructed and co-constructed.
Taking into consideration the dierences between interpersonal and intergroup communication also has fundamental repercussions for the concept of
face, which is central to all theories and models of im-politeness Most work
on im-politeness has traditionally applied Brown and Levinsons reformulation of this concept initially dened by Goman (1967: 5) as the positive
social value a person eectively claims for himself by the line others assume he
has taken during a particular contact. Brown and Levinsons view of face has
been widely criticized both for being Anglo-centric, thus failing to capture
specic notions of face prevalent in, among others, Asian cultures (Scollon
and Scollon, 2001), and also for being individualistically and cognitively
focused (Bargiela-Chiappini, 2003: 1463). Furthermore, other scholars
(Thomas, 1995; Culpeper et al., 2003; Bouseld, 2007, 2008) have questioned Brown and Levinsons negative/positive face dichotomy arguing that
it is dicult to nd instances where just one type of face is threatened by a
specic act.
Recent approaches and reevaluations of face (Arundale, 2006, 2007; Locher
and Watts, 2005) have revived Gomans conceptualization of face as discursively constructed in interaction. For example, Arundales (2006) approach
to face is relational and interactional. Face is viewed as an emergent property
of relationships (: 201), and as an interpreting that a participant forms
regarding persons-in-relationship-to-other-persons (: 202). Thus, the distinction between self-face and other-face can no longer hold as self and
other are dialectally linked and dene each other in communication. Locher
and Watts (2005: 12) also view face as discursively constructed and socially
attributed and argue that any individual may be attributed a potentially innite number of faces for the duration of dierent kinds of performance.
Also from a constructionist approach, Haugh (2009: 12) emphasizes
that face is not only constituted in interaction, but also constitutive of
interaction. In other words, face is not only constructed through the use of
what is interpreted as appropriate language in a situation, but also constrains


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language use. Terkoura (2008: 52) sees face as grounded in interaction and
like Arundale (2006), she views the interactional dyad as the locus of face.
Therefore, since face is interactionally co-constructed, an individual will have
as many faces concurrently as there are participants involved in a given
Although these changes are all welcome, there still seems to be a focus on
individual versus social face, face-to-face communication and dyadic interaction (but see Spencer-Oatey, 2002), which poses a problem for the application of these tenets to mediated, polylogic environments, and those genres
where social, rather than individual, identity may be prevalent. However,
some recent conceptualizations are more inclusive. Haugh (2007) reminds us
of the fact that face can be associated with groups, rather with just individuals,
and of the interconnections between face and identity, which have a staple in
the North American tradition (see Ting-Toomey and Kurogi, 1999, among
many others), but have been absent from mainstream im-politeness research
(see Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2009; Spencer-Oatey, 2007). Terkouras (2008:
52) interpretation of Self and Other not as monolithic entities co-extensive
with the physical body is very useful. Self and Other are seen by Terkoura as
psychological constructs in the sense that: In the presence of one participant
I may be simultaneously apprehending several Others, some of whom I may
be approaching while withdrawing from Others (: 53). Terkouras account
easily would seem to allow for the distinction between individual and social
face to be included within the same theoretical construct.
However, I believe it is useful to maintain the terminological distinction
between individual and social face due to (i) the preeminence of social face in
mediated, deindividuated (see Reicher et al., 1995) and institutional genres;
(ii) the essential interconnections between face and identity (see GarcsConejos Blitvich, 2009; Spencer-Oatey, 2007), i.e. how individual face is tied
to I-identity and social face to we-identity (Ting-Toomey and Kurogi, 1998)
and (iii) the intrinsic connections, outlined above, between individual/social
face and interpersonal/intergroup communication.
c) Dyadic/face-to-face versus polylogic/mediated interaction.
As discussed, most models of im-politeness take the dyad and face to face
interaction as the bases of their analyses. However, many forms of institutional
interaction are both mediated (Bell and Garret, 1998; Fairclough, 1995;
Herring, 2004) and polylogic (Kerbrat-Orecchioni, 2004; Marcoccia, 2004).
For example, news interviews constitute a mediated polylogue, of which the
overhearing audience is an integral part. The dierences between both types of
interaction are salient, as is their impact on communication (see Lemke, 2003;

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Askehave and Nielsen, 2006; Santini, 2006, among others, for a discussion of
the impact of cyber-technologies on conceptions of interaction, text and
genre). In spite of this, theories conceived to account for dyadic/face-to-face
interaction are used, with varying degrees of success, to account for interactive
phenomena clearly beyond their descriptive capability. However, if we strive
to create a comprehensive model to account for im-politeness phenomena
we need to nd an overarching unit of analysis that can account for both.
1.2. A Genre Approach to the Study of Im-politeness
The discursive approach to im-politeness, (see Locher and Watts, 2005; Watts,
2003), draws on Bourdieus theory of practice and his understanding, among
others, of the notions of discourse and habitus. Despite the signicance of
Bourdieus thoughts on language, his approach has been assessed as too
abstract: when talking about language, Bourdieu seldom if ever approaches
the level of empirical specicity needed to assess his claims (Hanks,
2005: 69). Fairclough (1995: 184) makes a similar assessment of the abstractness of the account when he claims that the notion of genre is an important
omission from Bourdieus work. As an example, when discussing political
discourse, Fairclough argues that politicians never articulate political discourse
in its pure form: political discourse is always situated, always shaped by
In contrast, genre notions play a fundamental role in Faircloughs account
of language social practices, i.e. orders of discourse. Orders of discourse are
dened as the social organization and control of linguistic variation
(2003: 24). The way discourse gures in a social practice is threefold: discourses (ways of representing), genres (ways of acting), and styles (ways of
being). Genres are dierent ways of inter(acting) discoursally. The term discourse is here used in two ways: (i) as an abstract noun referring to language
and other kinds of semiosis as elements of social life, (ii) as a count noun referring to particular ways of representing a part of the world e.g. the discourse
of the right wing in the US. Styles refer to the role of language, along with
non-verbal communication, in creating particular social or individual identities. Fairclough (2003: 29) argues that Bourdieus habitus the way in which
society in impressed on the individual at the mental, corporeal and linguistic
levels is included in his notion of style. Fairclough sees the three elements of
meaning as dialectically related, each of them internalizing the others. In
Faircloughs words: particular representations (discourses) may be enacted
in particular ways of Acting and Relating (genres), and inculcated in particular ways of Identifying (Styles) (2003: 29). At the grammatical or semantic


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levels, this means that certain semantic relations or grammatical categories will
tend to be primarily associated with certain discourses, genres or styles.
Faircloughs account implicitly attributes to genres both a cognitive and a
social dimension. Genres, discourses and styles are respectively relatively stable and durable ways of acting, representing and identifying (2003: 28).
Although they vary considerably in terms of their degree of stabilization, xity and homogenization some are almost ritualized, others are quite variable and in ux (2003: 66). Due to this diversity, Fairclough distinguishes
among pre-genres, disembedded genres and situated genres. He uses the term
pre-genre (which he borrows from Swales, 1990) to refer to genres at a high
level of abstraction that transcend particular networks or social practices
such as narrative, argument, description, and conversation. Disembedded
genres are those, such as Interview or Report, which are not as abstract as narrative or argument but do transcend particular networks or practices.
Disembedded genres are separated from the social practices for which they
were developed and become widely available as social technologies of sorts.
The Interview genre, for example, includes many dierent types which have
become specialized for specic networks or social practices. It is those types
that become specialized for very concrete networks or social practices, such as
the ethnographic interview for example, that Fairclough refers to as situated
Fairclough sees genres as fundamental in sustaining the institutional structure of contemporary society (2003: 32). Due to this stability, they can guide
expectations regarding generic structure, which Fairclough sees as more signicant in the case of strategic, purpose driven genres. Along these lines,
Unger (2006) argues that genre information, although not being linguistically
encoded, is an aspect of the context of utterances, and is accessible to inference
processes because it is part of cultural information. Genre information may
not play a role in comprehension when expectations of relevance arise from
other sources. However, in institutional types of discourse, it becomes especially signicant as expectations of the overall relevance of the discourse may
be linked to information about the schematic layout of such texts. Unger
(2006: 214) cautions that genre information goes beyond our expectations of
a given schematic structure, and crucially encompasses the speakers intention
in producing a certain text.
At the social level, Fairclough regards genres as forms of interactions, constituting particular sorts of social relations between interactants. Social relations are described as relations between social agents: organizations, groups or
individuals. Communication can be between organizations or groups or individuals or combine dierent types of social agents (2003: 75). Therefore, it

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can be argued that relational work3 is enacted within genres, much in the same
way put forth by Scollon and Scollon (2001). This view of interactants allows
for a polylogic, multi-party view of interaction, which is indeed presupposed
in the very denition of genre.
A fundamental way in which genres dier from one another is the communication technologies they are specialized for, and one factor in changing
genres is developments in communication technologies. A general issue that
arises in analyzing genre is which semiotic modalities are drawn upon and how
they are combined. The fact that (non)-mediation is an integral and distinctive feature of genres leads the notion of genre being at the heart of analyses of
both face-to-face and mediated communication.
In view of the central role of genres in communication, as postulated by
Fairclough (2003), I believe that adopting a genre approach to the study of
im-politeness would have the following benets:
1. It focuses on language in action (Fairclough, 2003; Miller, 1984).
2. It incorporates a top-down predictive approach with a bottom-up coconstructed, emergent, discursive approach, instantiated at the level of style
(identication, which includes the habitus). Genre constraints, although variable and in ux, are stable enough to regulate expression, create expectations
in terms of schematic lay-out, especially in the case of strategic genres, confer
rights and obligations, certain grammatical/lexical/semantic relations tend
to be associated with certain genres. However, these will be reinterpreted at
the style level, where face and identity emerge and are co-constructed. Face/
identity are not co-constructed in a vacuum, but are enacted through the performance of culturally recognized and genre related acts and stances (Ochs,
Thus, face, within the genre approach to im-politeness, is seen as interactionally and discursively constructed and emerging in interaction (Arundale,
2006; Haugh, 2009; Locher and Watts, 2005; Terkoura, 2008). As indicated
above, it is at the level of style where identity/face are co-constructed, but this
construction is always situated and shaped by genres. However, because the
genre approach takes into consideration the crucial distinction between interpersonal and intergroup communication, face will be also seen as either individual or social (Spencer-Oatey, 2002; Ting-Toomey, 1998). Interpersonal
communication is the locus of individual face whereas intergroup communication is the locus of social face. Following Ting-Toomey (1998: 189), individual face is seen as tied to an I-identity whereas social face would stem from
a we-identity.

Locher and Watts (2005: 11) adopt the concept relational work to refer to polite, politic and
impolite behaviour, i.e. all forms of interpersonal interaction that involve the negotiation of face.
The eld of politeness had hitherto mainly focused on facework, i.e. the mitigation of face threat,
or politeness as conceptualized by Brown and Levinson (1987).


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3. It is both cognitive and social (Paltridge, 1995) genre is cultural information

that is highly accessible for ne-tuning the expectations of relevance of complex stimuli (Unger, 2002); absence of genre knowledge can cause problems
for comprehension, and for evaluation of behaviour as im-polite; genres as
forms of interactions constitute particular sorts of social relations between
interactants. In Millers (1984: 163) words: A genre is a rhetorical means for
mediating private intentions and social exigence; it motivates by connecting
the private with the public, the singular with the recurrent.
4. Genre, as a unit of analysis, is more complex in allowing for dierent modes
of communication that go beyond the dyad, and that include mediated communication. For example, in the case of broadcast media, it could be argued,
from a genre theoretic standpoint, that the analyst, as long as s/he is a part of
the overhearing audience, is a direct participant, and thus can provide politeness1 assessments. Because of the polylogic nature of mediated communication, genre notions can also help us assess and explain the multifunctionality
of discourse used strategically: what may be assessed as impolite discourse by
one of the participants may be seen or intended as polite for others involved
(Kienpointner, 1997). This could help resolve what Culpeper (2008) sees as a
problem of most accounts of politeness: the fact that they focus on utterances
with single functions, single speakers/addresses ignoring multi-functionality
and the complexity of discourse situations and coincides with Terkouras
(2008: 53) denition of instrumental uses of face constituting/threatening
behaviour. Terkoura (2008) links these instrumental uses to power. Below,
and along the same lines, I will argue that instrumental face-constituting/
threatening behaviour is the way in which the hosts of the news of confrontation shows seek to establish a coalition with his/her audience power is at the
heart of these coalitions.
5. It allows for an approach to the study of im-politeness that can incorporate the
fundamental distinction between institutional and non-institutional, pregeneric types of discourse. The dual approach, top-down and bottom-up, will
always be applied, but in dierent degrees: the more institutional, ritualized in
Faircloughs words, a genre is the more it will permit a theory based analysis,
i.e. a predictive account especially if the analyst takes an emic perspective.
However, even in the most ritualized instances, genres will be reenacted and
co-constructed at the style, identication, level. Therefore, the analyst will also
need to make sure that his/her assessment coincides with participants positionings (Haugh, 2007, 2009). In the case of non-institutional, pre-generic
forms of interaction, such as ordinary conversation for example, the bottomup approach will be more salient. Interactional constraints, however, such as
the turn-taking system, repairs, etc., will be taken into consideration when
coming up with post-facto analyses of im-politeness.
6. It allows for a study of im-politeness that can incorporate the distinction
between interpersonal and intergroup communication, wherein comments,
such as the following regarding OReillys assessment of his combative stance
during debates, could be accounted for: is not personal. I never go after
anybody personally. I never do that (Unger 2002: 11). Also, since institutional discourse, which mostly involves intergroup communication, uses cultural and sociological data to make predictions about the interaction, it is
easier for the analyst, even if s/he is not a direct participant, to make assessments

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in terms of appropriacy and thus im-politeness, provided these stem from an

emic perspective, with the caveat, indicated above, that institutional genres are
not standardized and are co-constructed at the style level.
7. It would seem that the notion of genre would be a better anchor for impoliteness analysis in institutional settings than the community of practice
approach. As Orlikowski and Yates (1994) point out: Members of a community rarely depend on a single genre for their communication. Rather, they
tend to use multiple, dierent, and interacting genres over time. Thus to
understand a communitys communicative practices, we must examine the set
of genres that are routinely enacted by members of the community. Each of
those genres may call for dierent types of interaction which will come to be
generally associated with certain im-politeness realizations. Therefore, the
norms underlying expectations of im-politeness go back to generic constraints,
rather than to communities of practice as a whole, contrary to what BargielaChiappini and Harris argue (2006: 16).

I would like to conclude this section by oering some guidelines on which to

base the denition of politeness and impoliteness within a genre approach.
The study of impoliteness is still in its infancy, compared with that of politeness (Lambert-Graham 2006; Bouseld and Culpeper, 2008; Locher and
Bouseld, 2008). What both have in common is that impoliteness is proving
to be as dicult to dene as politeness has been (Lako, 2005). This fact is
acknowledged by Locher and Bouseld (2008) in the introductory chapter to
their volume on impoliteness. A quick overview of the denitions provided by
the dierent contributors shows that there is no agreement on the matter. One
central point of contention is the role that intention plays in impoliteness.
Some scholars (Culpeper, 2008; Bouseld, 2008) argue that the intention to
be impolite by the speaker and recognized by the hearer plays a central role in
discriminating impoliteness. Other scholars, however, deem speakers intentions as irrelevant and argue that impoliteness is a judgment, an evaluation of
behaviour by hearers (Haugh, 2007; Holmes et al., 2008; Locher and Watts,
2008). On the other hand, Terkoura (2008) argues that the recognition of
intentions is linked to rudeness not to impoliteness which Kienpointner
(2008) treats as synonyms. Evidently, as Locher and Bousled (2008: 4) state,
more research is needed to ascertain the role of intention in the production
and interpretation of impolite or rude behaviour.
Deviation from norms or expectations, associated with dierent discursive
practices and based on an individuals cognitive experiences emerges as a common denominator in the way that many scholars account for impoliteness phenomena (Haugh, 2003, 2007; Locher and Bouseld, 2008; Bouseld
and Culpeper, 2008; Lorenzo-Dus 2009b). Culpeper (2008), however, takes
an issue with this point arguing that there are cases army recruiting training
or exploitative television shows, for example where impoliteness is the
norm, i.e. interactions or activity types where face-threatening behaviour is


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expected, part of the rules of the game, as it were Wattss (2003) sanctioned
aggressive behaviour. Culpeper (2008) acknowledges that, even in those situations where aggressive behaviour is sanctioned, participants the recruit
and the sergeant, for example may have very dierent views on whether
the aggressive behaviour is normal which will be tied to their own personal
experiences experiential norms and familiarity with the given activity
type social norms. His argument, in the case of exploitative shows (see
Culpeper, 2005), is that though impoliteness is expected, it is not necessarily
This begs the question of whether interpretations of impoliteness can ensue
in genres where some level of face-attack is sanctioned, such as police interrogations, cross-interrogations during trials, academic criticism, news interviews etc. I would argue that they can. Although face-attack, usually justied
as the means to achieve a higher purpose, is sanctioned as an integral part of
the interactional parameters regulating the rights and obligations associated
with the individual/social identity of some of the participants, those parameters also regulate how far those face-attacks can go. There are limits. Those
limits mark what is considered beyond the pale, i.e. what can be interpreted as
impolite. Failure to recognize those limits can result in sanctions for police
brutality, contempt of court, etc. Usually those limits are made quite clear in
institutional genres, although I am not arguing that they are absolute. In pregenres, such as daily conversational interaction between parents and children,
they are also present. It is part of parents rights and obligations to guide their
children and socialize them in ways which often require face-threatening
behaviour towards their progeny. However, there are limits that make possible
for that behaviour to be evaluated, on occasion, as verbal and psychological
abuse. I believe that the diculty, as it is usually the case with concepts so
elusive as politeness and impoliteness, lies in the fact that those limits are not
absolute, but often fuzzy, and always situated, co-constructed and negotiated
at the level of style.
With all these caveats in mind, politeness can be dened as (i) the use of
lexico-grammatical strategies or realizations of prosodic features typically
associated, i.e. recurrent, with a specic (pre)genre and/or (ii) the complying
with the established, (pre)genre-sanctioned, norms and interactional parameters regulating the rights and obligations associated therein with a given
individual/social identity which can thus be interpreted as face-maintaining or
enhancing. This face-maintaining/enhancing behaviour towards some participants, in the case of polylogues, can be the result of face-attack towards other
participants involved, in an attempt by the speaker to create a coalition, an us
versus them type of situation (see also Terkoura, 2008: 53).

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For those genres in which face-threatening behaviour is not the norm, i.e.
where it is not sanctioned or expected, impoliteness can be dened as (i) the
use of lexico-grammatical strategies or realizations of prosodic features not
typically associated, i.e. not recurrent, with a specic (pre)genre which and/or
(ii) a disregard for the established, (per)genre-sanctioned, norms and interactional parameters regulating the rights and obligations associated therein with
a given individual/social identity which can thus be interpreted as facethreatening.
For those genres in which face-threatening behaviour is the norm, i.e. where
it is sanctioned and expected, impoliteness interpretations may still ensue, i.e.
they may not be neutralized, (i) when there is a mismatch between the social,
generic, norms of the interaction and the participants background and expectations, i.e. experiential norms; (ii) when the face-threatening behaviour goes
beyond the genre-established limits of what is acceptable as the normal course
of events.
In all these cases, when assessing a given behaviour as im-polite a bottomup and a top-down approach will be used by the analyst to make sure that
his/her assessments of a given behaviour as im-polite coincide with the participants orientations and positionings. Genre constraints are always coconstructed and negotiated at the level of style.

2. Swaless Three Level Genre Model and the News Interview

To apply a genre approach to the study of im-politeness phenomena in news
interviews seems to t in well with a widespread tradition in media studies
that defends the usefulness of the application of genre theory to the study of
media discourse (Clayman and Heritage, 2002; Fairclough, 1995; Tolson,
2006; Montgomery, 2007). In this next section, I apply Swaless genre model
to the description to the traditional news interview and contrast this format
with a new news interview genre, news as confrontation. As discussed above,
news interviews constitute an institutional, strategic genre, according to
Fairclough (2003). In cases involving conventionalized, strategic genres, both
communicative purpose and strategic layout become fundamental features.
The main communicative purpose of the news interview genre is, according
to Clayman and Heritage (2002: 149): The elicitation of talk that is expressly
produced for an overhearing audience by an interviewer who should properly
maintain a formally neutral or neutralistic posture. The term neutralistic
is used as absolute neutrality is not feasible (Clayman, 2004: 34). Like most
genres, the boundaries of the news interview are fuzzy see Fairclough


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(2003), for a discussion of genre chains, hybridity and intertextuality). Starkey

(2007: 105) describes political interviews as being heterogeneous and consisting of related and unrelated phenomena that both systematically and
chaotically can result in disparate performances and positionings.
However, there are some characteristics that set the news interview apart.
Clayman and Heritage (2002: 7) list the following: a) the interviewer is a
professional journalist, not a partisan advocate or a celebrity entertainer;
b) interviewees are either actors related to recent news events, on which the
interview normally focuses, or experts on related issues; c) the audience is not
actively involved in the interaction.
More specically, it is the genres sanctioned move structure, what Unger
(2006) refers to as its schematic layout the specic characteristics of the
turn-taking system at work i.e. a multi-turn exchange between a journalist
(the interviewer) who leads the discussion through questions, and respondent
(interviewee) who has agreed to be questioned and reply to the interviewers questions (Ben-Porath, 2007) which constitutes the basis of what is
traditionally dened as the news interview. The institutional nature of the
turn-taking system is also related to the power distribution within this context. Starkey (2007) characterized the media interview as an unequal encounter, with the interviewer rmly in charge. Besides asking the questions, the
interviewer also controls the length, shape and style of the interview
(Montgomery, 2007: 146). However, as Clayman and Heritage (2002) point
out, the interviewer gives up the power to answer questions or provide followups with his/her opinion.
In terms of the rhetorical strategies used by interviewers to convey their
neutralistic stance, Ilie (2001: 219) indicates that the role of news interviewers should be strictly institutional, i.e. they should remain detached, and
objective, and their personal opinions and preferences should be left out of the
institutional interaction. An extremely rare exception when interviewers can
constitute themselves as advocates of particular causes, points out Greatbatch
(1998: 171), occurs during interviews of representatives of groups perceived as
anti-democratic, criminal or terrorist by the West.
Starkey (2007) refers to a former less belligerent age, when news interviews were gentler, and less adversarial. Things have changed, and as Clayman
(2004) mentions, since the advent of television, the neutralistic stance has
been balanced by adversarialness. The interviewer has to try to remain
objective as objectivity is considered a traditional news value (Andsager,
2000) but, on the other hand, needs to ask the adversarial questions. This
sounds like a perfect venue for the use of politeness, understood in traditional
Brown and Levinsons (1987) terms, as facework oriented to the mitigation of

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face-threatening acts. And so it used to be until the inception of the news as

confrontation genre. Although conict had permeated almost all media
genres confrontainment is a term that refers to the blend of confrontation
and entertainment in the media (see Anton and Peterson, 2003; Hess-Luttich,
2007; Lorenzo-Dus, 2009a) serious news programs had been spared, for
the most part, but not anymore. However, Piirainen-Marsh (2005) questions
whether the notion of impoliteness is useful for the analysis of confrontational
discourse, such as broadcast news/political interviews, where confrontation is
part of the genres expectations of behaviour.
I would argue that, although adversarialness plays a major part in the positions and stances taken by interviewers, objectivity remains an expectation
just as important Montgomery (2007: 152) states that impartiality is
required due to the public service nature of broadcasting. The goal is to achieve
a balance between their neutralistic stance and adversarialness. Impolite behaviour, thus, would occur when the balance would be inclined towards adversarialness. How much adversarialness is needed for that to happen is, once
again, a matter of situated assessments.
My main claim in this paper is that impoliteness is the driving force behind
a new genre, of which The Factor constitutes a prime example. Following
Tolson (2006), I have called this genre news as confrontation. My account
of this new genre is based on an analysis of a corpus, recorded during 2006
and 2007, of fty hours of news shows: The OReilly Factor, Hannity and
Holmes,4The Glenn Beck Show5 and The Nancy Grace Show. Forty interviews
(ten per program) were transcribed and analyzed, using a multidisciplinary
approach based on tenets from conversation analysis (Goodwin and Heritage,
1990; Scheglo, 1999), im-politeness (Brown and Levinson, 1987; Culpeper,
2005), and social identity theories (Bucholtz and Hall, 2005; de Fina et al.,
2006; Joseph, 2004).
Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of media discourse are common
(see Montgomery, 2007: 20-21), due to its complex and multilayered nature.
Conversational analysis is a staple in many analyses of news interviews
(Clayman and Heritage, 2002; Greatbatch, 1998; Montgomery, 2007;
Pirainen-Marsh, 2005, among many others). Since I was interested in comparing the schematic layout of the interviews included in my corpus with the
Alan Holmes has since left the program. Sean Hannity is now the only host, and the program
is known as Hannity.
Glenn Beck left Head Line News and is now employed by Fox News Channel. He hosts a late
afternoon show and is a frequent guest on The OReilly Factor where he contributes to the At Your
Beck and Call segment.


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one identied as normative by Clayman and Heritage (2002), the application

to the analysis of conversational analysis postulates was necessary. However, I
also wanted to explore the ways in which the hosts included in my corpus
constructed their identity. My aim here was also to recognize any possible differences between their practices and those identied in the literature as the
host adopting a neutralistic stance (Clayman, 2002a; Haddington, 2004). To
explore these matters, I resorted to identity theory. Identity construction in
social practices has constituted one of the main foci of research in sociolinguistics during the last twenty years (de Fina, 2007). The fundamental role of
language in the construction, negotiation, and establishment of identities is
now widely accepted. Within identity theory, social constructionism is perhaps the most general perspective. It views identity as a process, not as a given
or a product, always embedded in social practices and thus takes an antiessentialist view of the self (de Fina et al., 2006). Lastly, I applied the tenets of
im-politeness theories to the analysis of my corpus. The balancing of adversarialness with neutrality was described by Clayman and Heritage (2002) as
one of the main goals of the news interviewer. This made the news interview
sound as the perfect venue for the display of politeness, understood a la Brown
and Levinson (1987) as mitigation of face threat. Im-politeness models have
also been fruitfully applied to the analysis of news interviews (see Mullany,
1999; Locher and Watts, 2008; Lorenzo-Dus, 2009a). Once again, my aim
was to contrast the politeness as default term in the contract between interviewer/interviewee and the actual realization of interpersonal dynamics, both
at the micro and at the macro level, in my corpus.
The results of the multidisciplinary analysis (Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2007,
2009) indicated that the shows included in my corpus did not follow the conventions of the news interview genre. In this respect, it has to be pointed out
that several scholars disagree with Clayman and Heritages description of the
news interview. For example, Tolson (2006: 58) points out that in the context
of news magazines or current aairs programs the frame of the interview is not
as tight, or as normative, as Clayman and Heritage (2002) suggest. Montgomery
(2007) provides a more comprehensive account of the news interview, where
the type that Clayman and Heritage focused on, i.e. the political interview, is
just but one possibility among many others.
I would argue that more than a loosening, or a hybridization of a genre as
Clayman (2004) points to, these shows constitute a new genre, mostly because
their communicative purpose diers from that of traditional news interviews.
As discussed, Swales (1990) argues that a given communicative purpose triggers a specic genre. The main communicative purpose of the new news
interviews is not, as it is the case with traditional news interviews, to inform

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the overhearing audience, but to rearm a given view of the world (Boulton,
2004; Mutz and Martin, 2001). In todays world of 24/7 constant information the audience already knows the news when they switch on their TV in the
evening (Unger, 2002; Prior, 2007).
In terms of the move structure, the interviewers frequently hold or monopolize the oor, as they engage in discussion and debate. The question-answer
move structure normative in traditional interviews does not articulate the discourse. Here, the tendency towards conversationalization of public discourse
described by Fairclough (1995) is evident. This more conversational approach
to interviewing has a direct repercussion on the power distribution within this
context. In prototypical news, the interviewer has the power to set the agenda,
ask questions, and control the interactional management of the interview, but
s/he gives up the power to contribute opinions to the topic at hand, whereas
the interviewees role is to answer questions, but s/he cannot ask any. However,
in the conversationalized news as confrontation genre where, in principle,
both interviewer and interviewee can ask and answer questions, power can be
described, in theory, as more evenly distributed. In practice, we see a clear
accrual of power associated with the interviewers role.
Also, their use of rhetorical strategies does not display the genres sanctioned
neutralistic stance. The interviewers express their views by (dis)agreeing
openly with the interviewee. The interviewer often attacks the interviewees
face thereby unsettling the balance between adversarialness and neutral stance.
Impoliteness becomes the essence of these shows, and performs a double function at the individual and interactive levels. On the individual level, the interviewers present themselves as self proclaimed advocates of the common
American people, defending traditional American values against the perceived
liberal slant of mainstream media or victims rights against the unjust leniency
of the court system. By using impoliteness as their weapon of choice, the
interviewers bring the tribune of the people stance (Clayman, 2002a) to a
new level, and construct their public identity as angry populists. At the interactive level, the interviewers use impoliteness strategically (Beebe, 1995;
Kienpointer, 1997) to position themselves against the interviewee and show
alignment with their audience.
Thus, the results of the analysis (Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2007, 2009)
strongly suggest that a new news interview genre rmly grounded in impoliteness has emerged. Also, the fact that The Colbert Show (Comedy Channel) has
evolved as a parody of The OReilly Factor supports the thesis that the new genre
format is established and recognizable (Baumgartner and Morris, 2008).
The term impoliteness within this context is not unproblematic, Elsewhere
(Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2009), I have exposed in detail my views in defence


P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694

of the impolite interpretation which I briey summarize here. One of the

problems with assessing the linguistic behaviour of these interviewers as impolite has to do with ascertaining whether, in the context of broadcast/political
interviews, confrontational discourse is sanctioned and therefore cannot be
interpreted as impolite (Piirainen-Marsh, 2005; Watts, 2003). Similar questions have been raised and discussed about the use of impoliteness in reality
and other exploitative shows (Mills, 2003; Culpeper, 2005; Bouseld, 2007;
Lorenzo-Dus, 2009b). My position is that, although news interviews are
adversarial by denition, they can still be deemed impolite if a balance between
confrontation and objectivity is not upheld. Furthermore, I agree with
Culpeper (2008) that although aggressive behaviour in this context is sanctioned it is part of the rules of engagement it is clearly not neutralized. If
this was the case for game shows that Culpeper analyzed, it would be even
truer in the case of news interviews, which are very serious, and deeply consequential (Clayman and Heritage, 2002). To that I would add, as I argue below,
that impoliteness in the news as confrontation shows is not used across the
board or all the time, but to target those interviewees whose views do not
coincide with the target audiences (Conway et al., 2007; Unger, 2002). The
refusal of many democratic politicians or individuals with well known liberal
beliefs to be interviewed by OReilly could be taken as an indication of their
not wanting to subject their public personas to negative scrutiny (Unger,
Moreover, there is a widespread sense (Mutz, 2007; Mutz and Reeves, 2005;
Ben-Porath, 2007) that the news as confrontation shows are another example
of the pervasiveness of incivility in the American media. The rise of incivility
has been linked to an increase in agonism (Tannen, 1998; Lako, 2005) and
to polarization (Prior, 2007) in the American culture at large and clashes with
assumptions of politeness as the default term in interaction (Fraser, 1990),
assumptions that also apply to broadcast discourse (Ben-Porath, 2007: 5). It is
precisely this clash between expectations of politeness and mediated impoliteness and confrontation that serves as an audiences attention catching device.
As Mutz (2007) describes, incivility heightens arousal, which is closely tied to
levels of attention. This is a fact well known, according to Mutz (2007), by
producers of political television who seek to infuse political debate with liveliness and passion as means of elevating ratings (Mutz and Reeves, 2005: 13).
Earlier, I provided a denition of impoliteness for those genres in which
face-attack is expected. I argued that impoliteness assessments could still ensue
if impoliteness was not neutralized or if the face-attacks went beyond the
genre-established limits set for the expected course of events. In view of the
arguments provided above, it would seem that in news as confrontation shows

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impoliteness is, although expected, not neutralized: i.e. still perceived as facethreatening. It is precisely because it is not neutralized that impoliteness can
here function as an attention catching device and be used strategically to create rapport with the audience, as I will argue below. Also, it is worth pointing
out that the second situation included in the denition of impoliteness in
those genres where it is expected, i.e. that interpretations of impoliteness
could also ensue when the face-threatening behaviour goes beyond the
genre-established limits of what is acceptable as the normal course of events, is
also present in some instantiations of the genre, such as The OReilly Factor.
As examples, among many others, come to mind several of OReillys interviews: Congressman Barney Frank, the House Financial Services Committee
Chairman, on the collapse of the American nancial system; Fox News
Channels Geraldo Rivera, on illegal immigration; former talk show host
Phil Donahue, on the Iraq war; or Jeremy Glick, the son of a worker who
was killed in the 9/11 attacks, on Glicks views on the Bush administration.
These interviews developed into shouting matches where derogatory
epithets such as coward were used by OReilly to refer to his guests,
Barney Frank. In other cases, such as Jeremy Glicks appearance on the show,
OReilly abruptly nished the interview and allegedly threw him out of the
Although I did not include intention in my denition of im-politeness,
those scholars who do (Culpeper, 2005, 2008; Bouseld, 2008) might argue
that another problem for characterizing the interviewers of the news as confrontation show as impolite is whether their verbal displays are truly impolite. In other words, is their intention to cause oence and threaten the
interviewees face or is this just a show and a display for the audience? It would
seem that polite behaviour is usually taken as face value, regardless of the
true feelings of speakers. This in spite of Brown and Levinsons (1987) caution to the eect that the nature of politeness is strategic: the result of a
rational mind, looking for the best means to an end. We do not stop to think
whether David Gregory or Tom Brokaw are genuinely concerned with their
interviewees face. We just deem their behaviour as civil or polite because they
abide by the genres interactional expectations. It would follow that we would
deem an interviewers behaviour as impolite if it did not abide by those same
expectations. The reason that we do not, as Kienpointner (2008: 4) points
out, is that we tend to associate impoliteness, but not necessarily politeness,
with true emotions. However, I have argued that, in the news as confrontation
shows, impoliteness is used strategically as a means to create rapport with the
audience, and is seen as stemming from rationality, just like politeness. The
interviewers intention is to come across and be assessed as impolite, and this


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constitutes a major part of their identity construction (Garcs-Conejos

Blitvich, 2009).

3. Interviewer/Interviewee Interaction and Impoliteness

News interviews a mediated, polylogic, institutional genre are interactionally articulated at two levels: the interaction between interviewer and interviewee and the relationship between those and the overhearing audience.
Fairclough (2003) sees genres as constituting particular sorts of social relations
between interactants. This notion of genre incorporates within it both the possibility of interaction between individuals, as well as between individuals and
groups or organizations. The genre is also shaped by the types of modality and
technology it draws from, which signicantly aect interaction. In the two
following sections, I will delve rst into the interaction between interviewer
and interviewee, to focus then on how the overhearing audience and the mediated, polylogic nature of the genre should be taken into consideration when
assessing certain linguistic or interactional features as im-polite.
A genre approach to the study of im-politeness begins by considering the
genre sanctioned, expectations regarding interaction among the parties
involved, which as explained above are stable, but always in ux, and are
always negotiated and co-constructed at the style level (Fairclough, 2003). In
the case of news interviews, we have seen how the expectation regarding the
interviewer is that it should be institutional, the interviewer as a person should
be kept away, and s/he should maintain a neutralistic stance, balanced with
adversarialness. This was seen as a perfect venue for the use of politeness,
understood as mitigation of face threat, and traditionally (Clayman and
Heritage, 2002) that was the case. Also, there are genre expectations regarding
the interaction: the interviewer should only ask questions, the interviewee
should only answer questions. The purpose of the genre was to inform the
overhearing audience, so that they could make up their own mind regarding
the issues. If the interviewer displays a linguistic behaviour which shows complete disregard for these genre sanctioned expectations, the analyst could be
justied in interpreting this behaviour as marked for impoliteness.
In this section, I analyze two interviews by Bill OReilly extracted from my
corpus. My goal is to show how interpretations of impoliteness may ensue
either as the result of linguistically realized face-attack or, at a more subtle
level, it may be perceived as the result of the subversion of the interactional
expectations of a given genre. I also claim that these two features, explicit face
threat and subversion of interactional expectations, are the staples of a new

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genre which I have called news as confrontation. The reason why I believe this
is a new genre, as I indicated above, and not a sub-genre or a hybrid of the
news interview is because the news as confrontation shows are triggered by a
dierent communicative purpose: they do not seek to inform but to rearm
the overhearing audiences view of the world. Section 4 below is devoted to
this discussion.
The genre approach to the study of im-politeness can incorporate other
descriptive tools, other than im-politeness models, to account for im-politeness
phenomena. For example, I have applied identity theory, more specically
Anton and Petersons model of subject positions to account for the role of
impoliteness in the identity co-construction of the interviewer, interviewee
and audience, that is at the level of style (Fairclough, 2003), in news interviews (see Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2009). Identity is constructed by displaying acts and stances that are culturally recognized (Ochs, 1993) and genre
related. Here, I focus on the interactional management and linguistic behaviour of the interviewer, Bill OReilly, and will apply as descriptive tools taxonomies of impoliteness, and a multidisciplinary approach that draws mostly
from tenets of conversational analysis.
3.1. Strategies of Impoliteness
The rst taxonomy of impoliteness strategies appeared in Culpeper (1996).
Since then, several renements have been made in, amongst other studies,
Culpeper et al. (2003), Culpeper (2005), Bouseld (2007, 2008), Kientpointner
(2008) and Garcs-Conejos Blitvich (2010). In this paper, I draw upon the
latter three. Specically, and following Garcs-Conejos Blitvich (2010), within
the o record impoliteness broad category, I distinguish between: implicated impoliteness (cases where the implicated meaning could correspond to
any of the myriad of impolite meanings realized on-record by the strategies
listed in the taxonomy), sarcasm (cases where the use of politeness is obviously insincere) and withhold politeness (cases where politeness is absent
where it should be expected or mandatory). My proposed modications to
existing taxonomies are data driven and based on the analysis of a corpus of
circa 30,000 words extracted from the comments made to YouTube videos
related to the 2008 US primaries and presidential elections (see GarcsConejos Blitvich, 2010; Garcs-Conejos Blitvich et al., 2009).
In June 2006, Bill OReilly was the rst journalist allowed to visit the jail
at Guantanamo Bay, where a number of alleged Al-Qaeda members were
imprisoned. Fox News endorsement of the Republican party, the President
and the military it is the channel of choice of deployed military personnel


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Table 1. Impoliteness Strategies

On record impoliteness (ON-IMP)
Positive impoliteness (PIMP): ignore/snub the
other (ISO); exclude other from activity (EOA);
dissociate from other (DFO); be disinterested,
unconcerned, unsympathetic (DUU); use
inappropriate identity markers (IIM); use obscure
secretive language (OSL); make the other feel
uncomfortable (MOFU); seek disagreement
(SD); use taboo words (TW); call the other
names (CON)
Negative impoliteness (NIMP): frighten (FR);
condescend, scorn, ridicule (CSR); invade the
others space (IOS); explicitly associate other
with a negative aspect (ANA); put the other
indebtedness on record (PIR); hinder or block
the other, either linguistically or physically (BO)

O record impoliteness
Implicated impoliteness (IP)

Sarcasm (SRC)
Withhold politeness (WP)

and their families in the homeland has granted them a number of rewards in
terms of exclusive interviews, number of embedded journalists in Iraq, etc.
OReillys access to Guantanamo is another example. The sine die imprisonment of these detainees has been a very controversial issue, both in the USA
and internationally. OReilly defends the ocial position and argues against
allegations of torture.
In a panel interview, aired on June 15, 2006, OReilly and his two guests
debate the legality of the imprisonment of the alleged combatants and, in
particular, an article written by a former Guantanamo detainee, a French citizen, published in The New York Times, in which he claims that he was unjustly
detained. He states that he was at an Al-Qaeda camp only because he had been
brought there unknowingly by his brother. This excerpt shows the part of the
interview in which OReilly interviews Mr. Flannery, an international law
attorney. Mr. Flannery is introduced by OReilly as being on the left on this,
which most likely means that his opinion on the matter at hand will dier
from OReillys. Prior to Mr. Flannery, OReilly had interviewed Mr. Cli
May, a former New York Times correspondent whose opinion coincided, in
broad terms, with OReillys.
In the turns preceding this excerpt (see Appendix 1), Flannery starts by
explaining his position, indicating that it is not only the former detainees
complaint, but also the reports written by twenty six FBI agents, that he

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relies on in terms of coming to a conclusion about what is going on at

1 OR: You you you can discuss the legalism of [his detainment
2 D:
[I do=
3 OR: =Thats not what I am getting at
I am getting at the New York Times making a man seem sympathetic who writes an incredible
Look, you do not believe that, Flannery, you are an Irish guy.
6 F:
You are an Irish guy too=

As we can see in exchange#1, right away, OReilly contradicts and disagrees with him (That is not what I am getting at line 3). By disagreeing,
he threatens Flannerys positive face, using positive impoliteness. The use of
the word legalism is interesting Ok, look, you, you, you can debate the
legalism of their detainment (line 1) since it conveys lawyers playing with
the law to benet their clients positions, which helps weaken Flannerys
OReilly brings the discussion back to The New York Times article, look,
you do not believe that, Flannery, you are an Irish guy (line 5). OReilly
indicates, using negative impoliteness, that he can not take Flannery seriously because it is obvious that even Flannery himself does not believe
what he is saying. The implication is that he is a defence lawyer and therefore
has to come up with a convincing defence strategy. He uses his last name,
minus title (Mr.), which is a positive impoliteness strategy. As a matter of fact,
OReilly starts out by referring to him as Mr. Flannery and changes to Flannery
when he starts antagonizing him. When he interviews Bob Woodward, see
Appendix 2, however, he refers to him as Mr. Woodward throughout the
Also, sarcasm comes into play: an Irish guy (OReilly is of Irish descent as
well) can not possibly believe such nonsense. An alternative explanation for
the mention of their common Irish background is that OReilly is constituting, enhancing, Flannerys face, by using positive politeness. Due to the tone
used by OReilly and the context in which it appears, however, the sarcasm
interpretation would seem to provide a more reliable interpretation. OReilly
seeks to discredit Flannerys position by implicating that Flannery does not
really believe in what he is saying.
7 OR: =You do not believe that this guy made a bad vacations choice and wanted to get back to Paris
so he went to the wrong direction to [Pakistan, thats just stupid, nobodys buying that

Merriam-Webster dictionary denes legalism as a strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the
law or to a religious or moral code; the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice.


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[He wasnt going to Paris. [He wasnt going to Paris.
10 OR:
[Sure he was. He wanted to get
home and home was Paris and he goes to Pakistan to get there! NO.
YOU DONT DO THAT. It does not make sense [and it is a bunch of crap and you know it.

In exchange#2, OReilly continues his argument with using irony implicated

impoliteness: the detainee was in an Al-Qaeda camp because he made a
wrong vacation choice (line 7) and with the use of negative impoliteness
using the pronoun You (with emphasis) to explicitly associate Flannery with
a line of thought he considers outrageous, thereby using negative impoliteness
You do not believe this guy made a bad vacation choice . Once again, he
tries to discredit Flannerys line of thought and concludes by calling his position stupid and belittling his argument by implicating that Flannery is alone
in his position, Nobodys buying that (line 8), both strategies of positive
To Flannerys statement that the detainee wasnt going to Paris, OReilly
responds with a very emphatic disagreement Sure he was (line 10), once
again using positive impoliteness. And he proceeds to elaborate on the reasons
why he disagrees with Flannery. He also makes use of negative impoliteness by
ridiculing Flannerys argument: and he goes to Pakistan to get there?
(line 11). And then reiterates his disagreement: No! You do not do that!
(line 12). To resort back to negative impoliteness by associating Flannery with
a very negative aspect, It does not make sense and it is a bunch of crap and
you know it (line 12). OReillys use of positive impoliteness is thus heightened by his elevated tone of voice.
13 F:
[Give me, give me, give me this, Bill, that our
government made a mistake when they released him two years ago=
15 O: =But they gave him to France. France is trying him. France wanted to try him and the Government
said; [HERE, TRY HIM
17 F:
[and he said he is prepared to own up for what he did=
18 OR: =yeah, he is an Al-Qaeda guy, thats who [he is
19 F
[He said he is prepared to say that he went through a
camp but he was not a combatant. [He was not in a war
21 OR:
22 F:
[and he is in jail for two years, without a hearing, without a
lawyer, when they believed his story [they gave him a box
24 OR:
[(laughter) Flannery, do you feel sorry for this guy? =
25 F:
= I feel sorry for every [person that cant be
26 OR:

In exchange#3, Flannery tries to blame the government for releasing the prisoner and once again OReilly blatantly disagrees with him. His tone of voice
rises progressively higher and higher. His disagreement comes to a climax with
interruptions and repetition in an extremely loud, aggressive tone of He is an
Al-Qaeda guy!! He is an Al-Qaeda guy!! (line 21).

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Flannery answers by arguing that the prisoner was in jail for two years without a hearing, OReilly interrupts him, once again using an informal address
to refer to him, Flannery, do you feel sorry for this guy? (line 24) and uses
implicated impoliteness to belittle his argument. He wants Flannery to go on
record to clarify what he means, so that it is obvious how wrong his position
is and OReilly is making sure that there is no doubt that Flannery associates
himself with that line of thought. OReilly is attacking Flannerys association
rights (Spencer-Oatey, 2002) by suggesting that Flannery has a positive emotional relationship with a terrorist. OReilly once again invades Flannerys
conversational space by interrupting him and raises his tone to make sure
Flannery goes on record to say that he feels sorry for this particular guy,
whom OReilly is certain is an Al-Qaeda guy.
It is obvious from the analysis that, far from maintaining a neutralistic position or not showing any ideological bias, OReilly makes his thoughts very
clear by constantly attacking the face of his guest and using a plethora of
impoliteness strategies. We can also see how OReilly frequently abandons his
role as an interviewer to become a conversational partner: one who makes his
views transparent and constantly claims and holds the oor. Thus, two of the
dening characteristics of the traditional genre news interview the interviewer only asks questions and maintains a neutralistic position are outed
by The Factors host. We will take a closer look at the interactional management of interviews in the next example.
3.2. Interactional Management and Impoliteness
In this section, I analyze one of Bill OReillys interviews with Bob Woodward
(see Appendix 2) on the occasion of the publication of his book State of Denial.
Mr. Woodward, assistant managing editor of The Washington Post and one of
the two journalists who helped uncover the Watergate scandal that led to
President Nixons resignation, has published a number of books on the George
W. Bush administration. In State of Denial, he makes controversial claims
about the Iraq war that were frontally denied by the Bush camp.
For the analysis, I focus on the interactional management of the interview.
My claim is that, regardless of the diminished number and level of linguistically realized face-attack strategies used, the way the interactional management is conducted also represents an example of uncivil behaviour. To
illustrate my points, I compare the data in this interview with the late Tim
Russerts interview of Woodward on his program Meet the Press, also on
the occasion of the publication of his book, which features prototypical
news interviews, according to Clayman (2004: 32) (see Appendix 3). Both
interviews, sharing the topic and the interviewee, were conducted within days


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of each other: OReillys on October 3 and Russerts on October 8, 2006. The

fragments analyzed are similar in length: OReillys lasted 7 minutes and 34
seconds, and Russerts 8 minutes and 59 seconds. The main dierence between
the interviews is the interactional management style of the two interviewers,
on which I focus the analysis.
One of the distinguishing features of the news as confrontation genre is
that the interviewer monopolizes the oor, often providing more information
than the interviewee. The assumption, within the parameters of the traditional
news interview, is that the interviewee is participating as an expert or news
maker and should be the one providing the information. This is the case in
Russerts interview, which had a total of 1401 words. Russert contributed 422
and Woodward 979. On the other hand, OReillys interview had a total of
1370 words. Out of those, OReilly contributed 811 and Woodward 559.
As discussed above, the specic turn-taking system of the traditional news
interview genre, that the interviewer can only ask questions and the interviewee can only answer questions, was its most salient characteristic. The interviewers questions carry out dierent functions involving control of the
direction of talk. They limit the scope of the topic, set up opposing positions,
or invite particular kinds of answers (Piirainen-Marsh, 2005: 200). All of
Russerts 21 turns are either questions, or third party attributed statements,
with which he either refers to somebody making a claim about the topic at
hand, or quotes them verbatim. These third party attributed statements function as indirect questions.
84 TR Now, Mr. Scowcroft issued an statement [that seems to conict with that
85 BW
[(laughs) Well, parse it, please.
86 TR He said: I never agreed to be interviewed for his latest book. There are statements in
the book directly or indirectly attributed to me that did not never could have come
from me. I never discuss any personal conversations that I may have with President
George Herbert or Walker Bush.

Third party attributed statements often involve controversial topics, like in

exchange#4, where Russert contradicts Woodwards account by providing a
comment by Scowcroft (lines 86-89). Their main interactional function is to
help interviewers maintain a neutralistic stance towards the topic, and the
guest, and to reduce their accountability (Clayman and Heritage, 2002;
Haddington, 2004; Montgomery, 2007; but see Lauerbach, 2006, for a dierent account). Here a third party attributed statement is used to imply that it
is not really Russert, but Scowcroft, who contradicts Woodward. Also, Russert
does not follow up with any comments or evaluative reactions. In one instance,
in exchange#5 below, he rephrases Woodwards answer with raising intonation, framing it as a clarication question (lines 62-63).

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62 TR
[He thought, he thought he was talking to you for
one project and you used it in another project?

Furthermore, Russert does not provide any acknowledgement tokens. Avoidance of acknowledgement tokens is common practice in news interviews
(Clayman, 2004: 34). As Hutchby (2005: 69) indicates, by refraining from
verbally reacting to the interviewees talk, interviewers avoid acting as the primary recipient of the talk, preserving that role for the overhearing audience.
Also, according to Montgomery (2007: 152), acknowledgment tokens are
withheld because they can be seen as aliative, i.e. an indication that the
interviewer agrees with the interviewees position. By withholding them, the
interviewer performs the ocial impartiality required by broadcast news.
In OReillys 19 turns, just 5 direct questions are formulated. OReilly uses
third party attributed statements twice. Once, with a vague referent, the
White House team says (line 10)
10 OR: All the whole, the whole White House team says that you were honest in your reportage
but that you came in with a preconceived thesis or hypothesis that the war is a failure
and you were looking to bolster that now I do not know whether that is true or not
[but I want to start at the beginning
14 BW: [Thats not true

and he reads verbatim from The New York Times review of Woodwards book
(lines 44-49).
43 OR
() Let me just quote you from the
New York Times review of your book alright?: In Bob Woodwards highly anticipated
book State of Denial, President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric
and intellectually incurious leader presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet
and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or to
reevaluate decisions hes made about the war Do you think thats a fair assessment of
what you wrote?

Almost all of OReillys turns, however, are evaluative reactions to Woodwards

talk. He engages in a debate of sorts with Woodward, which as I indicated is
also another of the main interactional features of the news as confrontation
genre, present in this interview as well as in the rest of the corpus analyzed
(Garcs-Conejos Blitvich, 2007). OReilly openly agrees with Woodward
(lines 99-101)
93: BW:
[no, no, Im, Im, you just asked me the question do is this a lost war and I
said I do not know the answer to that the last three years, which is what this book is
about, have really been hard to people on the [ground.
96 OR:
[ABSOLUTELY, this is [brutal


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97 BW:
99 OR:
[Absolutely, Ive said from the very beginning. This is BRUTAL. This is not the
war that we rst fought it has morphed into another war [and mistakes have been
made, mistakes have been made ALL DAY LONG

or clearly voices his disagreement (lines 74-77).

74 OR:
[Ok, but, Mr. Woodward, I I I know you
hear that, and I hear that too but every soldier who tells you that I can produce a soldier
that tells you the OPPOSITE: that weve got them on the run, that if we stay the course
we are going to wear the insurgency [down
78 BW:
[Well, I have not heard that

A main dierence, as well, is that while in traditional news interviews, interviewers use preliminary statements that precede their questions to help control the discussion and exert pressure on non-cooperative interviewees
(Clayman, 2004: 35), OReillys statements are contributions to an on-going
discussion, but do not necessarily precede direct or indirect questions. The
move towards a conversational style, that according to Fairclough (1995) was
a clear trend in contemporary media, is further reinforced by the use of interactional discourse markers, got that, you know, and well. OReilly uses
what Clayman (2004) refers to as acknowledgment tokens Absolutely,
Oh, ok, Ok, yeah, Yeah, but, Thats quite true an infrequent practice
in traditional news interviews, absent from Russerts turns, but frequently
used by OReilly. The results of this analysis have identied markers of orality
in OReillys interview that coincide with the textual parameters of orality
listed by OConnell et al. (2004) who also refer to the use of personal pronouns as a marker of orality.
This marker becomes especially relevant in this context as another trait that
distinguishes both interviews is the use of personal pronouns, which can be
related both to conversational style and to the adoption by interviewers of a
more or less neutralistic stance in the co-construction of their institutional
identity. Russert does not use the rst person pronoun. OReilly, on the other
hand, starts almost all his utterances with I. Pronouns have been established
in the literature (Bamberg, 2000; de Fina et al., 2006; Harr and Muhlhauser,
1990) as a fundamental part of identity construction. Harr and Muhlhauser
(1990: 92) argue that I and other expressions are used as indices of location.
These expressions carry out a double indexicality. On the one hand, I indexes
the spatio-temporal location of the utterance to the location of the speaker
at the moment of his/her utterance. On the other, I indexes the utterance
with the person to be held responsible for its illocutionary force, and its

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perlocutionary eects. They call this second type responsibility indexing, as

it labels the responsibility of the speaker within a certain moral order where
the speaker is responsible for the eects of the utterance.
Another marker that diers in both interviews is the use of epistemic verbs,
also related to the adoption of a more or less neutralistic stance (Haddington,
2004). Whereas, Russert does not use any epistemic verbs, OReilly uses them
frequently I think, I know, I believe, I do know and also attributes
epistemic stances to his guest you know that, I do not think you believe
that, you do not think that. The result is an evaluative stance that is in
accordance with the main purpose of news as confrontation: to rearm a
specic view of the world. On the other hand, it makes sense that the rst
person pronoun and epistemic verbs conveying evaluative stances should be
avoided in a context, as in the traditional news interview, where the interviewer constructs him/herself not as an interlocutor, but as an accessory to
achieve the real communicative purpose of the interview: to inform the
overhearing audience. It is to this level the communication between the
interviewer/interviewee and the overhearing audience the truly meaningful
interaction (Tolson, 2006) that I now turn.
It is the overhearing audiences face that the host is ultimately interested in
maintaining and enhancing the audience has the power in their hands not
to watch the show, the ratings go down, the sponsors withdraw their support,
and the program is terminated and it is thus the relationship between
overhearing-interviewer where im-politeness phenomena in this genre need to
be studied. As I will discuss below, impoliteness to the immediate addressees
the guests on the program may be used strategically to create rapport with
the audience.
Fairclough (1995) indicates that a major focus of the analysis of media discourse should be on how wider changes in society and culture are manifest in
changing media discourse practices. More specically, Fairclough (1995: 199)
stated that practices like political interviews are sensitive barometers of
wider processes of social and cultural change. Certainly, the social context has
changed in the United States in recent years. Not long ago, in 1988, Dan
Rather was severely criticized for allegedly abandoning the role of journalist
and adopting that of prosecutor in one of his interviews of then Vice President
George Bush. The interview had very serious repercussions for Rathers career
(Clayman and Heritage, 2002: 5). Less than twenty years after that event, the
adversarial, prosecutorial style of Bill OReilly has made The Factor the number one show on cable television news in the USA.
The next section explores the reasons for this change by focusing on the role
of the audience and how it may impact assessments of im-politeness. The


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mediated, polylogic nature of the news interview genre renders descriptions of

the interactional aspects of the relationship between interviewer and interviewee as partial unless these are evaluated taking into consideration both the
public nature of the talk (Montgomery, 2007) and the larger generic interactional framework, which incorporates the overhearing audience as an essential

4. The Overhearing Audience and Impoliteness

Those changes in the wider American society reected in changing media
practices that Fairclough (1995) alluded to are certainly mentioned in the
work of many media scholars.
Mutz and Martin (2001), Boulton (2004), Katz and Atre (2005), Tolson
(2006) and Prior (2007) relate the evolution of broadcast media in general
and news programs in particular to the fragmentation of audiences, which
marks the end of the general public within the public sphere of broadcasting.
For example, Katz and Atre (2005) report a solid decrease in the audience
size of mainstream news in the USA in the past decade: a decrease of about 10
million viewers. Apparently the 24/7 all news channels are not doing too well
either, except in moments of crisis. Prior (2007: 248) relates this decrease to
the media options available which allow viewers to avoid news programs. Katz
and Atres ndings also indicated that as the number of channels increases the
choosing of news programs decreases. Furthermore, an increase in the number
of channels does not lead to shopping around genres, but to greater rigidity
of viewing choices: i.e. a multiplicity of choices invites audiences to remain in
their own niche. This also coincides with Mutz and Martins (2001: 110)
assessment. Mutz and Martin see the trend toward very specialized channels,
the breakup of the network broadcast monopoly and the increase in internet
news sources as a means for tailoring news to ones own interests and
prejudices. Prior (2007: 274), although cautioning that the data available are
scarce and thus not conclusive, concurs that audience specialization along
ideological lines does exist and also relates it to the increase in media choice.
Boulton (2004) agrees with these assessments. Observing clear partisan posturing in nonction media environments, he argues that media companies are
taking a clear advantage of the polarization experienced by the nation after
9/11. The result, according to Bouton is the new news, a genre full of
emotional bluster tempered by a melodramatic self importance and, all
the while, managing to root for the home team. This rearming of a given
view of the world is the main communicative goal of news as confrontation

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and the foundation of its separateness as a genre (Swales, 1990) from traditional news interviews, whose communicative purpose is to inform the overhearing audience. Bill OReilly is credited with the reinvention of cable news
(Heilbrunn, 2007). Therefore, the news as confrontation shows initially
targeted a conservative audience. However, MSNBC has launched the liberal
counterpart of the genre in an attempt to compete with Fox News almost
complete monopoly of cable news prime time.
To understand the inception of news as confrontation, we need to understand who OReillys fans, his very loyal audience, are. OReillys audience
is essentially vast Middle America and the Right Wing (Alexander, 2002).
Those people that turned to Fox News away from what, they felt, was the left/
liberal bias of the mainstream media interestingly in this respect is the fact
that Conway et al. (2007: 217) found that the left-leaning and mainstream
media were at the top of the villains list in OReillys talking points, the
brief commentary with which he starts his program. OReillys great accomplishment in regarding to his audience, according to Alexander (2002) is
that he tends to say what those people are intuitively thinking, not what
esoterically sounds good or is the politically correct position . That
includes using verbal and interactional impoliteness, as we have seen in the
examples analyzed above. There seems to be a consensus that incivility is a byproduct of polarization. Posner (2005) and Wilson (2006), discussing political polarization in news reporting, see the increase in incivility as consequence
of the more intense struggle for the audience, where one audience-catching
technique is to shout louder than the competitors (Posner 2005: 2).
However, this shouting is not indiscriminate. Unger (2002: 6) reports on an
issue of the liberal leaning EXTRA!, the liberal journal of FAIR (Fairness and
Accuracy in Reporting), which concluded, after an exhaustive study of OReilly
and Fox News, that OReilly claims that he hammers everyone, but in practice its almost always liberals and their friends who get hammered, a conclusion also reached by Conway et al.s (2007) analysis of OReillys daily talking
Therefore, impoliteness is strategically used here (Beebe, 1995; Kienpointner,
1997). My claim is that the main goal of the use of impoliteness in The OReilly
Factor, found at the overhearing audiences level, is to create a coalition within
this mediated polylogue. Impoliteness emerges as the marker that establishes
the dierence between the in-group and the out-group (Garcs-Conejos
Blitvich, 2007, 2009, 2010; Mills, 2003) and emerges as the driving force
behind the transformation of the news interview as a genre in the US. Much
along the lines of what Hess-Luttich (2007) described for the talk show, news
interviews have evolved into confrontainment.


P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694

Bruxelles and Kerbrat-Orecchioni (2004: 76) indicate that a signicant

feature of polylogues interactions that involve more than two participants
is that they allow their participants to build alliances or coalitions with each
other. The authors see coalition as a temporary alliance of persons who
are involved in an interaction, and whose common interest is to have their
discourse line win (2004: 76). Coalitions are related to power, as their
purpose is to change the power balance within a group, and occur within a
context of antagonism as coalitions are carried out against another person or
team. However, according to Bruxelles and Kerbrat-Orecchioni (2004: 76),
for a coalition to exist, besides at least two of the participants being opposed
to a third, the conversational text needs to contain some indicator of their
alliance, a marker of the existence of a coalition within the participants
group. In The Factor, the marker of that coalition is impoliteness, strategically used against the members of the out-group. The strategic use of impoliteness can be construed as an attempt to make the coalition stronger and thus
gain power (Beebe, 1995; Culpeper, 2008).
By taking the tribune-of-the-people stance (Clayman, 2002b) or watchdog journalism (Ben-Porath, 2007) to a new level, OReilly presents himself
as siding with the people, the folks in his own terms, giving them a voice he
claims has been denied to them by the liberal media, the voice of the elite.
According to Clayman (2002: 210), the tribune of the people stance is adopted
in an eort to neutralize and legitimize interviewers more aggressive conduct.
The implication is that impoliteness, the marked, dispreferred option in social
interaction (Fraser, 1990), is legitimized as it is used on behalf of the citizenry.
By being impolite to those who antagonize the audiences beliefs, the elitists who run (but also hate) this country (Lenman, 2006), OReilly keeps the
audience on his side and the ratings up. Rosen (2003) has an insightful comment that lends support to this thesis: OReilly blows up a lot. He is wired
for argument and controversy because he is willing to ght the spin of others
with righteous spin of his own. And he has another advantage Hes willing
to make fans by having active enemies. Indeed, making enemies is basic to his
appeal. Impoliteness realizes a double function divisive and cohesive.
Within this context, impoliteness and conict are construed as ultimately
constitutive rather than disruptive of social interaction.
Thus, by watching OReilly systematically attack those who endanger their
core beliefs, the audience feel that OReilly is really looking out for them and
are willing to tune in the following day to see what other points on the far-left
agenda will be attacked. The coalition constituted by OReilly and his audience will prevail again; the underdogs will defeat the elite; the heartland
values will be protected as another scrimmage in the Cultural Wars this
metaphor has long been used to claim that political conict within the USA is

P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694


due to a conict between traditional and progressive values is won.

Impoliteness, the brand of The OReilly Factor, has served its purpose and is
thus legitimized.
Impoliteness phenomena in news interviews due to their mediated, polylogic nature can only be satisfactorily accounted for by adopting a genre
theoretic approach. It is only by reaching a good understanding of the purpose
of the genre as well as the constraints it places on interaction and by taking
into consideration communication among all the parties involved that the true
strategic nature of impoliteness emerges, as well as its constitutive rather than
disruptive nature. A genre approach also lends itself fruitfully to diachronic
analyses of the news interview, an under-researched eld (Clayman, 2004).

5. Conclusion
In this paper, I have proposed a genre approach to the analysis of im-politeness.
Despite the recent proliferation of new approaches to the eld, a focus on
interpersonal, dyadic, face to face communication is still at the core of their
foundations. Drawing on Fairclough (2003), I see genre as the real locus of
relational work. Genre notions are both cognitive and social, so they can
ground both top-down and bottom-up analyses of im-politeness. The fact that
multiparty interaction among individuals but also between individuals and
groups as well as the non-mediated nature of the interaction are integral
parts of the notion of genre solves the problems other approaches present for
the application of the genre approach to the study of im-politeness in cases of
intergroup, polylogic, mediated communication, such as the one under
Applying these notions, I have analyzed impoliteness within an institutional genre: news interviews, and claimed that impoliteness is the driving
force behind a new genre which I have called news as confrontation, whose
communicative goal is to rearm a view of the world. The multifunctionality
of impoliteness in this context has been related to a mismatch between the
introduction of impoliteness as a novel staple in the news as confrontation
shows, and the unchanged social expectations of politeness as the default
term in social interaction. At the level of the relationship between interviewee
and interviewer, impoliteness manifests itself both at the lexico-grammatical
level and interactionally. However, impoliteness is used to create rapport
between the interviewer and the overhearing audience. Thus, incivility toward
those guests who dier ideologically from the audience has to be assessed as
rapport building, and seen as constitutive rather than disruptive of communal


P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694

By providing a contrast between news as confrontation and traditional

news interviews, this paper also contributes to the need for an underdeveloped eld (Clayman, 2004: 35), namely comparative research on the news

The author would like to express her thanks to Nuria Lorenzo-Dus, Elizabeth
R. Miller, Marina Terkoura and two anonymous reviewers for their very
valuable comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Any outstanding issues are
the authors responsibility.

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Appendix 1: Bill OReilly interviews Mr. Flannery on The OReilly Factor Fox Channel

OR: You you you can discuss the legalism of [his detainment
[I do=
OR: =Thats not what I am getting at
I am getting at the New York Times making a man seem sympathetic who writes an incredible
Look, you do not believe that, Flannery, you are an Irish guy.
You are an Irish guy too=
OR: =You do not believe that this guy made a bad vacations choice and wanted to get back to Paris
so he went to the wrong direction to [Pakistan, thats just stupid, nobodys buying that
[He wasnt going to Paris. [He wasnt going to Paris.
[Sure he was. He wanted to get
home and home was Paris and he goes to Pakistan to get there! NO.
YOU DONT DO THAT. It does not make sense [and it is a bunch of crap and you know it.
[Give me, give me, give me this, Bill, that our
government made a mistake when they released him two years ago=
=But they gave him to France. France is trying him. France wanted to try him and the Government
said; [HERE, TRY HIM
[and he said he is prepared to own up for what he did=
OR: =yeah, he is an Al-Qaida guy, thats who [he is
[He said he is prepared to say that he went through a
camp but he was not a combatant. [He was not in a war
[and he is in jail for two years, without a hearing, without a
lawyer, when they believed his story [they gave him a box
[(laughter) Flannery, do you feel sorry for this guy? =
= I feel sorry for every [person that cant be

Appendix 2: Bill OReilly interviews Bob Woodward on The OReilly Factor Fox Channel,
October 3, 2006

OR: Ok, I got lots of time with you this evening

BW: Ok, can I take them one at a time?
OR: No, you know, I am not really interested in that so much. I just wanna get on the
record that some people are questioning, you know, your controversial book and
I think that you obviously expected that [ -BW:
[Oh, of course but Andy Card as he said last
night on your show that all the quotes in my book are accurate that he knows about
OR: Yeah, [but
[Ok, It is a good starting point
OR: All the whole, the whole White House team says that you were honest in your reportage
but that you came in with a preconceived thesis or hypothesis that the war is a failure
and you were looking to bolster that now I do not know whether that is true or not
[but I want to start at the beginning
BW: [Thats not true=
OR: = I want to start at the beginning. Whats the headline of your book? If you were a
headline writer what is the headline?
BW: Ah, the title: State of Denial that the evidence going way back even before the Iraq war
shows that when people issued warnings or came in and said like Jay Garner who is the
rst post war Iraq ocial went to Rumsfeld in in the summer of 2003 and said we made
three tragic decisions ah it didnt get through and they didnt act on it. Here is the the
former GENERAL well respected that they had hired comes in and says not only three
bad decisions but they are reversible and the issue doesnt even get addressed
OR: Ok, but in every war, in EVERY WAR there are people who come in say you should do

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it this way you should do it that way aaah Lincoln what did he re? FIVE commanders?
Washington was ring commanders aaah World War II commanders shoveling in and
out you know the fog of war the chaos of war. But I am interested in whether YOU Bob
Woodward are saying to the American people that the Iraq war is a LOST cause. Are
you saying [that?
[No, no, no, Im saying its been a very, very dicult three and a half years
and their public pronouncements I mean as you know and I am sure would agree with,
the president needs to be optimistic and [positive
but for dozen, dozens of occasions very specic that I point out in the book their
secret intelligence reports or somebody comes in and and says for instance there is an
insurgency and the Presidents response aah is I do not wanna read about that in the
New York Times [rather than dealing with the evidence, thats all.
[Ok, ok, but, but you havent come to the conclusion that the Iraq war
is lost, have you?
No, no, [because who knows
[Ok, I just wanted to get that on the record. Now, the problem with your book
then is that the people who want us to lose in Iraq and there are ah far left people who
want us to lose and the media which generally despises the Bush administration has
taken what you reported, in my opinion, out of context. Let me just quote you from the
New York Times review of your book alright?: In Bob Woodwards highly anticipated
book State of Denial, President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric
and intellectually incurious leader presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet
and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or to
reevaluate decisions hes made about the war Do you think thats a fair assessment of
what you wrote?

BW: Well, thats one and theres a lot of [unhappy news in this book.
[Do you think thats a fair . now, wait a minute
do you think thats a fair assessment impatient, sophomoric, intellectually incurious,
isnt going to change his mind no matter what, is it fair?
BW: Well, I wouldnt have used some of those adjectives like sophomoric, but ah as I report
in the book on the issue of changing his mind, he told a bunch of Republican leaders
last year I wont withdraw even if Laura and Barnie are the only ones [supporting
me. (pause) Laura is his wife and [Barnie is his
[I got, got that=
=But it is a commander in chief, you know Is it sending the message to the troops that
we are behind you is it sending the message to the Iraqi government that we are not
going to bail out on you and YOU KNOW, that that kind of psychology has to take
place at that level at the presidential level that you cannot sent a message to our troops
who are dying and the Iraqi government who is at risk as well that you MAY or MAY
not back them, YOU KNOW that.
BW: Well, no, no, I , in fact for the earlier books I had long discussions WITH President
Bush about this issue and I, I said to him based on my reporting after 9/11 for instance
ah he was the voice of REALISM, he was the one after 9/11 who, as you may recall,
who said its going to tough, and its going to be hard, we are probably gonna be
attacked again NOW when their secret reports saying the insurgency is gonna get
worse in 2007 he goes public and gives speeches and and says that the terrorists are in
retreat. I know soldiers on the ground or soldiers whove returned from Iraq who tell
me they know how bad it is the violence is going up, I had somebody who just returned
from Iraq call me and said it was like a Mad [Max movie
[Ok, but, Mr. Woodward, I I I know you
hear that, and I hear that too but every soldier who tells you that I can produce a soldier
that tells you the OPPOSITE: that weve got them on the run, that if we stay the course
we are going to wear the insurgency [down
[Well, I have not heard that=
OR: = Well, no, it is true is that in some areas of Iraq the insurgency IS tamped down.
There are three out of control provinces right now, according to our military analysts,



P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694


so what Im trying to say is that I dont have any quibble with your book, I think it is an
important book and people should look at it and read but I do think that your book is
being USED by elements in this country that want us to LOSE in Iraq and that things
that you say are being seized upon by those people to say Look at that idiot, Bush
Look at that idiot, Rumsfeld they do not know what theyre doing, and theyre
getting Americans killed. I dont think you believe [that. I dont think you believe
[What what what But whats the
alternative, Bill? Do I then not write the truth as I nd it is [it?
[But you SAID, you just
said to me that you dont think that were losing in Iraq you dont THINK that, see
what Im [worried about here
[no, no, Im, Im, You just asked me the question do is this a lost war and I
said I do not know the answer to that the last three years, which is what this book is
about, have really been hard to people on the [ground.
[ABSOLUTELY, this is [brutal
[Absolutely, Ive said from the very beginning. This is BRUTAL. This is not the
war that we rst fought it has morphed into another war [and mistakes have been
made, mistakes have been made ALL DAY LONG
[Thats quite true=
=But I, I dont know if the United States is going to prevail he[re
[I dont either, I dont
=Mr. Woodward, but I do know one thing your book is being USED by those who
want us [to fail and
[Its factual. Its factual
= Well, let me take a break..alright. Let me take a break. I have a few more
questions for you. Its a fascinating conversation
Sure, sure

Appendix 3: Tim Russert interviews Bob Woodward on Meet the Press NBC, October 8, 2006


Bush at War, Plan of Attack, State of Denial. The rst two titles neutral, the last
one not so why?
BW: Because thats what the facts show Ive spent three, this really covers a three and half
year period, it took me over two years to nd out what happened and qui-quite frankly
as I say as directly as can be said in English theyve not been telling the truth about
what Iraq has become, as you pointed out earlier the headlines in the newspaper today
more body counts more people being wounded while the people in the Bush
administration are going around regularly and saying we turned a corner, the terrorists
are in retreat
TR: Dan Barlett, the counselor, top aide to the President, told the Washington Post, your
paper, this, he said that he and other ocials noticed quote a dierent tone and tenor
to this project. Some pretty hard conclusions had already formed in Bobs mind. So we
made the judgment that the third time was not a charm.
BW: Ah, y, you know, that, thats unfortunate he looks at it that way because Im a reporter
and I came in and said these are notes of NSC meetings I have, here are secret
documents heres information, what is your response? Its not that I reached hard
CONCLUSIONS is that I had hard evidence that things had gone south and I wanted to
know what happened and get information and to get answers and they went radio
silent, as they say.
TR: You told 60 Minutes that the administration had a failure to tell the truth. Something
that you just said as well. The White House has put out several documents Five

P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694







missed to Bob Woodwards book The real story about the Rice-Tenet meeting
[Yeah, and all those have evaporated=
=Setting the record straight with Bob Woodward. One of the things they say is you
keep saying that the level of violence against American troops was a secret. They say
a public report was given to the American people which stated said just that
eh, after I took the secret document which I have here I mean I hate to show secret
documents on television but I guess Ill have to. WHY was this document secret?
When did you show that document to the administration?
Ah, in May, June and then a couple of months later the exact information ah was made
public. They knew I had it. Now, I mean, look at what that shows, if that was, ah,
thats whats called a pattern, increased violence its even gone up in the last couple of
months. Thats the REALITY they were keeping it classied until I got a hold of it.
They say the President in May and throughout the year has always said Iraq is dicult;
gonna be more dicult, saying exactly [
[But, but, but he didnt say that. He said its
hard. Everybody knows its hard. But he said the terrorists are in retreat. Sorry. Thats
not RETREAT. WAKE UP. Thats the reality. Now they say it. And now theres a
kind of a silence about all of this. You know. Thats ne. Maybe, maybe there is going
to be a speech or a press conference where there is going to be some truth telling. We
need it.
Have you spoken to the President or the Vice-President since this book came out?
Ah, the Vice president called me, I guess, as it was coming out ten days ago.
Well, he called to complain that I was quoting him about the meetings eh with Henry
Kissinger, that he and the President had, I had interviewed ah Vice President Cheney
last year a couple of times at length about material I I am gathering on the Ford
administration, on the record interviews, ah but he volunteered he said oh by the way,
Henry Kissinger comes in and he, Dick Cheney, sits down with him once a month and
the President ah every TWO or three months, and Cheney was upset I was quoting him
and I said look this was on the record ah doesnt have anything to do with Ford, you
volunteered that, he then + used a word which I cant repeat on the air and I said look
on the record in on the record and he hung up on me.
(2) What, what do you mean? He swore at you?
He he said what I was saying was bullsomething
(laughter in the background)
(clears his throat) Let me turn to [Tony
[NO, NO but he hung up. Now, look I can, I can see, I
went back and take a look at the transcript . that he can ever had a disagreement
about ground rules with someone. [Did you?
He thought, he thought he was talking to you for
one project and you used it in another project?
Er, exactly, but it had nothing to do with it and it is clearly spelled out that its an on
the record interview and so, now what does he do? Instead of saying well, ok, I looked
at it this way. You looked at it that way + Its a metaphor of what is going up. Hang up
when somebody has a point of view or information you do not want to deal with.
Tony Snow talked about your book at a news conference, at a press brieng Thursday
at the White House. Lets watch and come back and talk about it.
(Clip with Tony Snows comments)
Did you talk to Kissinger?
Sure. [Of course
[On the record?
On the record. Again I was doing Ford work, but I asked about this, I mean, again ah
my only agreement with Kissinger is that I would check quotes, but this is on the
record. October 19, 2005, in his oce in New York. I, I said thisll be on the record he
said ne: check quotes. I hope he wont mind if I am checking some quotes here on the
air. I asked about the meetings with Bush, with Cheney. Particularly about Bush, and
he said yeah maybe a LITTLE more with the President, more than every two or three
months, went on for pages discussing THOSE MEET[INGS.



P.G. Blitvich / International Review of Pragmatics 2 (2010) 4694






[Did, did you check with Brent

Now, Mr. Scowcroft issued an statement [that seems to conict with that
[(laughs) Well, parse it, please.
He said: I never agreed to be interviewed for his latest book. There are statements in
the book directly or indirectly attributed to me that did not never could have come
from me. I never discuss any personal conversations that I may have with President
George Herbert or Walker Bush.
He is not denying what is in the book. He is correct. He is saying it couldnt have
come from him. Look, eh, this is, what you do in a book and the opportunity the
Washington Post gives me is YEARS to nd out what happened and do as deep
reporting as possible. Anyone who knows, I mean George Goldberg of the New
Yorker wrote a piece about Scowcrofts agony and whats going on. People know
whats going on and Im trying to say: LOOK . Heres the reality. For instance, in,
in all this about Scowcroft and Bush senior. The Presidents father. [ -[Did you speak to
Scowcroft on the record for the book?
No, I spoke to Scowcroft, I mean he says he never talked to me. I mean during June 30
2004, Nov 29, 2004, October 5, 2005.
Condy Rice, you say, shrugged o, a brieng that George Tenet gave her about on
July 2001 about a potential attack on an American city, American interests. The
September 11 commission commissioner, Richard Ben-Veniste, said that Tenet had
said she did not shrug it o. Whos right?
ah, ah, Ive working on 9/11 for ve years, since 9/11, and again Im trying to go deep
into this as I report in the book this is an extraordinary meeting. The CIA director hops
in his car and calls from the car and says I have to meet with the National Security
Advisor Ive never heard of that happening in any other ah instance at all
(2) Whats the most important fact in this book?
Oh. I mean. Look, look. This is a report, a reporters chronicle, what Carl Bernstein
and I used to call the best obtainable version of the truth.
To be continued, Bob Woodward is the author of State of Denial, the book. Thank you
very much.
Thank you.

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