We ask if the public speech of political leaders is diagnostic of their private beliefs, and investigate through content analysis of the rhetoric of Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq. We collected Saddam’s public speeches and interviews on international affairs from 1977–2000, producing a data set of 330,000 words. From transcripts of Saddam speaking in private, we garnered a comparison corpus of 58,000 words. These text-sets were processed to locate markers of conflict, control and complexity. We find that Saddam’s hostile, conflict-oriented worldview and his perception of himself as a significant political actor was consistent across public and private domains. The major difference between these spheres was his more complex private view of international affairs compared to his more definitive public stance. Our evidence supports the notion that private beliefs can be inferred from the public speech of political leaders.
- Saddam Hussein
- political beliefs
- US–Iraq conflict
- political leaders
Declaration of conflicting interest The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.
Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
- © The Author(s) 2014
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).