Publication details [#19624323]

Hanne, Michael. 2022. How We Escape Capture by the “War” Metaphor for Covid-19. Metaphor and Symbol 37 (2) : 88–100.
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Article in journal
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We rely on metaphors and the stories they imply as heuristic devices for communication on all important social and political matters. We are easily trapped by dominant metaphors, though fresh metaphors may generate significant paradigm shifts. During the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the “war” metaphor, standing for our relationship to Covid-19, established itself, like the virus itself, almost universally. This paper details the reasons for the early dominance of the “war” metaphor and shows how the adoption of the title of “wartime leader” by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson rebounded on them as it highlighted their subsequent abject failure to perform the roles they attributed to themselves. It highlights the objections, many valid, raised early on to the military metaphors and lists some of the alternative overarching metaphors which have been offered. It shows how, as the virus took root in most countries and governments had markedly different success in their responses to it, use of the “war” metaphor declined and people around the world coined a host of mini-metaphors relating to specific, local features, of their experience. It concludes by drawing attention to the potential of metaphors from ecology to generate insights relevant to some of the other major challenges faced by humanity.