"A COMPLICATED AND FRUSTRATING DANCE": NATIONAL SECURITY REFORM, THE LIMITS OF PARRHESIA, AND THE CASE OF THE 9/11 FAMILIES by ProQuest

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									   “A COMPLICATED AND FRUSTRATING DANCE”:
    NATIONAL SECURITY REFORM, THE LIMITS OF
  PARRHESIA, AND THE CASE OF THE 9/11 FAMILIES
                                      HAMILTON BEAN




The case of the 9/11 families represents both disruption and continuity in the rhe-
torical history of citizen participation in U.S. national security affairs. The 9/11
families were “outsiders” who used parrhesia—speech uniquely characterized by
frankness, truth, criticism, danger, and duty—to access inside arenas of national
security policymaking. Once inside, however, the families’ inability to sustain their
preferred framing of accountability for 9/11—a framing that sought to assign con-
crete and specific responsibility for the catastrophe—demonstrates the limits of
parrhesia in the face of institutional rhetoric that persistently excludes, contains,
and suppresses citizen-stakeholder voices. Thus, although national security poli-
cymaking remains the domain of technocratic elites, the aftermath of 9/11 nev-
ertheless represents an exigence in which established elements of the relationship
between elites and citizens were at least partly and temporarily destabilized. As a
result, a critical analysis of the competing rhetorical strategies used by the groups
responding to this exigence illuminates tensions useful for conceptualizing the
development of a rhetorical democracy.


   I am more afraid of our own mistakes than of our enemies’ designs.

                                           — Pericles, speech to the Athenians, 432 BCE




Hamilton Bean is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This essay is related
to the author’s doctoral dissertation now in progress. The author would like to thank his advisor,
Bryan C. Taylor, as well as Lisa Keränen, Daniel Lair, Karen Tracy, and the anonymous review-
ers of R&PA for their guidance in the development of this essay.

© 2009 Michigan State University Board of Trustees. All rights reserved.
Rhetoric & Public Affairs Vol. 12, No. 3, 2009, pp. 429–460
ISSN 1094-8392
430                                                      RHETORIC & PUBLIC AFFAIRS


T     he weeks following the death of her husband at the World Trade Center
      in New York on September 11, 2001, were a blur of confusion and pain
for Kristen Breitweiser. Like many others who lost their loved ones on that day,
Breitweiser initially had no interest in the broader national security issues sur-
rounding 9/11. She simply tried to manage her grief and rage while attending
to her dead husband’s affairs and caring for their three-year-old daughter. In
November 2001, however, a neighbor convinced Breitweiser to attend a meet-
ing regarding the newly established 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund (VCF),
a taxpayer-funded initiative created by Congress to compensate the victims of
9/11 for their losses. There, Breitweiser’s pointed questioning of the VCF attor-
neys concerning 9/11 victims
								
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