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Traitor in our Midst: Cultural Variations in Japanese vs. Oklahoman Public Discourse on Domestic Terrorism in the Spring of 1995

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

When “one of our own” commits mass murder, mechanisms that sustain our social order are opened to question. Based on two samples of newspaper editorials written in 1995 ‐ either after the poison gas attack in the Tokyo subway or after the Oklahoma City bombing ‐ evidence is provided that Japanese editorialists advised strategies for retaining order, whereas Oklahoman authors endorsed ones for reestablishing it. In accordance with Simmel’s distinction between faithfulness and gratitude as social forms, Japanese advised faithful continuation of wholesome interactions with their terrorists, whereas Oklahomans expressed gratitude for rescue workers’ assistance. We apply modality analysis to identify those specific activities that authors presume their readers to accept as inevitable, possible, impossible, or contingent for each other. Working from this modal rhetoric in the two public discourses, we build more comprehensive inferences regarding the underlying logics of Japanese faithfulness versus Oklahoman gratitude ‐ logics that reflect the respective motivational dynamics underlying extant theories of identity and exchange.

Affiliations: 1: Iowa State University, Department of Statistics 1411 Snedecor Hall, Ames, IA 50011 USA, Email:; 2: Montclair State University, Department of Sociology 311 Dickson Hall, Montclair, NJ 07043 USA, Email:


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