"Big mistake": Infectious rhetorical style

« previous post | next post »

Josh Solomon, "Largest heroin bust in Hernando history comes with image of Donald Trump", Tampa Bay Times, 2/3/2017:

One pile of wax paper envelops that contained individually wrapped doses of heroin bore the name of El Chapo, the infamous Mexican drug lord.

Another pile had envelopes with the name of Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Yet another pile had the name and likeness of President Donald Trump — a joke Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi didn't think was funny.

"All I want to say to this drug dealer is, 'Big mistake by putting the president's picture on this,' " Bondi said while holding up one of the little white squares. "Big mistake. Because he is going to be our most fierce advocate in taking this junk off of our streets. Can you believe this? Big mistake."

I don't recall having heard this sort of repetitive rhetoric from public officials much in the past, but it seems that the style is infectious.

Or maybe now that I've noticed it, I'm subject to stereotype formation via confirmation bias. I'll see if I can find some ways to evaluate this. One obvious question to ask is whether Ms. Bondi talked that way in pre-Trump public recordings, like this one:

or this one:

And the answer seems to be "no".


  1. "Big mistake": Infectious rhetorical style • Zhi Chinese said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 1:16 pm

    […] Source: Language "Big mistake": Infectious rhetorical style […]

  2. David L said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 1:37 pm


  3. Q. Pheevr said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

    Dealing in heroin at all is a big mistake, but I don’t see how it’s made any worse by putting Donald Trump on the wrappers. A questionable marketing strategy, sure, but my understanding is that sales in this sector of the economy are driven primarily by addiction rather than by attractive packaging.

    [(myl) And yet there's a long tradition of branding…]

  4. Guy said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 6:17 pm

    "And imma make sure he gets one of these packages"

    Sounds like Trump's drug trafficking conspiracy has the perfect cover.

    As for her speaking style, maybe she'd just watched "Pretty Woman" the night before.

  5. AntC said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 7:21 pm

    From a perspective of Westminster parliamentary-style separation of powers, Attorneys-General are supposed to keep above politics (even though they're political appointments/part of the government of the day).

    So to hear Bondi echoing Trump's policies is a surprise, let alone echoing his delivery; or appearing on a talk show. At least she doesn't seem to be peddling alternative facts.

  6. Guy said,

    February 4, 2017 @ 7:51 pm


    It varies by state, but Florida is one of the states where the Attorney General is elected, rather than appointed. This tends to make them more campaign-like (and partisan) in their statements and demeanors.

  7. tangent said,

    February 5, 2017 @ 12:21 am

    AntC, i don't know if you're familiar with Bondi, but she has a history with Trump.

  8. Michael said,

    February 6, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

    It strikes me, however, that the way one speaks in a one-on-one interview is likely to be different than one's style in a press conference, addressing a large group of people with prepared statements. You might need to dig deeper to eliminate the possibility of bias.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 6, 2017 @ 8:30 pm

    FWIW Trump-branded heroin is not a brand-new post-inauguration thing. Here's a story from New Hampshire about a woman getting busted for selling it last spring. (Possibly no relationship with the alleged Florida sellers, due to lax trademark enforcement within the heroin retail industry.) http://www.unionleader.com/Troy-woman-sells-Trump-labeled-heroin

  10. Graeme said,

    February 7, 2017 @ 4:55 am

    Last week I threw out some Obama branded incense. Bought off a hawker on Venice Beach 2009. Less bigly deal.

RSS feed for comments on this post