Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Patricia McCormick


This dissertation is a rhetorical criticism of the U.S. government’s response to Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed illegal and unethical surveillance tactics of the National Security Agency and U.S. government. Informed by contemporary theories of democracy, this synchronic ideographic analysis examines the rhetorical strategies of U.S. government officials following Snowden’s disclosures. This dissertation contends that in laboring to absolve themselves of culpability, U.S. officials obfuscated Snowden and operationalized as an ideograph. This reification provides methodological development to ideographic analysis as it demonstrates how a political figure can become a rhetorical abstraction used for ideological purposes. The rhetorical interplay between and other prominent ideographs, namely , , , , , and , is then critically analyzed. The analysis then illustrates how U.S. officials purged whistleblowing from the narrative, depriving U.S. citizens of a necessary instrument of democracy.