Short article: “We Were Swept away by a Landslide. A New Metaphorical Representation of Covid-19”, by Patrizia Piredda

On March 17, 2020, at the beginning of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, all French and foreign newspapers reported the war declaration of President Emmanuel Macron, “nous sommes en guerre”, which was followed on March 19 by that of the previous American President Donald Trump, who described himself as a “wartime president”. Those first steps, which politicians and newspapers around the world would henceforth follow, triggered the rush to applying metaphors of war during the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

From a logical and rhetorical point of view, several significant connections exist between the two related domains – the fight against Covid-19 and war. Therefore, the metaphor we are at war with the virus and all the metaphors derived from it (e.g. doctors are heroes, the virus is the enemy, intensive care units are trenches, etc.) have been formally adequate. However, from the ethical and emotional points of view, these metaphors have not been adequate because they do not produce that perspicuous clarity: they highlight some aspects of the situation while concealing other, such as the gravity of the structural weakness of public health systems in many countries worldwide. From the ethical point of view, then, war metaphors appear problematic because they arouse the same emotions felt by those who live in a state of war, which does not make the case of the Covid-19 pandemic…

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